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Lifestyle Blog from the Philippines

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Book Review: The Last Lecture

Have you ever been attracted to books that inspire you? Has there ever been a book that changed the way you looked at life? To me, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch was a book that was like that for me.

It all started with a video I found on YouTube from Carnegie Mellon University back in 2007. I think what attracted me most about the video was the topic: “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” As someone who thinks that her current job is not her childhood dream, the lecture was something that I felt compelled to watch. 


The Last Lecture
The Last Lecture being streamed from my TV via YouTube. 


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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

My Take on Crispy Cheese and Bacon Potatoes

One thing that you should know about me first before reading this post is that I am the type of cook that depends on a recipe book. If there is no cookbook or recipe to follow, I cannot do it. I don’t know if it’s because I tend to be obsessive-compulsive about following a set of directions or if it was because I was brought up taking cooking lessons that followed cookbooks, but I just cannot do these things on the fly. I need a set of directions to follow or I will surely fail.

I’ve always wanted to cook and the only time I’ve ever had the chance to was over the holidays. With the family together and willing to be my taste testers, I finally had the chance to try out some of the easy recipes that I’ve saved from Pinterest.

Crispy Cheese & Bacon Potatoes - Clare Henney Version


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Monday, December 21, 2020

Discovering Free Movies

For the past few months I have been watching movies and TV shows via streaming services (mostly Amazon and Netflix) and I think I have been feeling burned out about the selection of media on the services and was wondering if there was anything else that I could watch. I know I could look at the other streaming services but I used to be subscribed to some of them (HBO, iFlix) but was not interested in the shows and movies that they had to offer. My budget for streaming is already capped with Amazon and Netflix so I decided to look for other ways to watch other movies and TV shows for free.


Image by Jess Foami from Pixabay

Yes, I am aware that there are illegal sites out there that stream shows. They are usually filled with pop-up ads and spam and are inconvenient to watch from. I decided to do the right thing and look for legal options for services that offer different options from Amazon and Netflix.

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Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Sunday Update 18: First Time Out

Today, after almost a year of staying at home and only reporting to the office once a week, I went out to the town proper of the place that we live in. I did not realize until I was in the middle of traffic and seeing all these people outside that I was terrified of being out in public. I am not used to it anymore. The fact that many people were not wearing their masks or face shields properly did not help.

My sister and I had agreed that for the first time since the pandemic started, we would go to the grocery to shop for food and other essentials. For most of this pandemic we had been buying whatever we needed via deliveries or at the Alfamart around the corner and this was the first time we were going to brave the crowds to shop since some of the things we wanted for Christmas were things we could not buy elsewhere.

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Saturday, December 19, 2020

Living with Uterine Fibroids

A year ago, I went to my OB-GYN for a checkup, because I have not been to see her in years. During that checkup, I found out that I had uterine fibroids. The only knowledge I had about these things at the time was because of a co-worker who had them who had surgery to have them removed, along with her uterus. She reacted to it like it was a death sentence, so I was prepared to expect the worst considering that just a few years ago I had surgery for thyroid nodules that was blocking my airway that resulted in a thyroidectomy and the nodules tested for cancer.

I guess in a way should not have been surprised about the fibroids. My doctor said the fibroids, while small, were around three or four -- it made my stomach look like I was four months pregnant, which would explain my big tummy. The same was the case with the nodules on my thyroid. There were a number of them clumped together sticking to my thyroid that made it look large.


Image by silviarita from Pixabay

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Friday, December 18, 2020

Netflix Picks: The Originals

Always and Forever.

Back in the day, I was a fan of the TV series The Originals, which is a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries. The Mikaelson Family was introduced in the show as the first family of vampires, the original vampires from whom all vampires were sired. The actors who played the Mikaelsons were such a hit that they were given their own spin-off show, which lasted for five seasons.

While I did watch The Vampire Diaries from time to time, it was only when the originals were introduced that I became interested in the show, which was why I was excited when the spin-off was made. Sadly, while the show did last for five seasons, the show that was launched as a result of this one, Legacies, was not as good as I expected it to be.



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Thursday, December 17, 2020

My Christmas Wish List

The holiday season is here, and it is the time when we usually all buy gifts for each other for Christmas day but with the pandemic, it just has not happened. This is also the time of year when I have my personal wish list, things that I would love to have but do not necessarily buy for myself. It is more of an aspirational thing, really. I would love to have these things but at the same time I have deemed them not practical for various reasons. Still, being the holidays and wishing that I were a kid that Santa has put on the good kids list, I make my list and hope that maybe one day, I can convince myself to buy them.


Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Honestly, this year the things I would love to have are not material, but I do not think that anyone would be interested in reading my “beauty pageant answers” to what I want this Christmas so I will just move on to the things you can buy. Some of these I can buy for myself, but I am just too frugal to do so (that and I always have this guilt about buying nice things for myself, but that is for a different post in the very distant future).

I am not going to share all the things that I would love to have. There are a lot of clothes, shoes, and makeup, and hair/skincare products that I would be happy to receive/own, but that would be a really long list that no one would be interested in. Plus, being at a place in my life where I hardly ever go out, those things just do not make sense for me right now.

So, without any more rambling, here are some of the items on my Christmas Wish List!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

My Piano-Playing Childhood

Do any one of you know how to play a musical instrument?

When I was younger, I remember that almost everyone in my class was taking music lessons on the side. At the time, I think that the best music lessons for kids involved either voice lessons or playing the piano because that’s what most of us did. Since my father usually took care of the voice part for the family, they sent me to piano lessons. Conveniently enough, the grade school I went to offered those lessons after regular school hours so the time between the end of class and the time before I had to go home was spent in a tiny room with a teacher and a piano, with each room adjacent to another one that had yet another student, a teacher and a piano in it. I don’t know how many we were who took lessons at the same time but suffice to say we were enough to come up with a full morning recital at the end of the year.

It’s been a while since I played the piano but when I was younger I used to be very interested in it. I’ve seen photos of myself playing (OK, maybe just banging) the piano when I was a toddler. I was that young when I first became interested in playing. My father was always a musical person who loved to sing and play the piano…maybe I got that interest from him.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Cancelled Too Soon

It is December and it has been more than 9 months since the pandemic started. One of the industries that have been affected by the pandemic has been the entertainment industry. Just this year alone so many TV shows have been canceled not just for rating reasons but also for the fact that many productions are struggling to keep shows on while following the safety guidelines/protocols that are needed to stay safe during the pandemic. TV shows cost a lot to produce, and spending more on safety precautions makes it more difficult for struggling shows to continue, which is too bad since some of the shows that have been canceled have been my favorites this year.

Two of the shows that were canceled this year only lasted one season. I think that if circumstances were different, these shows would have been given another chance but given how things are, they are now over. It is too bad since I was looking forward to seeing more of these shows but now, I will be left wondering what would have happened next.

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Monday, December 14, 2020

Review: Folklore The Long Pond Studio Sessions

By this time, I think everyone has heard of or listened to Taylor Swift’s album Folklore, and everyone has started listening to its sister-album Evermore. I plan on writing a review of Evermore soon, but it’s too early to say which songs are my favorites and why so I think this is the best time for me to share what I thought of her Disney+ special called Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions.

It was funny when I read that someone had said that the special was just “Taylor Swift singing in a barn.” Funny because it was true, but funny because if you dismiss it as being just that, you miss out on the bits and pieces that she shares about the creative process that she had undergone writing the album. As a fan and as someone who thoroughly enjoyed her album, it was interesting to know how each of the songs came about and how the writing and the music were developed. 

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Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Sunday Update 17: One Week Til Christmas

My sister and I were talking earlier about how it will be Christmas next week…Christmas. It is almost the end of the year. After all this time, things are still the same. COVID still exists. We are all still staying home. Still trying to be careful. Still hoping that the vaccine will arrive in the country soon and that everything will eventually be OK.

Just this morning we were looking outside our gates and we noticed a long parade of motorcycles pass by. The street we are on leads to a shortcut to the next town, and every weekend we see all these people pass by off to the nearest tourist destination that most riders go to. It still baffles me how all these people go off to travel like this when the virus still exists and the danger of it is still there. I have seen photos of these riders all together (no distancing at all) at the tourist destination they often go to and it gives me the chills to think of the risk they are putting themselves into (and the risk that they are putting on to other people around them). I know that people are saying that it is safe to travel already and we are encouraged to support local tourism but when it is something like this where precautions have not been taken and cannot be taken it makes me worry that it might make things worse.

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Saturday, December 12, 2020

Book Review: Timeless Christmas

After watching several movies with the holiday theme, I thought it was time to read a holiday-themed romance next. I found the book A Timeless Christmas by Alexis Stanton on Amazon and decided that this time-travel Christmas romance would be the best one to try.

The story is about inventor Charles, who buys a clock that somehow takes him to the future. He discovers that according to history, he suddenly disappeared from his home and that his property has since become a museum and tourist attraction. With the help of Megan and the rest of the people who work in the museum, Charles tries to navigate his way around his modern surroundings as he searches for a way to return to his own time.

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Friday, December 11, 2020

Pandemic Diairies: Lessons Learned

This pandemic has me grappling with many different emotions, a lot of them negative. I have been annoyed with how a lot of people in spite of the threat of COVID 19 are still not being careful and are living like there is no threat of a virus that can kill people out there. I have been having a lot of issues with anxiety because of this fear that I could get infected and get sick or that I could infect others. On the work aspect, I have been feeling frustrated because I feel like people are not taking their jobs seriously and there are so many things that need to be double-checked and corrected because of it.  I feel so much more pressure to get work done because I am working from home and it is hard because the others who do the same seem to not have the same work ethic.

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Thursday, December 10, 2020

Netflix Picks: Jingle Jangle

After enjoying Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square, I decided to watch another movie musical that has the holiday theme. This time, I watched Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.

The movie is about the inventor Jeronicus Jangle, who is a famous inventor and toymaker who has come up with his latest invention which he believes will set him and his family up for life. Unfortunately, this invention was stolen by his apprentice Gustafson, who also takes with him Jangle’s book of ideas.  


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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

My Attempt at a No-Bake Cheesecake

I tried my hand at cooking recently, with several recipes that I found online that would qualify as easy. However, it turns out that what I think is an easy no-bake recipe turns out to be more challenging than the video demo shows it will be. Their video made it look so simple and easy, I thought an inexperienced cook like me could do it!

I found the recipe on Yummy Magazine’s website. I was looking for easy no-bake recipes for desserts and found this. It said that their No Bake Oreo Cheesecake was “quick and easy” so I thought, why not give it a shot? It can’t be too hard! Or could it?
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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

To Cook or Not to Cook

 (This is an old entry from my old blog, edited/updated for this one. Enjoy!)


I don’t cook…much. I’ve taken cooking classes and I know my way around the kitchen fairly enough but cooking food is not something that I love to do.

Here’s the thing: I can cook but I’d rather not go through all the trouble that goes with it. When I’m in the mood, I do prepare a meal or dessert but that doesn’t happen very often. Maybe once or twice a year – more than that if I’m really in the mood for it or if the recipes are easy -- or as easy as they seem to be in the cooking videos that I see online.

chef
Photo from janeb13 on Pixabay.com


The thing about cooking that turns me off, apart from the fact that it can be a lot of work, is that my OC tendencies mean that I like following recipes to the letter. If I don’t have a certain ingredient, I’m hesitant to use a substitute. I like following the measurements as indicated, even if my family tells me that it’s better to wing it than measuring everything. I also hate it when people try to backseat cook, constantly giving me cooking tips when I’m doing it. Cooking is a process for me and having someone dictate what to do when I’m trying to do it my way makes me a little crazy. I know people mean well but it drives me nuts! I also don’t like the fact that with cooking comes cleaning up, which is a whole other level of work altogether. It’s just too much for someone not as kitchen-inclined as me.

So far I’ve tried making Korean kimbap and pajeon, Paula Deen’s Drunken Chicken, Nori Pasta, Hainanese Chicken, Gising Gising, Bibingka, and an Oreo Cheesecake, among other things. I’ve had hits and misses but for the most part, I’ve been doing alright in the cooking department considering that I rarely do so. They have all come out fairly decent and no one has gotten sick of anything I’ve prepared yet (haha).

Lately, with all the tweets that my friends on Twitter have posted about cupcakes, I am seriously considering giving this a shot (when that will be, however, is still a big question). The show DC Cupcakes is also doing a lot to influence me in the cupcakes department. This is getting to be a serious interest because it has gotten to the point of me canvassing for an oven and a mixer at the mall.

If I manage to scrape up enough to buy the things I need to start baking, I think I’m going to be making my own cupcakes within the next couple of months. I don’t know how good it would turn out but considering that I’ll be spending a lot of money to make it happen it better be worth it. But like I said, this is all a big IF. Thinking of all the effort is enough to put me off the idea, to be honest!

For now, though, I will stick to my tried and tested recipes, like the one that I learned from my aunt more than a decade ago. I call it seaweed pasta because it has nori in it. Why am I sharing it? It’s because it's the easiest thing to do in the world and even a kitchen idiot like me can do it!

Note: The amount of each ingredient is up to you. If you want it to be vegan, skip the crab meat. If you want more meat, try mixing in some grilled chicken bits too!


Ingredients:

Angel Hair Pasta
Crab Meat, chopped
Dried Seaweed, cut into small pieces
Fresh Basil, chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Grated Cheese (whatever kind you prefer)
Toasted Sesame Seeds

Directions:

Step 1: Cook pasta
Step 2: Mix everything else and you're good to go!



Easy recipe right? Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

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Monday, December 7, 2020

Netflix Picks: Christmas on the Square

As part of my commitment to see as many holiday-themed movies as possible, I decided to watch the movie musical from Netflix called Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square. Featuring (and produced by) Dolly Parton herself, this movie has the typical Christmas Scrooge-type character (played with class and perfection by Christine Baranski), one who gets divine intervention from her guardian angels leading to a happy ending for everyone in the movie. 



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Toy Review: Play-Doh Buzz n' Cut

I am not a parent, I don’t think I ever will be considering my age and my lack of options, but I am a doting aunt to my nephews and niece who I currently live with. I have been with them from the time that they were born that it sometimes feels like I am (partly) a parent to all of them, so I get to experience the things that parents tend to do for their children. One of these things has been taking the time to play with them. These days, playing with my little nephew means taking the time to be a “barber for the day” while we play with his Play-Doh Buzz 'n Cut Barber Shop Set.

My nephew is a big fan of the YouTube channel Ryan’s Toy Review. There are so many toys featured there that he enjoys watching being played and asks if we have the same thing here in the country. Usually, we don’t have the same types of toys, which disappoints him. When we discovered that the “wacky most funny hairstyle” toy that he always mentions is on Amazon and available for shipping to the Philippines, my sister decided to buy it for him. Considering that there was only one item left on Amazon at the time, it was a now or never thing so she decided to get it.




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Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Sunday Update 16: Sleepless

This past week has been exhausting for me. For the past week, I have been waking up several times at night and struggle with getting back to sleep. Eventually, sometime very early in the morning, I end up awake without the possibility of getting back to sleep again. This has led to days where I am not completely myself because I am sleepy and out of focus throughout the day. The lack of sleep has meant being tired all the time because I have not been able to get the right amount of rest that I need.

Image by Jess Foami from Pixabay

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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Netflix Picks: Princess Switch - Switched Again

What’s better than two versions of Vanessa Hudgens in a Christmas movie? Apparently, if you ask Netflix, the answer would be to have three. Their latest movie, a sequel to Princess Switch, has Vanessa Hudgens playing triple duty as Princess Stacy, Lady Margaret, and Fiona in Princess Switch: Switched Again.



The movie starts where the last one left off: Stacy is now married to Edward and has become Princess of Belgravia. They are off to Montenaro to attend the coronation of Margaret as Queen. It turns out that the King had passed away and with the heir abdicating, she was next in line. This led her to break up with Kevin, who she invited to coronation anyway.

Stacy, who believes her best friend Kevin and Margaret were meant for each other, tries to convince them both to spend time together to be able to talk about their feelings before the coronation. She proposes that they switch again so that Stacy can take care of Margaret’s royal duties while Margaret has the time she needs with Kevin.

The only problem with this switch is that Fiona, Margaret’s cousin and another doppelganger, has other plans. With the intent of getting crowned as Queen so she can steal money from the kingdom and run away to a country without extradition, she executes a switch with Stacy, who was pretending to be Margaret at the time. By the time she realizes that something has gone wrong with her plan, it was too late so she instead tries to get crowned right away with the help of Margaret’s conniving Chief of Staff Antonio.

Being a Christmas movie I think we all know what to expect from this in the end. All the characters get their happily-ever-after, with a surprise cameo from King Richard and Queen Amber of the Christmas Prince movies at the end, confirming fan speculation that all the Netflix holiday movies are in one cinematic universe — that means there are not just three versions of Vanessa Hudgens in this universe, but four (she also played Brooke in The Knight Before Christmas). I guess Netflix loves Vanessa Hudgens a lot then!

The first movie was more about the romance between the two lead couples, this second film, while it did have the romantic element, was more about their misadventures after having another switch. I can’t imagine how difficult and confusing this must be to film (and edit) since there are three versions of Vanessa. The person in charge of continuity for this one needs a bonus for doing such a good job! Usually, when I watch films or shows with one actor playing multiple characters you find inconsistencies in their scenes together. I did not find one (none that was easily noticeable anyway) in this movie.

It must be exhausting for Vanessa Hudgens to play all three roles since they all have different personalities (and accents). I would be so confused about who I am playing if I were in her place, especially during scenes where she was pretending to be someone who was also pretending to be someone else!

I already thought in the first movie that her leading men were a bit boring, but at least with this movie not being that much about the romance element, it did not matter. Vanessa had better chemistry with her leading man in A Knight Before Christmas (Josh Whitehouse) but to his credit, I did like Edward better in this one, although I can’t really pinpoint why.

Recommending this might be a bit of a stretch. I'd say watch at your own risk since it can be a bit slow-paced and slightly boring (I wanted to speed it up at several points to pick up the pace). While this movie is not the best holiday movie out there, Princess Switch: Switched Again was still entertaining with its equal parts of feel-good, romantic, cheeky, and funny sides. But if you have something better to do, maybe go do that instead. 

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Friday, December 4, 2020

Movie Throwback: Finding Forrester

2020 has been a dark year. The pandemic has meant the loss of the lives of so many, be it from the pandemic or other health causes. One death that saddened me this year is the recent passing of the original James Bond, Sean Connery. I have not seen a single Bond film that he starred in, but I was a fan of his other movies like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the film of his that I enjoyed the most, Finding Forrester.



In the movie, Connery plays writer William Forrester, who became a recluse after writing his first book, which won the Pulitzer Prize. He is befriended by a young man named Jamal (played by Rob Brown), who had been offered a scholarship to a private school for his high test scores and talent for basketball. What started as a dare between friends to check out the neighborhood recluse who never leaves his apartment becomes a friendship and a sort of mentorship between the two men.

Jamal, who learned that William was a renowned writer, promised to keep their friendship a secret in return for help with his writing, The friendship develops to the point that when Jamal invites William to a basketball game the latter ventures out of his apartment. It does not go well, and he ends up back to being a recluse in his apartment.

Later, Jamal’s professor accuses him of plagiarism. He could not believe that Jamal could write as well as he did and how his skills have improved in that time. When Jamal enters an essay competition at school using one of the writing exercises he did with William, his professor uses this to accuse him further because he used an article written by William as the basis. To make his essay valid, Jamal would have to prove that William permitted him to use the article. But, a promise is a promise and Jamal refuses to reveal his friendship with William. He also refuses to write the letter of apology that the school is demanding of him. He asks William for help but since he is still having anxiety from when they previously left the house together, he refused.

The school tries to blackmail Jamal by ensuring that he would not be charged with plagiarism if he makes sure that they win their basketball game, but Jamal decides to take a stand and throws the game. Moved by what he has done, William goes to Jamal’s school during their essay contest and asks to read an essay, to which of course the school authorities say yes. He gets praised for the piece that he read as he admits to being Jamal’s friend and allowing use of the article for his essay. Jamal’s professor says that would not make the case against him go away, but the school authorities overrule him after learning that the much-praised piece that William had read was written by Jamal himself.

What I loved about this movie was how moving the friendship was between William and Jamal. The mentorship was unusual at first given the circumstances but it was a good relationship that helped both characters improve. William eventually got over his anxiety of leaving the apartment and Jamal was able to believe in himself enough to make a better life for himself. Sean Connery was so good as the reclusive and anxiety-ridden William, I was so happy when I saw him on a bike outside at the end of the film because I felt so much for his character and the life he trapped himself in. It was heartbreaking when it was revealed that he passed away at the end of the movie, but moving that he left everything to Jamal when he did.

This movie will always be one of my favorites, something that I would love to watch again if given the opportunity. It would be nice if more people got to see it and appreciate how good it is.

Have any of you seen this movie? Leave a comment or tag me on social media about what you think of it!

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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Netflix Picks: Dash & Lily

It was the trailer that got to me. I discovered Dash & Lily while scrolling social media and the premise of this show had me hooked! I went looking for it on Netflix on the date that they said it would be coming out and watched it on the same day!

As excited as I was about watching it, I was disappointed to discover that Dash & Lily was a series and not the movie that I had expected. Fortunately, the show was only made up of eight episodes of less than thirty minutes each, so I managed to finish the entire thing in one sitting. It was still a significant amount of binge-watching time, but the episodes were entertaining enough that I did not notice the time.



A Christmas rom-com, the series is based on Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. One of the executive producers of the show is Nick Jonas, who does a cameo with his brothers near the end of the series. The series starts with Dash discovering a red book that dares him to do something he never would have done otherwise. From there it becomes a sort of scavenger hunt of dares between Dash and Lily that push both beyond their comfort zones, learning about themselves and each other in the process.

There were so many things that I loved about this series. I loved that the female lead is Asian, something that I am glad to see is becoming a thing now, with Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys I Loved Before having Asian female leads. I loved that the series featured new actors — not that they are newbies per se, but that they are not that established yet. That meant I would not be watching a celebrity play a role but I would see the character the actor is playing. The leads also have, oddly enough, good chemistry with each other even if they are hardly in any scenes together. The “kilig” is there even if they only end up face to face near the end of the series. I love how charming both the leads were, I'd love to see them in other movies in the future.

I enjoyed how this romance developed. Because the two characters did not know each other and had not seen each other before exchanging messages in the red book, they both let down their guard and said what was on their mind. I think the fact that they were unguarded and there were no pretenses was the reason why they had such witty banter in the book. It was this honesty between them that made them connect and I liked that. Now I know in this day and age of catfishing this is not exactly a safe way to meet someone, but I’d like to think that their story is the exception to the rule.

There were a lot of supporting characters from this series, but I think my favorite is Lily’s aunt, who she is named after. She seems to be living in a more glamorous home compared to the rest of the family and she seems to be estranged from everyone else for some reason but it was not explained fully in the show. I would be happy to see a show that was about her younger years and how she came to have the life that she was living at the time of the show. She just seems to be too interesting to be relegated to such a small role.

Even if the show was about a couple of high school kids finding love over the holidays, it was still a show that I enjoyed watching. It was a feel-good show that is perfect for the season. In this age where social media and self-image seems to be so important to today’s youth, watching two young people fall in love without the influence of that was refreshing to see. If you have the time, this is something worth watching.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Pandemic Diaries: Quarantine Haircut

This pandemic has made 2020 a year of firsts for me. This is the first year that I have spent the most time at home since I am now working from home four days a week. It is also the first year that, since March, has meant not going beyond the municipality where I live and the one where I work. Beyond those two towns, I have not been anywhere else. Apart from once a week at work and sporadical visits to the doctor, I have never left the house. It’s a first for me. Surprising that I am completely fine with it, and happy that I get to spend as much time with my family as I can, despite the circumstances.

Another first that happened for me this year is having my hair cut at home. No, I did not invite someone from the salon to cut my hair at home. I had my sister cut my hair for me!

The last time I got a haircut was probably a year now, which meant that by the time I got my sister to cut my hair it had been eight months of hair growth, which suddenly felt a little too long for me during this pandemic. I don’t know if it was because of the heat or because of the stress of the situation, but last August I found myself picking on my long hair for weeks before I finally decided to cut it. I would put it all in a ponytail, in a bun, pull on it in frustration, and put clips all over my head just so that none of it would fly all over my face while I worked from home. I was so annoyed by it that I announced to my family that I was going to cut it off. No one thought I was serious until the night when we finally did it though.

Before you think that I’m some crazy person who had a fit and suddenly went at it with scissors and went to my sister for backup, you’re (slightly) wrong. I did my research. I’ve been seeing posts on social media of people who have been doing their quarantine haircuts so I decided to read about what they did and how they learned to do it on their own. I watched several videos on YouTube of women who have done their hair and discovered that there were similarities in their strategies. I just had to find a mix of the best ones to do for myself.

I found this video from Angelica Gomez and decided that her strategy was what I was going to do. I parted my hair in the same way that she did and tied the ends to the length that I wanted it to be. My niece was helping me part my hair and tie it since I realized that the back part was difficult to do. I didn’t have any scissors for hair specifically, so I ended up using a huge pair of scissors that I use for paper and tape.



It was when I was going to use the scissors that I realized my problem: the scissors were so big that if I did the cut myself I would be poking my head with it! The same goes with cutting the back myself — the scissors were too long and there was a risk that the ends would cut something else (like my fingers). Everything was ready, I wasn’t going to back out at that point. My niece didn’t want to cut the hair herself, so we ended up calling her mom to my room to do it for us. She thought we were nuts and that it would end up bad if she did. My nephew, who was watching quietly, started to shout that he was scared about the whole thing. Even my other sister could hear him shouting in fear from her room while my sister made the cut (which she only did after I promised I would not blame her for the result).



Luckily for us, the cut was pretty good. I had to make some small cuts for a few stray hairs but other than that, the finished result was good! I was very happy with it! I guess the guts to cut gave everyone else the courage to do it themselves because my sister and her mom eventually cut their hair at home as well.

Have you tried to do this yourself? What do you think of at-home haircuts during this pandemic? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Netflix Picks: Operation Christmas Drop

It’s December! Can you believe it? Time might feel like it is going too slow because of the pandemic but it has also breezed past us — 2020 will soon be over! With Christmas just weeks away, I have taken to watching movies and TV shows with the holiday theme. Books with the Christmas setting have been on my list as well. First, up for me was the Netflix movie Operation Christmas Drop.



The movie stars Vampire Diaries alum Kat Graham and Vikings star Alexander Ludwig and is inspired by the real-life humanitarian mission of the same name that the US Air Force has been operating since 1952. For the movie, Ludwig’s character Captain Andrew Jantz is the man who has made it his pet project, and Graham is the congressional aide named Erica who is sent to inspect the activity as part of a study which will select which air force bases would need to be shut down. All this is happening right before Christmas, just when preparations for the drop is in full swing.

The two lead characters clash at first, with Andrew trying to keep Erica away from the project because he is worried about how she may report negatively to her superior, Congresswoman Bradford (played by Virginia Madsen). Eventually, however, as he shows her around and she learns about the situation and the people that benefit from the project, Erica has a change of heart not only about the Christmas Drop but about Andrew as well.

I did not think that the pairing of Alexander Ludwig and Kat Graham would work — he seems like such a huge guy and she is this tiny woman, but they both managed to have this chemistry that worked. Ludwig comes off as this teddy bear of a guy, someone who is huge and tough but with an equally big heart. As small as she was compared to her partner, Graham projected a strong character — a go-getter who made things happen.

As expected, this movie had a happy-ever-after ending. Congresswoman Bradford, who initially decided to close down the base due to the “expenses” of the Christmas Drop, saw for herself how it was operated and had a change of heart. Erica and Andrew then got to spend Christmas together, the potential of their new romance shown with a kiss being the last scene in the movie.

This movie is not your typical Christmas romance film. For one thing, it had a location that did not have snow as it was in Guam. Most (if not all) of the holiday movies I’ve seen have been in snowy settings, so this was a refreshing one to see. I also loved learning about the Christmas Drop project. After learning that it was a real thing during the end credits, I looked it up and was amazed by how long it has been going on and what it contributes to the community. As in the film, it is classified as a training project to help the air force train for similar drops over areas such as Iraq or Afghanistan. The movie says that they work with other countries on this and I was surprised to discover when I searched for more information online that our very own Philippine Air Force participated in this in December 2017 ( which was not mentioned in the movie, by the way).

If you want to watch a feel-good Christmas movie, Operation Christmas Drop may be a good thing to see.  With this year when we have all gone through so much (with some going through much worse than others), the movie's drive to be charitable during the holidays may rub off on you when you see this!

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Monday, November 30, 2020

Pandemic Diairies: Work Life

It has been nine months since this pandemic has started affecting the country. So much about our daily lives has changed, work-life included. We were off to a bumpy start at first: I was allowed to work from home at the beginning, then I was no longer allowed to work from home two months later. It was giving me so much anxiety to be at the office with limited space and being around so many people at the same time. At that point, I knew that I was actually more productive at home than I was at the office because my mind was busy worrying more than working just in the first month back alone.

Thankfully, after two whole months of being back at the office, my boss decided to allow me to work from home on the condition that I would be reporting to the office once a week and on days when my physical presence would be necessary for several work requirements. As an added bonus, he decided to adjust the work schedules of everyone at the office so that we would not all be there at the same time, which was a relief since that meant there would not be that many people whenever I reported to the office.


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Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Sunday Update 15: Cha Cha Cha

 How has everyone been doing? How was your week? We are nearing the end of a long weekend here in the Philippines, I hope everyone is taking the time to relax and enjoy the time with loved ones. 

As for me, I have been staying home, as usual. My sister and I were talking about how everyone seems to be moving forward and acting like COVID no longer exists. That photo going around of crowds of people in Divisoria doing their Christmas shopping gives me so much anxiety just by looking at it. I understand the need for people to try and to want to get on with their lives. I know that we all want to get back to normal as soon as possible, but can we at least do it safely? Can we at least put on our masks, do proper social distancing, and wear our face shields? I would gladly go out if I knew that the people around me are careful. But that is just the thing: with the way things are going, even if the people around me are careful, the people we will run into outside might not be. This is why we prefer to stay put at home as much as we can. We would rather not add to the problem or make COVID our problem if we can avoid it.

It sometimes feels like we are all doing the Cha Cha, we step forward, then back, idle around side to side as we try to navigate our way around this pandemic. We make progress because the number of new infections has lowered, but we are being held back by the fact that after a while, cases come back because people think that just because cases have gone down, it is alright to go back to the way things were. I do not think it ever will go back to the normal that we used to know, and I think people need to learn to accept that. As experts have been saying worldwide, even if we get the vaccine, we still need to take the precautions we are taking now. Not only that, but they have also said that this may not be the only pandemic we will experience in our lifetime, so we need to be aware of that. Sometimes I feel like people need to be required to watch the movie Contagion so that they can see just how bad this can get if we do not follow the precautionary measures that are being given to us.

I was watching the news and in London, there were people on an anti-lockdown march, all protesting against the lockdowns implemented because of the rising cases in Europe. All those people crowding together, no social distancing, and without masks…and we wonder why this pandemic has not ended yet? This is not just happening in one country; this is happening all over the world. If many people will blatantly defy the rules about wearing masks and social distancing, people who will continue to think along the lines of conspiracy theories and not believe in the existence of COVID, and if there will continue to be people who take advantage of the pandemic for the advancement of a political agenda, we will still have a long way to go. 



The air at night is starting to get really cold…Christmas season is really here. It is sad to think that things will be different this year, but I am just happy and grateful that my family and I are all healthy and happy and that we are here for each other during these trying times. I can only hope and pray that this time next year, things will be many times better.


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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Plot Twins: The Plus One Pact and Holidate

The Plus One Pact by Portia Macintosh is one of the new books that I managed to finish recently. It is about Cara, who is having a hard time finding someone, not for lack of trying. With a list of events that would require a date, she agrees to an arrangement with her new friend Millsy to be each other’s date for their respective events. No commitment, just friendship, and a person to be with during the events they need to go to. Sounded simple enough until it was not.

Credit: Boldwood Books

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Friday, November 27, 2020

Review: Deerma Handheld Wireless Vacuum Cleaner

This pandemic has made me obsessed with acquiring items for use around the house. I think that should not be a surprise considering that I have probably spent more time at home this year than I have ever done in my lifetime. After I purchased an air purifier and a dust mite vacuum, I decided to purchase the Deerma VC20 Handheld Wireless Vacuum Cleaner via Lazada.

I have seen several celebrities and some of my own friends showing off their purchase of a Dyson cordless vacuum. As interested as I was in purchasing it, the price of the product turned me off. I did not feel it was practical to buy something that expensive for what I needed it for. Besides, I believed I could find something that would do the same job without being that heavy on the pocket.

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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Pandemic Diairies: Homeschooling

For the past few months, my nephews and niece have been getting their education at home due to the pandemic. My younger nephew has been studying in a private school, a choice his parents made since he is still in elementary school and needs a good educational foundation in his younger years. My other nephew and my niece, on the other hand, are in high school via the public school system, something many parents have opted to do in our area since the cost of private school education even when homeschooled stayed the same as when they were physically going to school, which does not seem practical considering the economic situation most people are in because of the pandemic.

It has been difficult to watch the kids trying to learn given the current circumstances. My younger nephew is feeling frustrated with having to learn online via Google Meet. It is a challenge for the teacher to give students the proper attention that they need in that setup. My sister says that sometimes my nephew is upset to the point of tears due to the setup but there is nothing they can do about it. 



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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Pandemic Diaries: COVID 19 Scare

I don’t know if anyone noticed, but a few months ago I was blogging daily and then I stopped. I was having a difficult time processing my thoughts and I could not write anything. I was not sure about what I was feeling and I did not know if I had it in me to say my piece about it. This is because a few months ago, an officemate of mine who I work closely with revealed that her sibling was positive for COVID and that she was going to get tested. Until we found out her results, I was technically also possibly infected.

At first, I was not that worried about it. As I mentioned before I was only at the office once a week and by the time she informed me that her sibling was positive I had not seen her in five days. She assured me that the last time she saw her sibling was a week before that, so it was not a problem.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

My Dear Youth: The Coffee Prince Reunion

In the early years of Korean dramas making their way to the Philippines, one of the series that I completely fell in love with was the show First Shop of Coffee Prince, aka Coffee Prince. Starring Yoon Eun Hye and Gong Yoo, it was a love story that revolved around a coffee shop where the lead characters worked. It was a show that made me a fan not just of the story, but of the actors involved in the series as well. Naturally, I screamed with delight and excitement when I found out that they were doing a cast reunion.



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Monday, November 23, 2020

Pandemic Diaries: Song Club

A while back I got an email from someone from Republic Media thanking me for my review of Ronan Keating’s album 2020. In the email, several artists with new albums were shared that I might be interested in. I was curious about the album featuring various artists called Song Club (aka Chris Gilford’s Song Club), which is themed around the pandemic. Luckily, I was given a chance to listen to the album before it was released last October 23.

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

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Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Sunday Update 14: Options

If I could describe the past week in one word it would be about options. I think that is the recurring theme of the week. 

At the office we discussed the option of my division moving to another space in our building to ensure and improve proper social distancing between employees. It would cost money to make it happen, something which we may not have just yet given the additional expenses that we’ve had because of the pandemic. Having to weigh on the factors that will be affected by the move or non-move is not easy. As important as it is to make it happen, we do not have the funds to make it happen right now.  It is all still up in the air, hopefully, we can come up with a plan that everyone can agree on soon.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Netflix Picks: Emily In Paris

I have a confession to make: I was only interested in Emily in Paris after watching the trailer and seeing Lucas Bravo in it. My head was running with thoughts that sounded like this: “Ooh who is that cute guy? What is this show? When is it coming out on Netflix? But really, who is that guy?” Since I had no idea who he played in the show I decided that watching the series would be the only way to find out how long his role was in the show (the answer: long, but not long enough). 




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Friday, November 20, 2020

Pandemic Diaries: Lasco Smart Air Purifier

Early into this pandemic, I started having rashes on my skin. I attributed this to stress initially but then started to wonder if my childhood allergies were acting up again. I had been allergic to dust when I was younger and had similar rashes when a place was dirty/dusty. I would have asthma attacks from too much dust as well. I decided with the pandemic and the respiratory issues that it brings that I should take extra precautions. This was when I decided to buy an air purifier. After searching for and comparing many brands and their features, I decided to buy Lasco’s Smart Air Purifier.


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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Netflix Picks: Timeless

One of the things that I find comfort in these days is looking back on tried and tested favorites. I have been re-reading books I enjoyed in the past and I have been re-watching TV shows and movies that I had previously enjoyed. 

One of the shows that I found myself re-watching recently was the 2-season TV show called Timeless, which is currently on Netflix (Philippines).




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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Book Review: Worth Waiting For

I have not read that many new books this year. Most of the books that I have been reading have been ones that I have read before -- which has more to do with me wanting to face something familiar under these stressful times. I have tried to read a lot of new books this year, but several of the books that I have started have unfortunately ended up on the do not finish pile. One of the few new ones that I’ve read this year (and finished) is a book called Worth Waiting For, which, if I am to guess correctly, is inspired by the story told by the song The Man Who Can’t Be Moved by The Script.


Credit: Bookotoure

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Movie Review: In My Dreams

A few years ago, while I was watching TV on a now-defunct cable channel, I remember seeing this Hallmark movie that I fell in love with instantly. It was a romantic movie starring Katharine McPhee and Mike Vogel called In My Dreams. I have been a fan of Katherine since her American Idol days, so it was an easy choice to want to watch this movie. I never heard of Mike Vogel before this one, but I was later a fan because of his work on the TV series The Brave (which I wish could have lasted longer than it did).




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Monday, November 16, 2020

Book Review: American Royals Series

What if the United States did not have a President, but instead had a King? What if for the first time, the country was about to have a Queen? What kind of world would that be? The book series American Royals by Katharine McGee.




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Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Sunday Update 13: Wild Week

The past week has been troubling for me. I feel that with all the things that were on my mind I needed to do something to make myself feel better and lift my spirits up. I think we all need to do something every now and then to uplift ourselves and get us in a better mindset. This pandemic is far from over and the problems that it brings will keep on coming, we need all the positivity and mental strength that we can get. For me, blogging has been my outlet. It has been my way to de-stress and unpack my thoughts. Carrying it around would just be too much during these times. This distraction has been a good way to help me keep calm about all this. 

Image by free stock photos from www.picjumbo.com from Pixabay

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