She loves you, YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! – Or how we treated Mom to a Beatles-themed party

We are a family of die-hard Beatles fanatics. Credit goes to our mom and dad who made sure we grew up appreciating really good music. One of our fondest memories is singing one Beatles song after another in a mean round of Videoke with my paternal uncles. Two of these favorite uncles and Beatles song partner has already passed on and no doubt, already stalking John Lennon and George Harrison in the Big Concert in the Sky.

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So, when our mom turned 60 a few months back, it is only natural that we celebrated the momentous occasion with a party — and what can be cooler than a Beatles-themed party?

To set the theme, the first to be developed was her invites. Since she can’t choose between two colors, we printed both and distributed it to her friends:

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Yup, our mum’s name is “Baby” — she’s one of the oldest “Babys” in the world. What can I do? Us Filipinos and our weird first names :)

Because we don’t want to give out the usual party souvenirs like figurines or the usual perfumed candles, a quick check in Pinterest immediately gave me an idea. This was the original concept:

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Which, I am sure are machine printed. Because we do not have a printing machine and because we do not want to spend for printing, since we are confident that we can wing it by painting it ourselves (we are a family of artists, after all!) — we decided to paint every glass–piece by piece, by free hand! Here is the final outcome:

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The glasses were sourced in Divisoria, bought for PHP8 a piece, paint used was non-toxic acrylic and all done by hand. I started painting George Harrison then Paul McCartney, the Ringo Starr finally ending with John Lennon. Took me 4 days to finish everything. I was basically printing 15 pieces of glass per night, all by hand! The night before the party, the glasses were filled up with chocolates, wrapped in cellophane then finished with a ribbon and gift tag also designed by myself.

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This was the final outcome of the giveaways, as displayed on the sweets table, with Beatles-themed candies and a cake especially commissioned for her party:

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Of course, there was also a photo booth as additional give-aways. Because we wanted to add to the usual funny hats and glasses used as props, I made cut-outs featuring the Beatles, of course!

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Complementing the theme was the music played through out the four-hour party. We were playing the Beatles, of course! What we did was download their whole discography to our iPods and then brought a portable speaker to venue. We pressed “play” and left the iPod alone.

My sister, my dad and I (the most avid Beatles fanatics of the bunch) made sure to wear our Fab Four shirts!

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Planning everything, with barely a month to go, was tiring but was so worth it when we saw how happy our mum was. She received a lot of gifts from her friends and her party was the talk of their “church group” for about two weeks after it happened. Just seeing her happy, it was worth all the trouble.

In reality, we didn’t find it hard planning the party — even if most of the task was done manually and without the benefit of an events crew. Quite honestly, planning the party was one of the best things we did in 2014 — it was fulfilling and something we see ourselves doing for a very long time.

Tales of Sayuri: Have you ever tried to bathe a cat?

I didn’t know when I started to be a cat person. For as long as I can remember, I have always been in love with dogs. I owned a good number of dogs growing up — the oldest was Nick who lived to 70plus in human years. Nick’s whole name was Nicholas Carter-Mesias, yes — he was named after the youngest member of Backstreet Boys by my obnoxious college friends.

It’s only when I got married when I started being the equivalent of a human slave to my lovable (but bratty) cat, Sayuri. Sayuri was picked straight out of the middle of the road, after I chanced upon her — then just a tiny kitten — picking a fight with a neighborhood dog. Sayuri, about a month or two old then, was determined to hold her ground against the large dog which was known throughout the neighborhood as a bully to cats and smaller breed. With one swipe of her tiny paws, I was immediately fell in love with the little devil who has a wild shock of black fur. From hanging laundry to dry, I ended up plucking the kitten from the street and bringing it to our home.

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Sayuri is now six years old, no longer the cute, little kitten battling the dog ten times her size. But I guess it’s true when they say that cats have their own personality — because, this cat, has tons. Sayuri knows how to push our buttons (do cute things, get treats in return), and has assimilated herself in our little unit that it is now impossible to think of life without this “bundle of misery” (that’s my term of endearment for her).

Maybe, because we don’t have kids yet that we tend to spoil Sayuri so much. Deep inside, we knew that Sayuri can never replace having children or that she is a manifestation of another person whom our two-person family is lacking. However, having Sayuri with us given us insight on what real responsible pet ownership means.

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We have a very limited grocery budget, a part of that goes to Sayuri’s food. She is partial to kibble from Friskies, but preferred the Ocean Fish soft food from Whiskas. Imagine calculating the number of cans of soft food and pouches of kibble she needs for a month. Imagine the dent it makes on our budget! I can assure you, that cat is more well-fed that I am!

When she was younger, she used to catch rats. Actually, she is well-known for being a mean little rat-killing machine and the neighborhood loved her for that. But we all know that rats are dirty like hell. So, we had to have her treated due to the gum disease she developed due to trapping and killing all those pesky rodents. She smelled really bad and suffered from gum sores — the vet recommended that we make sure she stopped from hunting rodents and quarantine her along with a steady intake of vitamin C, antibiotic and brushing of her gums to rid of the bacteria.

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Imagine trying to brush your cat’s teeth and gums! Suffice to say, I emerged unscathed, save for a few scratch marks on my hand. This was nothing. When she was younger, we attempted to bathe her. The bathing experiment ended to a quick trip to the City’s Veterinary Office to get rabies shots after Sayuri freaked and made a hotdog sandwich out of my right hand after I attempted to shampoo her hind legs. For close to three months, I was known as “the stupid girl who tried to bathe a cat.” (FYI — In the Philippines, there is an old superstition that it is bad luck to bathe a cat. Will lead to seven days of rain). More like, it’s bad luck to bathe a cat because it leads to rabies shots.

Another problem with having a cat on “house arrest”is addressing the cat’s need to poop and pee – two things that both carried the smell of instant death. If you are a cat owner, you know what I meant. The stink of cat poop and pee is second to none. It will make your house smelly and will drive you mad with the stench.

For this, we had a kitty litter. We were using the store bought kitty litter brands which is also hell when it comes to maintaining the cleanliness of the house. It’s a constant cycle of scooping, cleaning, vacuuming and scrubbing. After running out of kitty litter tonight and being informed that kitty litters in 2 of the nearest grocery stores are out-of-stock, I was forced to improvise.

For a more environment friendly kitty litter, I took some old newspapers and tore them into tiny pieces, placed it in the litter box and sprinkled it generously with baking soda to counter the smell. Saw Sayu did the number 1 and 2 and it was a success! And no smell at all!

Ideally, the shredded/torn up newspaper should be washed with water, mixed with a bit of fabric conditioner, drained of water, mixed with baking soda before being turned into small pellet-shaped “nuts” which can serve as a more environment-friendly and organic kitty litter. Read instructions here:

1. Shred newspaper in a paper shredder and collect it in an unused litter box.

2. Soak the paper in warm water mixed with a few squirts gentle, biodegradable dish soap. The shredded paper takes on a cooked oatmeal consistency. The paper won’t come completely clean, but the water will turn grey.

3. Drain the water (an old colander works wonders) and repeat the soaking process minus the soap.

4. Sprinkle baking soda liberally on the wet paper. Knead it in to the mixture (you might want to wear gloves to avoid getting ink on your hands).

5. Squeeze the remaining moisture out until it’s as dry as you can get it.

6. Crumble over a screen and leave to dry for a few days.

7. Once it’s dry, put about an inch and a half to two inches of the paper crumbles in the litter box. Scoop solids daily and change it once a week. It takes about a half an hour to 45 minutes to make a 2-3 week supply of litter

Source: http://www.treehugger.com/culture/pet-topic-make-your-own-newspaper-cat-litter.html

Unfortunately, I really don’t have time right now so I resorted instead to newspapers shredded into small pieces and sprinked with baking soda. Worked really well.

There are days when I get really lazy and I am tempted not to deal with Sayuri’s food, litter and even her gum-brushing. For times like these, I always think of the fact that having a pet (like having a child) is a big responsibility and it doesn’t end the moment the cat stopped being a little ball of fur and cute. I do not regret any minute of taking care of Sayuri. Her loyalty and love is enough payment for me.

#LLAP, Leonard Nimoy

The Geekdom is currently in mourning following the passing of Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy.

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“In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character.”

– From “Leonard Nimoy, Spock of Star Trek Dies at 83″, The New York Times

Perhaps, our collective anguish can be best summed by another Trekkie, President Obama, who said: “Long before being a nerd was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy.”

You couldn’t have put it better, Mr. President.

New coffee and hang-out experience at St. Marc Cafe – Greenbelt

I love coffee. I love it so much that it has come to a point that I can consume more than five cups a day, and that a doctor had to tell me to limit the intake or else…

So, imagine my surprise when I saw a branch of St. Marc Cafe while window shopping at Greenbelt 3. Already an institution in Japan, St. Marc Cafe is well loved and famous in Japan for its Chococro (a croissant-type pastry filled with chocolate in the middle), its kakigori (shaved ice dessert) selections and premium coffee.

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St. Marc in Ebisu Station, Shibuya (photo from Yelp)

Apparently, this is already the second branch of the coffee shop in Manila. Under the management of Suyen Corp., the parent company of retail giant Bench, the first St. Marc branch can be found at the Mega Fashion Hall of Megamall. The Greenbelt branch opened in mid-February and currently enjoys brisk crowd especially during after-office hours.

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This is the first thing that caught my attention while the Hub and I were fixated on going to Chili’s. These plastic food displays are an art form in itself, and takes long hours while they are made by hand. In Tokyo, the streets of Kappabashi-dori, located near Asakusa is a go-to place to buy “sampurru” (from the english word, “sample”). Many tourists actually buy them as souvenirs.

It’s not easy getting a table because most of the tables are already occupied when we came in at 6PM. The Hub ordered the Almond Sugar Pie (P75) and a medium cup of Cafe Americano (P110), while I was set on one of the Matcha Milk kakigori (P230), being addicted to anything matcha flavored.

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We didn’t get the Chococron, the flaky croissant variant that St. Marc is famous for, but we enjoyed the Almond Sugar Pie with its buttery, sugary crust. We loved the fact that the crust was not too dry and their are bits and pieces of the butter flavor in every bite. The Americano, meanwhile, is a let-down for me. One, Japan is known for its strong, kick-ass coffee and I found the America a bit too mild for my taste. There was no distinct coffee taste and I can’t help but compare it to the Americano we always order in our favorite coffee shop (the one with the words “coffee” and “tea” on its name). For a medium-sized coffee cup, the serving at St. Marc is also smaller.

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My Matcha Milk was one big pile of finely-shaven ice, matcha and milk syrup, vanilla ice cream and a scoop of the red aduzki beans. In spite being tightly packed, the ice was not packed too tight. While the vanilla soft ice cream was not too sweet and just had enough of its flavoring, the matcha flavoring was too mild, there are instances when I can barely taste the flavor of green tea.

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We loved the interiors, which was painted deep shade of grey. The lighting was also a clever play on the cup and saucer combo we usually find in coffee shops. The cozy feel of the interiors, which was a far cry on the usual look of coffee shops in Manila, encouraged patrons to enjoy their coffee while catching up with friends or loved-ones. Somehow, this is a coffee shop that feels more intimate and personal.

Creativity and the search for the familiar feels

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Image from Buzzfeed

After working for ten years in corporate, I can feel that my creativity level has greatly diminished. I used to find inspiration in everything. But now, writing and trying to create something is like pulling teeth.

I have written about wanting to go back to writing in so many posts in this blog, not just writing blog posts — but really writing for a living again. This year, I have never been more determined to say goodbye to the corporate world than before. I just don’t feel as excited and as motivated with my current corporate job — maybe it’s the hunger to write again or at least learn something, instead of slaving in front of a computer for 8 hours per day. That’s really not harmless, but what’s more draining for me is the people — dealing with them, making them happy with their endless demands and insane requests; the need to compete; the need to write long and rambling self- evaluation on your performance appraisal sheet — honestly, I am just not feeling it anymore.

This realization was made more palpable when I was invited by a good friend to cover their tourism-related event recently. I was there in my capacity as a newbie travel blogger, eager to be of help to promote the local tourism. Upon arrival at the venue, I was seated in a table occupied by print journalists and more established bloggers. When the guest of honor arrived, I overheard the print journalists discussing among themselves if they should make a go at it and do the interview with the DOT secretary while the program has yet to start. They were discussing possible questions and debating if they should abandon dinner and just go ahead with the face-to-face interview. I actually felt jealous.

The problem with doing an about-face and starting a new career (even if you are a returnee) is getting your foot at the door, trying to get an opening or an opportunity. Once I have this covered, I know I’ll be on my way.

Bad Guys – finally a Korean drama loved by the Hubs

Like fashion, shoes and cosmetics, the love of Korean drama is something that is solely the women and the fashionable gay men’s territory. Korean dramas usually follow a certain formula — just enough of syrupy goodness to make every woman fall in love, a good mix of comedy to lighten the mood and gut-wrenching scenes that can tug your heart strings. Of course, there’s the adorable lead actor and his equally adorable leading woman, PLUS the super loveable third party (usually a guy) who everybody roots for but just can’t seem to get the girl.

And then, I discovered Bad Guys.

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Bad Guys is a korean action-thriller drama featuring a tough, morally-ambiguous cop who decided to form a group composed of criminals or “bad guys” to solve some of Seoul’s most gruesome crimes. The group, headed by detective Oh Gu-Tak served as the de-facto leader looking after three criminals: Lee Jung-moon, boyish-looking and awfully quiet guy with doctorate degree in math and philosophy, the youngest member of Mensa, said to be diagnosed as a psychopath and is considered the deadliest serial killer in Seoul; Park Woong-cheol,a mob boss with a killer fist who stormed and punched his way on top of the criminal underground food chain and Jung Tae-soo, a hired hit man with an impressive number of kills. Ambitious police office Yoo Mi-young completes the group as handler of the three guys.

The drama follows a police procedural format where Oh Gu-Tak is called to solve the crimes riddling Seoul–a rampaging sniper killing people at random, kidnapping of a top mob boss, a roving serial killer — with the aid of the bad guys. Their methods might not be common or what’s considered right — but they get things done. The casting is great — as all actors seemed the right fit for their role. This even if there are times when Lee Jung-moon seemed to be channeling “L” (Death Note), that all he had to do is reach for a lollipop and adopt a very awkward posture.

The action scenes and the gore is top class. Bloods splatter, knives are pulled, faces are bruised due to solid punches and the usual baseball bat to the head. In a group where everyone seemed to be hiding something, it was the Police Chief Nam Goo-hyun who serves as conscience and moral compass. They get things done but along the way, they discover secrets, wracked a few kills and lose loved-ones.

This drama is so good that I caught the husband binge-watching online for episodes. The drama aired from October to December 2014 in South Korea but is just being shown now through Channel M on cable. Whatever the medium maybe, you can expect the Hubs–who is a bit averse to cheesy Korean dramas–to drop everything and watch. We are already on episode 7 and episodes are getting better and better. My favorite episodes so far include the pervy serial killer and the one where the guys took down a whole building of goons who were all employed by a creepy old lady dealing in illegal organ trade.

The camera work is also unique–heavy and dark and bursting with closed-up visuals. It’s no surprise that the Hubs is immediately hooked and is now going through bouts of worry because the series end by episode 11. Since this is a one-off thing, I will have to look again for an equally heavy, equally macho Korean drama series that can serve as another venue for bonding between me and the reluctant K-drama lover.

Together…let’s try new things

Let's Grow Mold Together

One of the things I have committed to honor this year is to have more time for Dear Hubby. The past year has been very tough for the both of us due to me being too busy and too preoccupied with my career; and him having to also face a lot of challenges professionally. 2014 was a turning point in our relationship because more than being a married couple, we also consider each other as our respective best friends and closest allies. The things we have to face in 2014 shook our little team to the very core. We are lucky that instead of us losing grip with each other, we emerged stronger and more wisened with the experience. Scarred, scared shitless — but definitely stronger than ever.

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As we enter the 16th year of us being together (almost half of our lives!), we vowed that we will make each other a priority. Hence, the weekend has become very important to us — a day where we can just lounge and chill and spend time talking and assessing the situations we encounter. Funny that it took us more than a decade to approach the relationship with more maturity, less drama (from my end) and a more wider outlook in life.

This year, we are exited to begin our own bucket list–basically, all the new things we want to experience together. You see, I have been pretty selfish for the last three years as I basically discovered new countries and new cities on my own. When we talked about our issues last year, Dear Hubby mentioned that one of the things that always hurt or saddens him is when I travel on my own, leaving him in a lonely, stretch of days cooped up at home or at work and wondering where the hell his wife might be. After hearing this, I realized just how dense and selfish I was, how microscopic my view was. I was too consumed with the idea of discovering new things that I sometimes forget that the most important person in my life was often left reeling by my usual wandering.

Here’s a sample bucket list I found on the internet:

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I hope to work on our list, but figured it will be almost similar to this. We talked about wanting to try a new sport, which we were able to do last December. The Hubs and I tried Kayaking last December and it was one of the funnest and bravest things we did together. Unlike before where my bossy and OC self will direct the Hubs like a frustrated backseat driver, I let Hubs do the deciding for us – where to go, when to paddle, when to battle the waves. It was fun seeing Hubs be on top of the situation, factoring steps which will keep the both of us safe. At one point, we stopped paddling and allowed the waves to lull us while we savor the salty air.

Hopefully, I’ll get to work on our own list soon. Meanwhile, here’s a guide from RedBook Magazine.