Monday, November 29, 2010

the early birthday gift

My birthday isn't until a few more days but the Hubby surprised me with an early gift: a long-coveted, wonderfully practical, I-love-it-immensely DSLR. Woot! Woot!

I finally have my own (whee, I no longer have to borrow someone else's), and a real spankin' nice one at that! I'm excited to start capturing art with it ^_^ It'll take some getting used to, of course; it's a Nikon D5000 and it's way different from the Olympus I've gotten used to. I delved into the user's manual and started testing the camera's settings earlier today; perhaps tomorrow I could start snapping photos.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

girls talk: apparel and accessories shopping

This week on Girls Talk: What I often look for in the apparel and accessories section.

Apparel. Right now I've got a thing for leggings. I'm so glad they made a comeback.

Leggings are like that perfect pair of jeans, but lightweight, more comfortable and much softer. They can go for different degrees of casual - from overly rugged to smart-casual. They can also make your legs look skinnier.

What I look for to go with leggings: A long-ish tunic or babydoll top.

I don't think too-short dresses or skirts are appropriate for someone my age (and size, haha). Since I'm now over 30, I don't want to dress like a teenager. Throwing on a pair of leggings under a short skirt / dress achieves the right look.

Accessories. I don't normally buy accessories, since I can make my own (A good rule to go by: "Don't buy anything you can make"). If I find a piece I like, I'd take a good look at it, and then make my own version at home. It saves me money and provides an outlet for creativity.

These days I go for chunky necklaces, statement necklaces and / or large dangling earrings (NOT to be worn at the same time of course).

So this is this month's last installment of Girls Talk. Check out other ladies' shopaholism at Beauty Queen Gene.

Looking forward to our December topics. ^_^

Sunday, November 21, 2010

creative week

I spent the past week putting together more wearables. I decided to exhaust what remains of my current stock of materials, so as to make room for the next time I purchase supplies. Prior to this week of creativity, I'd been whining that I couldn't come up with any new works worth selling because I've been wanting to buy new beads and stuff. Apparently, all I needed to do was to take another look at what I already had, and apply a bit of creativity.

I'm kinda proud of what I was able to come up with out of those "leftover" beads. I made 12 statement necklaces this week.

See the rest of them at

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

our dog was lost, and now he's home again!

This is definitely a happy thawt! We thought we'd lost him forever, but today Puffy's wagging his tail and munching on treats just a few feet from me.

It must have been two months ago or so when he disappeared. We were pretty convinced he was stolen. He's a pure pomeranian, the cute kind that attracted the attention of the neighbor kids. Our theory was that someone from the nearby squatters area climbed our wall (again), nabbed the dog and considered selling him for a couple thousand. We looked around the neighborhood for Puffy, and after a few days we resigned to the probability that we might not see him again.

I know it may sound silly, but I prayed for our dog. I asked God to bring him back - maybe he could escape and come skipping back to us, or maybe the dognappers could repent and deposit him at our garage - but if that were not possible, I prayed that he would be adopted by a loving home that will care for him well. Of course after awhile, I just sucked up the emo-ness and tried to convince myself that Puffy was in a good place. I hoped and chose to believe that nice dog-loving people took him in. After all, he's too cute to be mistaken for an askal, too charming to turn into pulutan.

We never threw away his bowl and bag of dog food. It just seemed too soon.

Then the other day, our house helper's morning greeting carried good news: She saw Puffy! She spotted him tied to a pole at the tricycle stand by the nearby squatters' area. She was sure it was him because he recognized her. Apparently someone picked him up, took care of him and brought him there. She didn't take Puffy home right away of course, since she had to ask around and look for his new "owners" and wanted to be gracious (If it were I who had spotted Puffy tied at the trike stand, I would have just grabbed him and warded off anyone who tried to ask questions. He's our dog. Good thing our helper had more manners than I did).

So anyway. By the end of yesterday, Puffy was finally brought back home. He appeared well-groomed and well-fed, so I couldn't complain.

It turns out a tricycle driver saw Puffy wandering in the street two months ago and took him home. The driver's family took care of Puffy for two months - apparently they took very good care of our dog. They even brought him to the vet when he got sick, bought him his own soap and shampoo. We were told that people have been offering to buy Puffy for a few thousand bucks, but his "caretakers" didn't feel they had the freedom to sell him because they knew he belonged to someone else. The driver would tie Puffy near the trikes, thinking the real owners are likely to be looking for the dog. I'm so happy that Puffy has been in good hands all this time.

I felt sorry for the driver though - he looked really sad when he came by the house to tell us he was the one who found our dog. Apparently he already fell in love with Puffy and was probably even hoping he could keep him.

But the happy thawt persists - Puffy's home! I prayed to God that Puffy would come back, or that he would be well-taken care of by a nice family - and both my prayers were answered. I know that a dog's welfare may seem too unimportant a thing to ask of the Lord - but as I have been told, if it matters to you, it matters to God, and that is very comforting.

Monday, November 15, 2010

this weekend's happy thawt: strawberries

This weekend's happy thawt: fresh strawberries in the fridge. ^_^

My Dad brought a batch of fresh ones from Baguio, and I'm excited to stuff them in my mouth. I just need to decide on how.

They're nice in shakes or smoothies, or on top of cake or ice cream. Dipping them in chocolate or butterscotch is sexy; eating strawberries in sugar and cream makes me feel like a child again. But in my opinion, they're best eaten plain, in their full berry glory.

P.S. I shared a fat one with my rabbits. They love strawberries too. ^_^

Thursday, November 11, 2010

girls talk: health and beauty section

This week on Girls Talk: What do you usually grab from the health and beauty section?

Ever since I was a kid, I've associated Nivea with good-quality skin-care.
I'm a sucker for Nivea. Whenever an advertisement comes out about a new product, I'd get instantly intrigued and make a mental note to check a sample the next time I stop at Watson's.

Nivea's line is complete - they've got facial wash, various lotions and creams, deodorants, shower gel and everything. My favorite thing though is the lip balm / gloss, a.k.a. caregloss. I loove it; I make sure to always carry one in my purse.

While I'm loyal to Nivea, I feel the need to switch brands every few months when my skin starts to get dull. My other brand of choice would be Pond's.

Pond's items are also effective, and very affordable. The brand's range of products are not as extensive as Nivea's, but they've got pretty good facial care stuff. I like how they come in small sizes that are easy to tote around.

So that's what's in my shopping basket. Shimmy over to Beauty Queen Gene to see what's in other girls' carts.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

simplifying the upcoming stressful season

So. The awareness of Christmas is just floating over our heads like a persistent follow-spotlight. At this time we'd usually be harassed over getting gifts, maybe even penciling out our own wishlists, or stretching whatever budget we have just to be in the spirit of the season.

Gifts. Lists. Wrapping. Make sure not to forget anyone.
Lights. Trees. Tinsel. Trimming.
Recipes. Groceries.
Parties. Invites.
Events. Events to go to, events to turn down.
People to make nice with.
Clutter. Diets.

I think it was two years ago that the Hubby and I have decided not to be slaves to tradition. Oh, we're not going in the Ebenezer Scrooge direction -- we just agreed it would be wise not to blow several thousand bucks buying gifts for insignificant people and decking the house with kitschy decor.

Instead of scrambling for cheap stuff for a long list of friends colleagues neighbors volunteers donors sponsors pastors disciples helpers group-members workers parents-of-workers people-to-thank people-to-impress and so on, we'll simply be buying good-quality gifts for immediate family. If we have enough, the Hubby and I might even treat ourselves to a vacation. The Holidays would be less stressful and more meaningful that way.

The first time we did this, I felt a kind of bite on my pride whenever I had to greet Christmas-wishers who might've expected gifts (It probably will still sting a bit this year, but I think I've more or less gotten used to it). But the money saved and the freedom from stress is absolutely rewarding.

We could feel guilty for not handing out tangible, giftwrapped tokens to (hopefully) convey our thoughtfulness at a season of giving.
We could be afraid of being thought of as Scroogy or stingy.
We could spread ourselves too thin over people we "should" please or events we "should" attend.
Or we could choose to simplify our lives at this already complicated season - just stick to what really matters instead of just going along with social convention.

Personally I'd rather not give in to the overspending, people-pleasing, materialism and fatigue. If Christmas is supposed to be about love, joy, sharing, giving, and spiritually enlightening things, it would be nice not to contaminate it with worldly values.

Monday, November 1, 2010

halloween doesn't have to be full of ugly, unpleasant things

I never really liked Halloween as a kid. I mean, I loved the candy and the partying, but I never quite appreciated a celebration that required people to look revolting. And those scary programs that the TV networks churned out for the season - I hated the way they messed with my head when it was time to sleep. I've heard a lot of Christians have written off Halloween altogether, preaching that it's demonic and pagan and so on, and that we shouldn't take part in it at all.

But I believe we can still have fun without celebrating the fear-fodder associated with Halloween. A party is still a party even without the vile beasties. There are a lot of wholesome costume options - for that matter, if you've noticed, dressing up as a something scary for Halloween isn't so hot anymore; the fashionable thing nowadays is wearing a sexy Hollywood-inspired costume, like a movie character or a celebrity.

(And you don't have to be a killjoy just because you want to "stay clean". For instance, you may have children who want to go trick-or-treating, and you feel like telling them to stay home because you want to "protect" them.  Instead of going heavy-handed, you can just host a party in your own home. That way, your kids can have their fun while you're sure everything is safe and wholesome.)

For this year's Halloween, I helped organize a party for a bunch of young twentysomethings.  While we agreed on something wholesome, the average age of our invitees won't exactly be excited about animal costumes and pixie dust. We came up with the idea of a Tim Burton themed party - it can be dark without necessarily being morbid, Halloween-ish with a sufficient dose of cuteness. A Tim Burton Un-Birthday Party.

Tim Burton is the producer / director behind films such as Sweeney Todd, Batman Returns and the recent Alice In Wonderland. Some of his cheerier works include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Big Fish.

Decorating ideas came easy. Spirals, bold black-and-white stripes, large checks, pinstripes and / or black-and-white polka dots.

Hannah's photo.

Since black and white were the apparent base colors, we just had to choose a bright accent color to liven things up. Red would make it look too emo, so we agreed on a happy, bright orange.

Since we were on a a tight budget, we just needed to add a few key elements:

1. Walls and interiors

Hannah's photo.

We wanted to completely paper the walls with pinstripes, but we didn't really have time for that since we only had one day to decorate.  A few fake paintings served well as wall decor. All I used were boards, poster paint and ink  A couple of bold spirals and are enough to create striking visuals. The lines didn't have to be perfect or anything because the crookedness adds a bit more personality.

The owner of the house luckily had vintage/ antique furniture that went nicely with our theme.  They also had a large, rococo-ish mirror, on which one of the guys drew a spiderweb design using a whiteboard marker.  (Sorry, no pics of that ).

2. Ceiling hangings

It would've been nice to hang lanterns, but since we didn't want to spend much on stuff we wouldn't use again, we thought of an alternative.  Pompoms are way more interesting than regular streamers, and they have just about the visual volume of paper lanterns.  Besides, their fluffy appearance softens the harsh blacks.

Hannah's photo.

I used crepe paper and recycled plastic bags, keeping to our black-and-white-and-orange scheme.   Pompoms prolly won't work with other Halloween party ideas, but they're great with our Burtony theme.

3. Instant "chandelier"

Bea's and Hannah's photos.

I threaded strands of plastic beads through the lighting fixture, and tah-dah! An instant chandelier!  I used mostly black beads and plastic "crystals".

This is actually a clever idea for any party - just switch colors to adjust to the theme.

4. Skellington Beanbags

Bea's photos.

They're not exactly "bean" bags since they're only stuffed with newspaper, but they produce the same effect. To make these, I just took cheesecloth sacks and drew Jack Skellington faces on them.  I was supposed to use fabric paint, but I noticed too late that my remaining paint had already dried up, so I used a black permanent marker. The bottom edge of each sack was gathered from the inside and sewn in place (though for some, the gathering was held in place with a rubber band because I ran out of time :p ) . I stuffed them, closed up the tops, and dumped them on the living room floor.

5. Table centerpiece: A Nightmare-Before-Christmas Tree

Bea's photo.

I found some dead branches and covered them with a layer of papier mache. I extended the tips with  lengths of wire which I wrapped with more papier mache, to give the branches curly spiral ends. I painted them black, then I wound strips of white crepe paper around them to give them stripes.  I secured the crepe paper with clear tape, just to make sure nothing unravels. I stuck the branches in a giant glass jar (filled with rocks, so it doesn't topple) and fanned them out to make them look all tree-like.  We then hung candy and more popmpoms, which guests were free to "pick".

I also made small, freaky critters to hang on the tree.  I used of cloth swatches, buttons and bits of lace. They didn't have to look so well-made; they just needed some stuffing and buttons for eyes to suggest that they were animals of some sort. It's really up to the guests' imagination to see what they want to see.

The bottom of the tree was decked with candles and bottles and multicolored teacups (contributed by the party organizers), and surrounded it with treats.

I didn't need to spend much money to make all these decors. I set my mind to a very limited budget and challenged myself to recycle, reuse and repurpose.  Guests asked to take most of the decorations  home; I didn't mind if they did because those things cost me next to nothing (and besides, it's nice not to have to pack the decors away).

The heart of the party: the improvised video wall

We wanted to be able to do a Tim Burton movie marathon until we could no longer stay awake.  The guys  rigged a laptop to a projector and a pair of really good speakers.  The videos were  then projected onto a bare, white wall for everyone to enjoy.

As for the costumes -

Hannah's photo.

Thinking of costume ideas was fun too. We in the "planning team" outlawed zombies, witches, zombies and suchlike. We asked our guests to be a bit more creative.

You don't really need to spend a lot of money to have a good costume; you just need a bit of imagination. As for myself, I picked out a black ballgown I wore to an event years ago, then I made myself a headdress. I took some swatches and ribbons I had lying around, made some rosettes, then sewed sequins to a bit of dark tulle to make a sort of small veil. I attached them to a headband,  stitched on a few beads, and I was good to go.

The food

We didn't have a large budget for this, but we just wanted to have fun.  Assuming rightly that most of our guests had other parties to go to that evening, we served finger food like spring rolls and cheese sticks, and the rest were mostly sweets. We ruled against booze and alcoholic beverages, so our "bartender" concocted mocktails with soda, juice, jelly and food coloring.

A good idea at any party: a lot of treats.  Cupcakes and cookies are always a popular option.

Bea's photo.

We decked the table with mismatched cups and saucers, then filled them with candy and jelly cups. I poured chocolate syrup into a bowl and surrounded it with marshmallows; I put a bunch of toothpicks nearby and guests knew what to do with it.

So there: a cheery, non-scary, low-budget but totally fun party on Halloween.  ^_^