5 Things I Will Do to Have a Meaningful and Memorable #MerrySMChristmas

♫♪♫♪♪ It’s the most wonderful time of the year! ♫♪♫♪♪

Whenever I hear that song being played, I am filled with Christmas cheer. My heart smiles. My eyes twinkle. I become that giddy child waiting for Christmas day.  As a child, although we did not have the grandest of feasts, for as long as my family was together, Christmas was merrier.

Five years ago, Christmas took a different meaning for me. It was the year I did not make a fuss about Christmas.  My father was bed-ridden for 5 months. I saw his frail body being eaten by cancer day after day. I was numb to the Christmas spirit around me.  There was little I could do for Papa. I just hugged him everyday. Hugging meant pressing my face to his face as he could no longer wrap me in his embrace.  On Christmas day, I greeted him with a loud cheer. He smiled back acknowledging my greeting. And that was more than I could ask  for. My father died the day after Christmas. It was his way of giving me my Christmas back.

Since then, I was able celebrate Christmas with my family like that giddy child again. Being an only child, single and an orphan, family means my aunts, uncles and my cousins. Christmas becomes more meaningful. Here are ways I make my Christmas meaningful and memorable:

1. Feel the spirit of Christmas. I do this by putting up my tree.  Having a tree changes the mood of the house. This is a special tree because my mama and I bought this together with my own money.  It has been 14 years since we bought the tree. My mother had long gone and the tree still looks good. You do not have to buy a tree to feel the spirit of Christmas. Sometimes, listening to Christmas Carols will already fill the home with holiday joy.  You can also spend time at a park where twinkling lights make the season more festive. Malls have stepped up their game.  There areas for families to enjoy the Christmas season.

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2. Share your blessings. You might be surprised that it takes little to make another person happy. It does not have to be a grand gesture. You may share your blessings with your loved ones.  However, they say the best way to share your blessings is doing something for someone who cannot repay you in kind. You get repaid with their prayers and well-wishes. I am not really the kindest person around. I can be selfish but I have to admit that the selfish me can also see the wonders of being able to share my blessings to others.

3. Spend time with family and friends. My nephew is already 3 and I plan to spend some time with him this Christmas. My aunt and uncle will be spending their Christmas in Cebu but they will be back in the afternoon of December 25 so we still have a chance to celebrate Christmas together. I am compiling easy-to-make recipes so that I can still have a wonderful time with my family without slaving in the kitchen. I have tested one of such recipe. You only need cubed gulaman, cream, condensed milk and cubed mangoes. Layer the ingredients. Put them in a nice glass and voila! These ingredients are readily available in the supermarket.

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This year, a number of my friends will be home so there will be a lot of catching up do. For sure, there will be lots of laughter till our bellies ache.

4. Reward myself. Although I looked like I have not worked hard this year, I did. The best reward I can give myself is rest. I am dreaming on resting my head on a soft pillow while curled up reading a book. Maybe I’ll get a tub of ice cream and have a movie marathon. This is just me. You can reward yourself with that jacket you have been eyeing for a long time, that gadget to get in touch with family  or that massage chair  to ease those back pains for working hard.  It is okay to treat yourself to something you greatly deserve.

5. Remember the reason for the season. JESUS. Christmas is the season of advent.  Advent means coming. We prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus.  As Christians, it is a time to reflect on our lives and make changes in order to be ready for Jesus Christ. We do this by emulating how Jesus lives while He was here on earth (i.e. a humble  and obedient servant) and by following His commandments. We should really do this not only during Christmas but every day of our lives.  This is a part of my life where I need to improve on. God never faltered on me yet the sinner that I am easily forgets God’s greatness. 

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Each of us may have different ways in celebrating this wonderful time of the year. SM Supermalls have their way of celebrating this merry season. Drenched in the spirit of love, family, sharing and giving, SM Supermalls show us how #MerrySMChristmas begins. Adorable Cheska and Kendra Kramer and the delightful Elevator girl, Cheridel Alejandrino star in this short video.

If you want to make someone happy this Christmas and you do not know how, why not give an SM Cares’ Bear of Joy?
Bears-of-Joy-2014

SM Supermalls have a lot in store for you this season. Visit http://bit.ly/MerrySMChristmas for more details on their various #MerrySMChristmas events.

I wish you and your family a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

**This blog post is an entry to Nuffnang's blogger contest.

 

30 Things I am Grateful for in November 2014

It’s almost 2015! Having spent the past 11 months with a grateful spirit, my heart is full. I thank God for making His presence felt in my life. My life has its own share of challenges but whenever I am down, something or someone cheers me up.

November was a good month. I was able to travel, do some meaningful work, spend time with family, take care of things, party with friends, exercise and a lot more. I am now looking forward to December!

Here are the 30 things I am thankful for November:

1. Love of family. I miss my parents but it makes missing them bearable when I realize they are in a better place. I know how much they love me when they were still alive. I carry that love in my heart.

1 nov

2. Honesty. My friends and I had a get-together. I realized how straightforward my friends are. There are things I keep to myself which they can say  out loud without fear. What a revelation!

2 nov

3. Window shopping. I wanted to check out things I wanted to buy before actually buying them.

4. Time for laundry. Or should I say I am thankful I was not lazy to do laundry. Oftentimes, the motivation to do laundry is stronger when I no longer have house clothes to wear. Haha!

5. Private message. I have no opinion on the Facebook messaging app. The app is only good if there is someone you keep in touch with. Otherwise, there is no use of installing it. I am glad to keep in touch with friends near and far. Life is never lonely with friends around.

6.  Plans for a weekend trip. A friend invited us to a weekend trip and we were finalizing plans.

7. Getting things done. Because we had a trip coming up, I had to finish any pending tasks for the week. I usually work during the weekends to get things done. Since I would be traveling, I had to double the effort during the week.

8. Laswitan. My friend invited us to a trip to Lanuza, a surfing town in Surigao del Sur.  We took a side trip to Cortez as recommended by our host. We were in awe at this natural wonder. I will write a story of this trip on a separate blog post.

8 nov

9. Witnessing how they surf. The main purpose of going to Lanuza is to experience surfing. I was not able to try due to some unforeseen monthly event. Hehhe I make up for it by posing for photo in the right attire ( Will show in separate blog post.)

9 nov

10. Beauty of nature. I spent the day editing my Lanuza photos. It took me a while to finish because I found myself daydreaming about our wonderful weekend. Every photo brought back memories.

10 Nov

11. Adriane. I got visit from my nephew, Adriane.  He is a big boy now and he likes doing what his father does. Here he is massaging my aunt’s arms.

11 nov

12.  Quick visit. My cousin came for a quick visit.  She requested sapin-sapin for snacks.

12 nov

13. Mother’s love. I found this photo of me and my mama. I was 2. She was 35. I was amazed that I am currently older than her now compared to her age in this photo. Yet, she was way wiser then than I am today.

13 nov

14.  Piso fare.  We were able to buy cheap tickets for that annual trip with friends.

15.  Lamp alternative.  I found an alternative to the lamp I wanted for my room.

16.  Morning ritual. Because I was finally done redecorating (and, most importantly, cleaning) the room, I made the effort in keeping it that way. I allot 15 minutes of my time each day to fix the bed and sweep the floors in my room. (I am a slave of my room. Hehehe) I am trying to make this a habit so it won’t feel like too much of an effort.

16 nov

17.  Work. It was the start of the workshop I am documenting.  I am blessed. I did not just get paid to do the job, I learned something, too.  Plus, there was free food!

18. Blessings.

19. Get-together. My aunt and cousins from Luzon came for a visit.  It has been a while since they last came to Butuan. We had a simple dinner at home .

19 nov

20.  Motivation to workout. My friend, Grace,  is really disciplined when it comes to fitness. She is taking charge of her health. I am inspired by her determination.

21. Visit to the wet market. It had been awhile since we last went to the city market. This meant we had a good lunch.

22.   Easy dessert. We made a simple dessert (cubed gelatin, cream, condensed milk and cubed mangoes) and we made it look fancier by using wine goblet instead of regular glass.  Add some decors and voila!

22 nov

23. The spirit of Christmas. My tree is up! I am feeling the Christmas spirit in my home.

23 nov

24. Truth. I incorrectly sent a private message to a group chat instead of sending it to another friend. It was not something incriminating but it sounded gossip-y.  I was able to delete it but not before someone was able to read it. The best way to correct my mistake is to apologize that I made a mistake in sending the message. And we moved on.  What a relief!

25.  Teram’s birthday. My friend, Teram, is one sweet woman. She never fails to encourage me at whatever I try to do- photography, painting and even when I post a selfie. And when you get praises from one woman who effortlessly juggles being a wife, mother, public servant and business woman ( just a few of her many roles), you are left inspired to do your best .  We often call her Nanay. Her motherly care for us, her friends, left a mark in our hearts.  I thank God she is my friend. Who would have thought this is a mother of three?

25 nov

26.  Time to write. I had to finish reports expected this week.

27. Exciting ideas.  I have plans for the coming year. I am still studying my options though.

28. Teram’s party. It was a fun night with friends. It has been awhile since we last had a get-together.

28 nov

29.  Persuasiveness. I convinced a friend about doing something which she obliged. She is super shy but I am glad she was persuaded to do it  anyway.

30.  Family gathering. We had a simple lunch with family to celebrate my cousin’s birthday.  We only had liempo, lechon manok and cake. We made the celebration a bit fancier with vintage china.

30 Nov

How was your November?

31 Reasons Why I am Thankful for October 2014

October is a steady month. I did not have a tight schedule but it was a memorable one nonetheless. When you have time for reflection, you get a clearer picture of what you want to accomplish. I am still in the process of knowing what I want to accomplish in life. There is one thing I am sure I want to do. I just want to enjoy life and embrace whatever joys and trials that come my way.

This year, I embarked on being grateful. I started a gratitude journal and I blogged every month on the things I am grateful for. This is is my 10th month in this process. I am happy and grateful for each blessing. Not everyday is a good day but I am also  grateful for the lessons that little misfortunes have given me.

Here are the reasons why I am grateful for October:

1.  New recipe.  My aunt was sick so I volunteered to cook dinner for the family. I wanted to cook something new. I remember that my aunt loves Chowking’s orange chicken so I googled and found Panlasang Pinoy’s recipe. It was a hit in the family. I posted this photo on Facebook and one friend asked for a recipe. She tried to cook it for her family. Her family loves it, too.

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2. Spanish Sardines.  This is a staple food in college. My roommate introduced me to Spanish sardines and I love it since then. Since I was the designated cook for the family during this time, I served Spanish sardines because I was not able to research on what to cook. Ha!  Every time  I eat Spanish sardines, it always brings me back to those happy memories with my college roommates.

spanish sardines
3. Opportunity to help. I was invited to join a medical mission to a remote barangay in my city. I was assigned to be the pharmacist together with some volunteers. We dispensed the free medicines according to the prescription of the doctor after the patient was checked up. It was my first time to join a medical mission and it touched my heart when I saw one woman cry upon receiving her wheelchair.

4. Meeting my adorable nephew. My cousin, Ghia, and I have agreed to meet regularly to catch up on our lives (and eat out).  This time around she brought her nephew, Dirk, and brother, Papat.  Dirk was so adorable. He easily warmed up to me and engaged in a conversation. I grabbed this photo from my cousin’s Facebook.  Follow her on instagram:  kristineghia.  She posts inspiring photos. She is my instagram idol.

pizzeria

5. Road trip with friends.  It is almost a year since we last visited our friend, Jen.  She lives two towns away and she is always unavailable when we invite her to our get-together. ”If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain.” So off we went to Nasipit, she has a small farm with plants like dragonfruit and passionfruit. Too bad, the passion fruit is not ripe yet.  We also went swimming since her aunt has a beach property.

nasipit

6. Report completed. I had a pending report and even if it was declared a holiday, I was working. Glad there was somebody who also reported for work to help me accomplish the report.

7. Call from my cousin. My cousin called to inform me that she will spend some vacation time with us.

8. Motivation to workout. I started exercising this year. I was doing it regularly until May came where I got busy with alumni homecoming, fiesta and a trip. Exercising took a backseat. Once in a while, I exercise but I decided to get my butt to exercise regularly again since Christmas is near and I am sure I would not be able to resist all the food.

9. A lesson on being careful. We watched ‘Gone Girl’ and it was the first time that my uncle was able to watch a movie at the new mall. I was the one who suggested the movie and I was glad my uncle and aunt loved it. The last time I suggested a movie, they were not happy with it. hahaha The day went well until late in the afternoon. I accompanied my other aunt to the dentist and after the appointment, we dropped by a Taiwanese store. I was wearing a sling bag and we were busy choosing umbrella for my aunt. Little did I know that a pickpocket was beside me and was already stealing my wallet. I went from ‘Gone Girl’ to Gone Wallet. We asked to look at the CCTV footage and was surpised at how easy it was for an old woman to steal my wallet from my bag. When I found out I lost my wallet, she was just standing right next to me! Good thing I did not bring a lot of cash.  I do not have a lot to begin with. I lost Php400. Not a lot pero dami na mabibili niya.  I hope she put my money to good use. ‘Wag mo ibili ng drugs, Lola. I was worried about my IDs and ATM cards.  I immediately called the banks to cancel them.

10. Wallet found. A tricycle driver came to the house and returned my wallet. Thank you, God! I was worried about my SSS ID since it might take months before it gets replaced and being a freelancer and a non-driver, I do not have a company ID and driver’s license if a valid ID is asked from me.  I prayed that somebody will return my wallet. I prayed that the thief will not take interest on my wallet and just throw it somewhere and hope someone would return it to me. True enough, the tricycle driver found my wallet in a tricycle terminal. Good thing my cedula was in my wallet  so he knew where to return it.

11. Cousin visited. Since she promised to visit us this month, she called me that she is arriving. Ora mismo! I did not have time to prepare for her homecoming so when she went home, we went to the grocery and she did a lot of the cooking.  It was also a time to bond with my cousins and the rest of the family.

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12. Photoshoot with friends. My friends had this makeup workshop. They hired makeup artist to teach them how to apply makeup.  They realized how expensive it is to hire makeup artists every time they attend weddings and other events. I was supposed to join them but my cousin was still in town so I only promised to be there later in the night when they are done so I can take their photos. Let me just say that my friends are gorgeous even without makeup. With makeup, they are as beautiful. Say hello to Eula Valdez, Maricar Reyes, Julia Montes and Bea Alonzo! ;)

makeup

13. Bonding with Tita. My cousin was still in town. My aunt got her to clean up the garden. Ha! We got her to work! It was our form of endearment. We missed her just being in the house. She gladly put her landscaping hat on.

landscape
14. Meeting deadlines. I have set aside some of the work I have been doing for family duties. This time around, I rolled up my sleeves and pounded my keyboard.  At one point I was  so sleepy, I dozed off. hahaha Good thing I was able to wake up and finish the job.

15.  Fitness talk. My friend, Grace, is into fitness and I have been taking tips from her on how to get fit. She is disciplined with her workout and the results are showing. I wish to do the same. Be motivated like her by following her on instagram: Gracegetfit.

16. Joyride. We spent the afternoon in my cousin’s car checking areas in the city inaccessible by public commute unless we hire a transportation for a fee. I took one of my B&W photos during this joyride.

joyride

17. Happy being me.   I am already in my late 30′s (I’ll be 40 in a few years!) and I realized that this is the decade I enjoyed most in my life.  I have a few insecurities here and there, yet this is the decade I am confident about myself. I still feel awkward from time to time but there is that little voice inside my head telling me that everything will be all right.  And I do not mind taking a selfie from time to time! LOL This is my humarap-sa-bentilador shot (face-the-electric-fan shot).

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 18. Annual Pilgrimage. It was our annual trip to Magallanes. It was the feast of the Our Lady of the Rosary. We always try to go there every year to hear mass. It was in this church that my mother prayed that God would bless her with a child. God gave my mother her only child four years after she got married.

19. Sign to rest. I have a cough. I try to remedy it with warm water and Vitamin C.

20.  Gift. My friend delivered this to our house and it has my name on it. Thank you!

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21. Photography Challenge. I was tagged for a photography challenge and I gladly  accepted it. I started posting the photos.

22.  Convenience of a tablet. Whenever I have a recipe to try, I search it on the internet. I used to write the instructions down or go back and forth to the room or wherever I placed my laptop. Now that I have a tablet I only have to take a screenshot of the webpage and  carry the tablet to the kitchen to follow the instructions.

23.  Goofy time with Adriane. It was my aunt’s birthday and my nephew came to visit. We goofed around, of course.

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24. My first photography gig.  I got an ID to prove it.  Nah, it was just a simple request from my cousin who teaches at one of the schools here. They are celebrating United Nations Day and she wanted to have photos of the event. They did not hire an official photographer so she requested me to take photos. She asked for an ID for me so that I would be allowed to go near the  stage.

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25. Cousin’s endoscopy. I accompanied my cousin for endoscopy. An endoscope is a device inserted into the mouth to see what is inside the stomach. Thank God nothing major was discovered.

26.  Movie time with friends. I watched ‘The Best of Me’ with friends.

27. Pool time with cousins.  My cousins and I went out of town to go swimming. He wanted to try the waterproof casing for his phone. You can see we had fun.

buenavista

28. Health solutions. I have thinning hair. I am now trying shampoos and vitamins to make my hair healthier. I hope what I found works. I will talk about them once I get good results.

29. Free pizza. We took advantage of Greenwich buy one-take one promo.

30. Staying inspired. I thank God I still have the energy to do the things I want to do.
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31. Finding an alternative. I made Black Sambo for my aunt’s birthday but the gelatin did not set. So I froze it  and turned it into ice cream.

bananasplit

 How was October for you?

Do you still print photos?

I am always the photographer in group gatherings and family activities. I take hundreds of photos in every event.  However, my aunt often laments that she does not get to see the photos. Of course, I showed her the photos but she tends to forget I have taken those photos because she often forgets I had them. I post some of them on Facebook but she does not have Facebook and email.

These photos are from the recent family get together when my cousin came home.

These photos are from the recent family get together when my cousin came home.

 

When we went to the mall yesterday, we found those cute picture frames which can be nicely grouped in the wall.  I had my bedroom wall painted gray and the white frames would really stand out in my wall.  I am thinking of having my photos printed to black and white. The problem for me now is selecting which of the photos will I choose to have printed.

Also, I still have piles of albums from the time when we still use film cameras. It would be nice to put them all in one photobook for posterity. But that would be hundreds of photos since childhood. It is like printing a real book. It will take time for me to meticulously layout each page.  I am parking that idea on my head.

Producing a photobook can be expensive so I need to find something where I can save some money in printing.  In my case, I have two projects in mind- the photos I will put in the frame and the old photos I need to reprint.

Good thing there is ePhotoCouponCodes where all the discount codes for my photoprinting needs are all in one place. Everything is online so I do not need to drive to the printers. My prints will be delivered on my door step. That is so convenient.

How about you? Do you still print photos?

30 Reasons Why I had an Awesome September 2014

I love it when I do not notice the month passing by. This means I kept myself busy. September was my birth month and many of my friends were also born in September.

Here are 30 reasons why September was an awesome month:

1. Had some chill time. It was raining on September 1 so I stayed home all day. I napped. I seldom nap because I am a day person.

2. Send off party for our friend which turned out to be a surprise birthday for me and my friends. Our friend is leaving for Saudi Arabia after a month-long vacation and another friend is celebrating her birthday the next day. My wonderful friends made it a surprise birthday celebration for me and another friend, too. Sweet.

Look how surprised I was! Photo c/o Kit

Look how surprised I was! Photo c/o Kit

3. It’s the birthday of  my friend, Mitzi. It was an afternoon of joyride and foodtrip with her bestfriend and bestfriends’ moms. Yes, she has a lot of bestfriends. She is the friendliest girl in the world.
mitzi

4. Sometimes the highlight of my day occurs in my head.  It is when I achieve clarity on things that have been playing in my mind lately.

5. I got confirmation about a job for the following day.

6. Treat from a friend. My friend, Dinah, treated us to dinner. She promised to have dinner with us in celebration of her new job.
treat

7. My 37th birthday. I had a simple celebration with family.
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8. It’s Mama Mary’s birthday. This is also the day I started my no-softdrink-drink-only-water diet. (Today is October 16 and I did not drink a drop of soda since September 8.)

9. The thought of the day was this.

10. Book list. My cousin tagged me in a Facebook post so I made a list, too.
list

11. Lunch with my cousin, Ghia. We have been exchanging comments on Facebook for years now and we live in the same city but we seldom see each other. Because this day was the birthday of another cousin in heaven, who was a big brother to us, we met for lunch.
ohenrys

12. I had time for art. It has been awhile. I wish I can do art everyday but I need to earn a living. One day, I hope watercolor art would be one of my sources of income. For now, I just need to practice.
art1

13. Charity work by my cousin and his friends. I tagged along with my cousin and his friends as they gave snacks to street children and prisoners. I never thought my cousin had a compassionate heart. Mabait din pala. ;)

14. Appreciation of my art. My friend asked for my artwork and I am flattered.
hibiscus

15. Did my errands. I like it when I am able to settle bills before the deadline.

16. Got a visit from this cutie pie.
adi

17. Uncle’s birthday.
uncle
18.  More fridge magnets! When I posted thus photo of my fridge magnet collection, friends abroad pledged to give me one from their place when they come home. Yay!

magnets

19. Another friend celebrated his birthday. It is another opportunity to meet with friends.
20. Party with my travel friends. Four of us have birthdays in September. To make the get-together a little more fun, we agreed wear a dress. Two of my friends did not follow instructions. :D
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We changed clothes in the evening. :D
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21. I got news from a client about a raise in my professional fee. I quoted a smaller amount but I was paid 60% more.

22. I have been planning a trip with a friend. We have agreed on a date and when to book the trip.

23. My cousin introduced me to SoundCloud and I recorded my singing voice! It was not meant to be heard by the public. I think I have a better speaking voice so I recorded this.

24. I was in a workshop about women empowerment. It is amazing to be around amazing people.

25. I went back to my exercise routine.

26. Scandal is back. It is one of my favorite TV shows.

27. I did the cooking because my aunt is not feeling well.

28. It is my friends’ 11th wedding anniversary. I was supposed to drop by their house to greet them but I had cook duties and I was finishing a report. Instead, I sent her a recording of me singing Christina Aguilera’s “I turn to you”. It was special and funny at the same time because I never sing in karaoke and I do not have a good singing voice. LOL!

29. I cooked arroz caldo with malunggay upon the suggestion of my aunt.
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30. I know I am loved. Look at our guard dog. Always on duty! ;)

peachy

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