Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

While it would have been cool to share a birthday with little monster, he had other plans.

Went to see the doc, and it seems this one is quite comfortable in there, thank you very much. I'm taking something that will help hurry things along plus I have to walk two hours a day (!), but if that doesn't work out, we'll have to induce labor.

After our checkup, H and I had a lovely birthday dinner at one of my new favorite restaurants. The past week, I had been so impatient, wanting to get this pregnancy over with already. But the reality of childbirth hit me again, and now I'm perfectly content just waiting--he'll come out when he's good and ready. So I just enjoyed my nice, quiet birthday, the last one that I had my husband all to myself.


I really, really love this man. Even the quietest, simplest birthday is made truly happy as long as I get to spend it with him.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Roundup

At the beginning of the year, I resolved to read four books a month. But, as many resolutions go, I wasn't able to keep up with my quota. Oh well. I still did manage to read over 30 books, so that's pretty respectable. (Or, at least, I thought so--until I met a dude a couple of weeks ago who reads 20 books a month.)

I used to do a monthly book report, but my reading list has a bunch of unremarkable free e-books. So allow me to just mention the ones that stood out:

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
I decided to reread this classic before the movie came out. Next up: a rereading of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

A note on the movie: It was fun figuring out which one was Gloin--he looked almost exactly like Gimli! And as always, I didn't know whether to pity or fear Gollum.

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff, and Sandee E. Hathaway, B.S.N.
Standard reading for expectant moms. I read it month by month throughout my pregnancy, since I thought I would forget everything if I did a one-time-big-time session. I could also relate more to the concerns each month--and thanked my lucky stars that I didn't get most of the symptoms listed. At some point, though, I wanted to poke my eyes out after reading "Best Odds Diet" too many times. Partly because it was just so repetitive, and partly because it made me feel guilty about not being a stellar mom and eating all the stuff I'm supposed to be eating (and not eating those I'm not supposed to...I did skip all the raw stuff, caffeine, and alcohol though). 

The Angel's Game by Carlos Luis Zafron
I picked up this book because I remembered Zafron's compelling prose. Like the author's first book The Shadow of the Wind, this one was beautifully written, opening with...
"A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price."
...but it also had an ending I wasn't very happy with.

Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table: A Collection of Essays from the New York Times
Because I needed a break from fiction, and I do like me some food lit.

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn
It's fiction based on a real person: The Queen of England. Light and fun and entertaining.

Snobs and Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes
Since I couldn't get my Downton Abbey fix, I decided to buy a two-in-one book by the series writer. I am absolutely amazed by his ability to dissect the nuances of the different English classes--I think it's one reason Downton is such a success. Which reminds me--must catch the Christmas special!

And my favorite book of the year...

The Book Thief by Mark Zusak

Photo from here

"Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness."

I was beginning to think that YA had lost its magic for me--this, after reading a few mediocre e-books. And then came The Book Thief. This is one of the most heart-wrenching books I have ever read. I don't know if it was the preggo hormones, but I cried buckets at the end of it. It reminded my why I still read YA.

So I guess that's it for my 2012 reading list. Brace yourselves for a bunch of parenting books in 2013! Har.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

As Ready As We'll Ever Be



I was getting stressed out trying to figure out the nursery situation. There was so much stuff in the guest room that we needed to get rid of--the bed, the computer desk, the clutter that had accumulated over three years. And then I realized: We don't need a nursery just yet. Who needs the added stress? Besides, the little monster will be staying in our room anyway, at least for a few months.

So I just decluttered, had our trusty helper do a major cleanup (cleaning screens, laundering curtains), and then set up a space for monster in our bedroom. Our Pack n Play isn't coming til next month, so I borrowed a lovely bassinet from Frances, then I got a chest of drawers (a steal at less than P6,000! That's about $140) for all the baby clothes and receiving blankets and towels. Our hospital bags are all packed. And H got me a super comfy chair for nursing as a Christmas gift--we haven't set it up yet though. All I need now is a diaper caddy.

I never thought I would reach the stage when I would want this baby to come out already. I thought, the longer he stayed in there, the better. But yesterday, after struggling to strap on my sandals and feeling this little one constantly (and painfully) pushing against my ribs, I decided I was ready. So, little monster, any time you're ready. Mommy and Daddy are waiting. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Bump Photo Shoot

I never really made a big announcement about our little monster's gender. Most people would usually guess that it's a girl. See, in this country, people believe that women get more beautiful when they're having a girl, and uglier when they're having a boy--boys supposedly give us the "mask of pregnancy," dark underarms, an enlarged nose, and lots of zits. I'm very lucky that nearly every day, someone would say something really nice to me, like I'm absolutely glowing or blooming, or that I don't look pregnant at all except for my protruding belly, or "Ang ganda mo magbuntis! (You look beautiful pregnant!)" So people are often surprised when I tell them we're having a boy!

We waited three years to have this baby, and I don't know if we'll have another one (you never really know, right?) so I wanted a record of a pregnant me. A gorgeous record of a pregnant me. So I asked one of the country's top photographers (who, as luck would have it, is a friend) if she could take my maternity photos. And then my wedding makeup artist, who does fantastic work, agreed to do my makeup. My usual hair stylists weren't available, so I just had it done at a random salon--which was all good, since wind was just going to blow through it anyway!

And these are the results. I arrived in a red dress made by my BFF M, ready for my 12th anniversary dinner date with my husband. The photog liked the dress because it hugged my figure, so she took a few shots of me in it. 

Photos by Sara Black. Makeup by Omar Ermita. Black dress courtesy of Cosmo's Happy Lopez. Wind c/o Sara's assistant, Kuya Norman. (Thank you all!) Taken at 36 weeks.






Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Am Blessed

So, that's it. I'm saying goodbye to the office for about 76 days (although I'll be working from home for the second half of my maternity "leave"). It's a daunting thought. I have never been away from work for that long--in nearly ten years of my professional life, the longest I've gone on leave is about two weeks. I've been feeling very anxious, but there's one indisputable fact that helps me sleep at night: I'm leaving behind the most amazing team.

Every day, I thank my lucky stars that each and every one of the members of the GH staff is hardworking, talented, and extremely pleasant to work with. I've heard that editors tend to hire people who are like themselves--if that's true, then yay me! Haha. Allow me to introduce you to them, because I am just so proud of this bunch and so blessed to be given the chance to spend my everydays with them:

The GH team: Me, Elaine, Niña, Roselle, Kara, Pia, and Lola, with our Official Food Supplier, Jaykee

Niña is our bunso. She's the first employee I ever promoted--just this month, in fact! From editorial assistant, she is now our assistant fashion editor. She has such a great sense of style, and the best part is, the stuff she wears are usually P500 and below! What I love about her is that she doesn't get frazzled, no matter what you throw at her. Nins, can you give a talk in my place on Sunday? "Sure!" Can you write the cover story? Oh, and it's due tomorrow morning. "OK!" Can you pull out items for our gift list from 14 different stores? "Kakayanin." I have never heard her say, "I don't think I can do that." What a trooper! Which is why I was so eager to promote her. HR and I had a bit of a dilemma though, because Niña can go on so many different paths--she has the potential to be a staff writer, a managing editor, a fashion editor...But things worked out in such a way that she'll be given the chance to pursue fashion, which is really at the top of her list of interests.

Kara is our art director. She's always full of energy--when we had a dog around at our shoot, the dog just suddenly perked up because she was feeding off Kara's hyper-ness. I also love her sense of style: classic and polished and feminine and fun. It's reflected in her outfits, her home, and her design aesthetic. She and I seem to have the same vision for the mag; it's funny how she pitches a layout sometimes, and it's exactly what I had in mind. She comes in early, works late, works on weekends, and never, ever complains. (At least not to my face!) She seems to really love her job. I don't want her to burn out though (and I want her to be able to spend more time with her two-year-old), so we've been looking for an assistant for her. Really hope we find someone soon.

Pia. Oh, Pia. She is our beloved beauty and fashion editor. I call her our happy working elf, because she has the most positive vibe. Whenever Pia's around, there is the sound of laughter. (And a supply of food. Har.) She also really knows her stuff--years of working in beauty have made her a walking encyclopedia of anything related to skin care. Her fashion pages are also getting better and better. Sometimes I get all giddy when I see the results of her latest shoot!

Lola is our managing editor. She always, always has a smile on her face. She's soft-spoken and kind of demure, and has a way of coating stuff in honey, even when she's breathing down your neck about a deadline. She is loyal and efficient and very eager to learn. And, like the rest of the staff, extremely dedicated to her work--I can count the number of times that she went home before I did. It's like she won't leave until she knows I absolutely don't need anything anymore!

The one whom I believe has the best job among all of us is our associate food editor Roselle. As the girl in charge of our food section, she spends her days either at restaurant openings or at home in her kitchen testing recipes! Her love of food is palpable. When we were at Spiral for the reopening press conference, she was practically skipping around, all starry-eyed, giddily saying things like, "THEY HAVE A HAM AND CHEESE ROOM!!!" She has both a journalism and a culinary background (she's a legit chef), so it's the perfect mix for the job. Our US bosses were quite surprised when they met her because she manages to remain skinny despite the perks (pitfalls?) of her job. 

Our latest addition is Elaine, formerly of OK! Magazine. We've only been officially working with her for a couple of weeks, but already she's showing the kind of sipag, positivity, and passion that I love. Before it was even officially her first day, she already set up her cubicle so everything would be ready come Monday, cleaning up and posting a photo of a shirtless Zac Efron. (A photo of her fiance soon followed.) Her previous boss, Frances, gave her a perfect 100 (!) in her last couple of evaluations--I have never given, nor gotten, a 100 in my life. Like she once told Frances, she told me that she would like to be an editor in chief in the future. That's a big reason I hired her--I can finally retire. (Kidding.)   

Melody and me at Central Park, NYC

My mom used to say that she and I were "partners in prayer and sanity." Melody, our associate publisher, is kind of my office version of that. She keeps me from going nuts, offers support, and plays a huge part in making sure that GH stays the number one family and home magazine! Even when her plate is full, she can't help but ask if other people need help. I don't know how she does it--she's so incredibly busy with all her responsibilities, she's a mom to a teenager, she finds time to work out, she's constantly traveling...she is truly living a full life. (P.S. Melody certainly lives up to her name--she's got a beautiful voice.)

And as proof that I really am working with a stellar team, we actually made it onto the company president's annual honor roll! Each year, she gives a speech at the office Christmas party, where she commends outstanding departments and individuals. Shock of my life (and kilig to death) when she mentioned Good Housekeeping! She said that our magazine and Smart Parenting have "made mommy magazines sexy, fresh, and sale-able." She even mentioned my name. And just that afternoon, I was telling everyone how in seven years with the company, my magazine had never made it to the honor roll. While others said it didn't matter because it didn't come with monetary rewards or anything, I joked, "But I thrive on praise. Compliments are my sunshine!" I was kidding, of course, but having my magazine and my fantastic team recognized--it really felt like sunshine.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dressing the Bump: the Long Top

As your bump gets bigger, you're going to want to steer clear of all your cropped tops and cute little baby tees (that will end up looking like cropped tops anyway!). If you're wearing separates, you're going to need tops that fall way below your tummy for two reasons: 1) to avoid looking like Winnie the Pooh, and 2) to cover any belly bands or, in my case, rubber bands that are keeping your pants up!

This black, off-shoulder top is super long. I can even wear it as a dress, albeit a very short one now...


This coral top is one size larger than my usual size, allowing for more room around the belly...


I love this basic white tee!


The next top illustrates a fashion tip: When wearing leggings, make sure you pair it with a top that's long enough to cover your bum. If you decide to wear a short top, layer a long cardigan over it. (Er, unless you're running or going to an aerobics class?) No one needs to get that familiar with the contours of your butt.


And this one was in a color I couldn't resist. It's not a maternity top, it's just really loose and flowy. I sometimes knot the ends under my belly!


Got other tips? Share away!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Scenes from the French Countryside

How I wish I could tell you that I really was in Provence, but since I am grounded for a while, my friends just decided to bring the French countryside to me! BFF Mads, her (and my) sister Prits, and our good friend Mutya organized an absolutely lovely French-country-themed baby shower for me and le petit monstre. My amazing BFF pulled this off despite being yaya-less and nursing a newborn! I am incredibly lucky to have her in my life!

(Top) With Mads, who doesn't look like she just gave birth less than two months ago! (Above) With BFF Ching, who provided the prizes for the games, and party decorator/official photographer Mutya. What pretty friends I have, n'est-ce pas? (Incidentally, Mads speaks fluent French.)

Mutya decorated the tables with dainty glass vases filled with purple and blue flowers, and glass bowls with mini-chocolate bars. These were placed on top of white and silver doilies.

I think I overindulged. I absolutely cannot resist Crunch and Reese's!

It was a carb-filled afternoon, with yummy sandwiches, croissants, and quiche...


...a selection of delicious cheeses (my fave? The truffled cheese!)...


...and a crepe cake (so French!) with Nutella cream. (The eclairs were divine! The fudgy chocolate cake was from one of the guests.)


There were fun games, including a "compose a lullaby" one, which pitted my highly competitive high school friends against my equally competitive college friends. The winning lullaby (sung adagio to the tune of Justin Bieber's "Baby"):


...which led to me doing a lot of this...

Photo from Mutya

To go with the theme, I dressed in a doily-like lace dress, gold sandals, a turquoise-and-gold necklace, and a gold bangle. Mutya gave me a beautiful bouquet. I love getting flowers!  


There were gifts, of course (thanks, everyone!), and great advice from mommy friends, including Mads. (Her words of wisdom: "Sleep while you can!") To thank them all for their generosity, time, and love, I gave them the smell of the French countryside: lavender. I had lavender soap made, wrapped it in some tulle I had lying around, and included a little thank-you note from little monster. 


After most people left, some of us chilled with Mads's family, eating cheese and salami, and drinking wine (water for me). Ahh, to have had a glass of champagne would have made it perfect! Just a couple of weeks to go!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Say Hello to My Little Friend

The highlight of my day: I made a new friend.



This was taken at a friend's kid's birthday party. I think the magician used the snake as part of his act. I was the first to volunteer to hold the little fella, mostly because I wanted to have my Britney Spears moment. Funny how I have no fear when it comes to snakes, but I'm deathly afraid of cockroaches!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dressing the Bump: the Empire Waist

Thirty-five weeks and not a single pair of maternity pants in sight!

Some pregnant women might be thinking that they have to spend a bundle on clothes that they'll only be using for a few months. Well, ladies, I'm here to tell you that you don't! I've lasted nearly nine months (!) without buying any maternity clothes (aside from one suuuuuuper comfortable maxi dress that I can live in forever), and just using stuff from my existing wardrobe. Of course, I wasn't one to wear anything ultra-fitted to begin with. Funny how I feel better about wearing clingy things now that I have a bump! This little monster is something I want the world to see (versus my old, babyless-but-round-tummy. Har).

This is the first in a series of posts about things that you might already own and can still use during your pregnancy. You'll be spending a lot on other stuff, so it helps to save where you can! And if you must buy new duds, you don't have to limit yourself to the maternity section--you can actually get things that you can use even after you give birth. I think I'm fortunate though that I've been on track with the weight gain, plus most (if not all) of the lbs have gone to my tummy. So my clothes still pretty much fit. (Another reason to keep your weight in check!)

My first pregnancy wardrobe staple: the empire waist. To the uninitiated, an empire waist is a waistline cut above one's natural waistline, right below the bust. Because seriously, you do not want to wear something that sits on your natural waist once you start ballooning.




Most dresses with an empire waist usually have flowy fabric after the cut, so there's a lot of room for your growing belly. All three dresses above are things I've had for ages. (I do love a good empire waist since it tends to be more forgiving.) The first dress, though, is a bit more streamlined, so it sadly doesn't fit over my belly anymore.

I've got a few more go-to preggo styles in succeeding posts. Expectant mommas, what are your own wardrobe staples?:)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Surprise!

I thought my first official baby shower was going to be yesterday, but my wonderful co-workers surprised me with one last Friday! And because I wasn't prepared (i.e., I wasn't able to charge my camera), this one Instagram photo will have to do for now...

Photo by Cosmo's EIC/Instagrammer Extraordinaire Myrza Sison

Details (clockwise from top left):
  1. As I was walking down a corridor, I saw one of the girls clutching Japanese paper. I just figured she was working on a racket without telling me. Haha. They decorated the pantry with these hanging pouffs. On the table: a delicious spread from Conti's, including my absolute favorite baked salmon!
  2. Super cute colorful plastic spoons and forks. We all wanted a mismatched pair when it came time to eat! And the polka-dot table cloth is courtesy of...the prop room. Haha. It reminded me of an adorable office baby shower that I saw in the now-defunct Blueprint (I loooved this magazine!).
  3. A giddy me! I was super touched that they went through all that trouble. The entire GH staff was there, plus friends from other magazines. On that day, I was wearing my trusty black maxi dress and a chambray shirt knotted above my bump. Not seen: my zebra-print flats.
  4. A fantastic white chocolate cheesecake with macadamia nut brittle from Kitchen's Best! Ermegerd. If I didn't have a weigh-in to worry about, I would've finished the damn thing. IT WAS SO FRICKIN' GOOD.
And as if all these weren't enough, they gave me my coveted Flexibath! I had been wanting this collapsible, space-saving tub ever since Frances recommended it. And now it's mine! (Er, the monster's!)

I can't thank my team enough. Not only are they so talented, hardworking, and such a joy to work with, but they're also so incredibly thoughtful. I joked that the last thing one should do is spring a surprise on a heavily pregnant woman, but I do love surprises, and I am very very grateful! A little thank you *kick* from monster as well!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

So You Want to Be a Writer

...who gets paid to write. If you're interested in becoming a contributor (specifically to my magazine), these are some of the things you have to keep in mind:

1. Know how to write! There are "writers" who don't seem to know the difference between its and it's, every day and everyday, should have and the abominable should of (cringe). There are those who use one word over and over, and those who hit shift+F7 every sentence. (You may think you're so smart for using such big words but, trust me, people can tell when you're dissimulating it.-> See what I did there?) And then there are those who use my pet peeve: dangling modifiers. 

If you want to write professionally, you first need to know the rules. And basic grammar! And it helps to know your idioms. Since Filipinos aren't native English speakers, that's where a lot of us stumble. (And while we're on the topic: It's result in, not result to.)

So many people fancy themselves the writer, but really, it's not just about putting sentences together. I feel slightly peeved whenever someone assumes that it's easy. Case in point, a recent conversation...

X: I want to make money out of writing. How do I start?
Me: Hmm. You have to put a portfolio together, then maybe try submitting your work to editors. Although as an editor, I tend to favor those with previously published work.
X: I'm a [insert another profession here], so it should be easy for me.
Me: ...

I'm not saying that I would make a good [X's profession here] any more than this person would make a good writer. But I feel that what I do, what people in my industry do, deserves some respect. Writing isn't easy. (It could be. Sometimes.) It's hard work. Answering essay questions when you were in school doesn't automatically make you a writer. You need to hone the skill, and you need to develop an ear for it—I know that sounds odd, but there has to be some sort of melody and harmony when you put words together. And that's not something you can just do on a whim.

2. Follow the brief. So what happens when an editor is impressed enough with your writing samples to give you an assignment? Unless he or she tells you that you can go nuts and give it whatever treatment you want, stick to the brief. I always send my contributors very detailed briefs, which include the topic, questions I want answered, tone, word count, even the references I would like to see ("Interview at least two financial experts"). I send pegs for format and tone. Sometimes I can't help myself and even suggest a rough outline, because I do not like surprises when it comes to assignments—I don't like getting submissions that are way off the mark. But it happens. I don't know how, but it happens. And then it's a whole big back-and-forth between me and the contrib or, if there's no time, a big rehash job for me. Or if there's really no time, we suddenly have to go in a direction I'm not happy with because the contrib couldn't follow a simple brief. If you MUST go a different direction for whatever reason, discuss it with your editor as soon as you can.

You have to understand that briefs are there for a reason. The topic is well-thought-out, something the editorial team brainstormed about. The concept has been discussed by the section editor and the art director, so there's a planned layout already, with earmarked space for text. Your assignment is also part of a bigger picture--I like to have a mix of different formats (lengthy features; piece-y, tip-filled articles; image-heavy stories), and when you don't follow the brief, sometimes those plans go awry, causing discord in a perfectly planned issue. Things like word count aren't a mere suggestion or a random number pulled out of nowhere. I've had to edit a 4,000-word article down to the 2,000 words indicated in the brief. Conversely, I've had to turn a 350-word "article" (which looked more like an outline) into something with the required 1,000 words.

I paid the writer 35% of the fee. 

Follow the damn brief.  

3. Do your research. When you write for a publication, make sure that you get your info from experts in the field or books written by credible authors—not from Wikipedia. I once read an advice column in a local magazine (not Summit!), and all the answers were culled from various websites. Que horror! The readers might as well have Googled the answers to their questions themselves!

It annoys me no end when I read an article that quotes heavily from websites. I've had to include "no websites as reference please" in the briefs I send out, because in this day and age, people have just gotten so used to firing up the search engine whenever they need info. When you write something for a publication, you have to make sure that the info you give is more than something a quick search will yield. Talk to actual people. Ask questions that the basic About.com post doesn't cover. Refer to good books (and attribute!). It's about giving your article the kind of value that a Google-able story doesn't give.

4. Edit yourself. In your haste to submit an article, you may skip a very valuable part of the process: re-reading and refining. I can tell when something was thrown together at the last minute. The misspelled words (and spell check is a standard feature!), the incohesiveness, the lack of a logical flow... Learn to edit yourself--and allow for time to do so. An error-laden submission tells me that you didn't really put that much time and effort into the assignment. Which brings me to...

5. Make a good impression. It's about meeting deadlines. It's about submitting quality work. I've had contributors give me all sorts of excuses for not meeting the deadline. I've had contributors submit something that's so far from what was discussed. (See #2.) I've had contributors suddenly back out of an assignment. 

I have had them blacklisted. Or, at least, I avoid getting them if I can.

We have deadlines for a reason. Sometimes, the lateness can be justified, and I really do try to understand, especially if it's a one-off and the contrib has proven to be generally reliable. But if you're a first-time contrib and you submit late, you can bet that you won't be hearing from me again. Here I am, giving you a chance to get your work published (an opportunity you tell me you're very grateful for), and you blow it. What's up with that? And what makes you think I'll subject myself to that again?

Deadlines are sacred to us because we run on a schedule that involves editing text, laying it out, turning it over to production, proofing, and printing. The entire process is delayed the minute you submit late. And that makes me cranky. It also makes me feel somewhat disrespected--we had an agreement, and you didn't fulfill your end of the bargain.

Editors talk to each other. When looking for new contribs, I ask others for recommendations, and what they thought of certain contribs. You don't want to be branded as a flaker, or someone who submits shoddy work, or someone who's hit and miss. That's how you lose jobs. If you intend to make a career out of writing, you have to be that person we gush about, and that only happens when you consistently turn in good work, on time.

That being said, I think it's difficult to find writers nowadays who have that awesome combination of talent and a good work ethic. I know a few, but they're the ones who get a truckload of other writing jobs (precisely because of skill + work ethic), so they don't always have time to accept every assignment. If you feel that you've got what it takes, you might want to give it a shot. Leave a comment with your email address, and I'll let you know where you can send me your writing samples.:)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Closet Cleanup Tips

I had grand plans of having a garage sale this month. I have sooo much stuff to get rid of, and I got excited by the idea of organizing a cute little garage sale, based on a story that appeared in Real Living a few years ago. It was going to be really organized: I was going to group like items together in a pretty way, and not just haphazardly. I was going to hang all dresses and blazers on a clothes rack (which I already had). I was going to have piles of neatly folded shirts and jeans. I was going to have a table with books I wanted to let go of. I was going to have a section just for shoes, and another just for bags. I was going to have stickers on all the merchandise, indicating price, and I would just stick the tags of sold items onto a notebook for easier tallying. I was deciding between wearing a fanny pack (haha) and keeping a cash box. I was going to have tons of P5 and P10 coins for change. I was going to use all the paper bags I had lying around for purchased items. I even found someone to help me on the day of, because I felt that the sale had to be manned by two people at all times.
 
And then I remembered I was pregnant and just didn't need the added stress in my life!
 
I realized that our street isn't really heavy on the foot traffic, and I wasn't quite sure where I could post ads around the village. And it's been so frickin' HOT (in November!!!) that I couldn't imagine sitting outside all day. So I just gave all the stuff to my mom for her church group's own rummage sales. While it would have been nice to make a little bit of extra money, my main objective, really, was to get rid of clutter!
 
I've already tossed quite a few things, and I'm not even done yet: over a dozen pairs of shoes, over 20 bags, and lots and lots of dresses, pants, skirts, tops, and shawls. The process is pretty overwhelming, but it feels so good to have unloaded all that stuff. I think a lot of people are daunted by the idea of a closet cleanup, so allow me to tap into my Good Housekeeping side and offer a few tips:
  1. You don't have to do it all in one go. I divided my closet cleanup into phases, staggered over different days. I can't imagine spending an entire day pulling out stuff, trying them on, and deciding whether to keep or toss--that's just exhausting. So I set aside one to two hours over a few weekends to do the deed. Phase 1 was my dress closet (which is technically half my husband's closet. We are currently under negotiations regarding closet space...). Phase 2 was when I started on my dressing room--I weeded through all my pants and stuff on hangers, like long-sleeved tops and blazers. Phase 3 was folded items, so all my shirts and shorts. Phase 4 was bags and my shawl drawer--I never realized I had so many bags. I love opening my closet now and seeing all the space cleared! I have two more phases to go--my miscellaneous drawer (socks, tights, other random items) plus jewelry drawer, and some big bags full of stuff under my vanity. After that, I can finally move on to the guest room (a.k.a. our tambakan!).
  2. Know your style (and your lifestyle). I'm more of a classic dresser so I got rid of trendy items like harem pants. And I'm a grownup with minimal chances of going camping, so I said goodbye to a pair of cargo shorts. I got rid of a few jerseys, but I know I'll be going back to disc next year, so I had to keep a whole lot of them.
  3. Be brutal. I tried to be as brutal as possible, letting go of items that I had been hanging on to for one reason or another (none of which involved wearability). So, au revoir to stuff that I was keeping for sentimental reasons (e.g., "But it was a gift!"--keep the sentiment, not the item if you're really not going to use it), adios to the things I bought from ukay a few years ago ("But it was such a steal!"--well, it's looking a little ratty now), so long to bags I've had since before I got married but which I haven't used in years. I'm still on the fence about a top that served as my costume at my first ever CADs concert though. I know I'm never going to use it, but in this case, the sentimental value is great. It might just go into my "seasonal wear" pile (thick sweaters and scarves at the back of my closet).
  4. Do it regularly. Keeping clutter at bay shouldn't be a once-a-year event. The enemy of being organized is "mamaya na" ("I'll leave it for later"). Whenever possible, decide on the fate of specific items right then and there--what do I do with all this mail? I bought a new dress--which one should I toss to make room for it? I got all these beauty products that I can't use--what to do with them? (That last one is a perpetual problem at the office--there are days when my cube is just overrun with stuff, so I do "Free Stuff" day every few weeks.)
I'm hoping to be done with all phases of my cleanup in two weeks. Got any tips of your own? Let me know!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Let the Hyperventilating Begin

At 29 weeks. Photo by Dairy Darilag. Makeup by Elaine Ganuelas. Hair by Sonia Castillo. Styling by Pia Rojas. The Most Comfortable Dress Evurr (I can seriously live in this dress!) from Gingersnaps.

How did nine months suddenly turn into nine weeks?!

It's week 31, which means that I have about seven to nine weeks to go before this little one decides to move out of my belly. I have three baby showers scheduled, and I'm still pretty clueless about what to register for. I know I can just go to any old store and ask for a list, but I get the feeling that those lists are padded with non-essentials. So I've been asking mommy-friends about the things that the baby will really need. Space is already an issue as it is. (A weird complaint, considering we live in a three-bedroom duplex.)

I think I'm having a verrry easy pregnancy (knock on wood), but there are still some teeny causes of discomfort. The worst symptoms are peeing every hour, not getting a good night's sleep, having backaches, feeling like I'm drowning when I lie on my back, and getting dark underarms (TMI, I know! But let this serve as a warning to all other women out there who plan to get pregnant!). And I finally know what leg cramps feel like! I wake up in the middle of the night with my calf or my toes cramping up--never, in all my years of dancing and playing sports, had I ever experienced leg cramps. Which tells me that walking around with a baby in your belly puts more stress on your body than five hours of rehearsals or three savage games ever could. 

I'm also about two pounds over my ideal weight gain, and some people might say that's perfectly fine, but it stresses me out. I've gained about 18 to 19 pounds so far, which means I have to be strict about the one-pound-a-week thing from here on out. I'm told the last few weeks are the toughest--you can gain four pounds in a week!

I'm also starting to worry about the shape I'll be in after I deliver. While I'm concerned about the aesthetics (loose, flabby skin, unrecognizable breasts), the bigger concern is functionality. I'm scared that I'll be too exhausted or too lazy or too unmotivated to drop the 20+ pounds (and then some, if I want to get back to my wedding weight!). I'm scared that I won't run as fast as I used to. I'm scared that it'll be ages before I can walk uphill and not lose my breath.

But it's all worth it. I think I'm really falling in love with this little monster, even though we haven't met. Sometimes the kicks are kind of painful, but I don't mind at all. The 3 a.m. squirming keeps me up, but I love feeling him/her move around. Sometimes H and I look at my lopsided tummy, at a weird little bump, and try to figure out what body part is pressing against me. One time, we figured it was a foot and probably annoyed the little thing by tickling it. Haha.

Nine weeks before we meet him/her. Nine weeks before our lives change completely.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Murphy's Law: This AM's Official Sponsor

Murphy certainly had his way with me this morning.

First, I excitedly put on a beautiful maxi dress that I had been planning to wear for weeks. I figured the start of week 30 would be a great day to wear it. My husband tried in vain to zip it up, but somewhat hesitantly told me there was at least a two-inch gap, and it just wouldn't close. I don't even know why I was surprised--the fabric didn't have a lot of give, plus I've gone up at least a band and cup size since getting pregnant.

Next, I tried on outfit two, which was supposed to go with some wedges. A sandal strap had come off, so I was trying to mend it with superglue. The superglue cap was sealed shut, and some of the stuff was trickling out of a hole. H wisely advised me to toss it. I (very unwisely) didn't listen to him. I dripped superglue all over the floor and got some on my fingers. In a panic, I quickly dropped everything I was holding, and accidentally tossed my sandal down the stairs. (Even I don't know how I managed to do this.) So I wasn't able to fix my shoe, and I got a crust of superglue all over my digits.

Since I couldn't wear those shoes, I had to change my outfit again. No big mishap. But as I was trying to get my curlers out, one of them got all tangled up in my hair. My husband was running late, so I just tried to yank the damn thing out. I did, along with a clump of hair. On the bright side, it gave my hairdo a nicely disheveled look!

So finally, I got to work. I went up to the scanner for attendance--and the machine wouldn't recognize my superglue-covered finger!

In my youth (ha), I would have been in such a bad mood, and would have given Murphy's Law the finger. But today, I just laughed through it. I guess I've grown up huh? And at the very least, I had something to blog about!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Are You Living a Full Life?

I love this post by Alexis of Alexis Laughs. She works, goes to school, volunteers at church, runs a household, and she's pregnant--phew! Her post is all about how she learned to figure out the things that really mattered, and let go of the ones that just ate up her time. She cites an interesting talk, entitled Of Regrets and Resolutions. (And P.S. If only homilies at Sunday mass were like this, I think I would find them more engaging!)

Even if you aren't particularly religious, you might find that the talk has some great insights. My favorite part:

"Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life."

My big realization: A busy life is not equal to a full life.

Lately, I've found myself with some extra time in my hands, mostly because I can't do some of the things that used to fill my schedule (like playing sports and going out). On some days, all I want to do is rest because this little monster is getting a bit heavy, so I do appreciate the slower pace. On other days, however, I feel incredibly bored, and I miss being on the go go go. But now, reflecting on the things that kept me busy, and on the things that I want to do, I have to ask myself some important questions: Do these things make my life fuller? Do they help me live the best life, a life with no regrets?

Are you living a full (as opposed to simply a busy) life?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hullo, Third Trimester!

I am at 28 weeks and officially in the third trimester. As Mr. Lodge would say, egad!

My only photo so far at 28 weeks--I can still fit into those jeans!


We finally know the baby's sex, but I won't be revealing it any time soon since my team has a bet going. (Haha.) At the latest checkup, he/she was still in breech position, so I'm a teeny bit worried. But I've got some weeks to go, and I've been trying a couple of ways to get him/her to turn: playing music down by my, er, nether regions, and putting something cold against the top of my stomach. (H was probably wondering why I was holding a bag of frozen veggies against me, but he just didn't ask.) He/She is also low average in terms of size, which surprised me considering how people have been remarking about how huge my belly is. Then again, I should be more surprised if tiny me produced a giant baby! Doc isn't worried, and she's pretty pleased with my weight gain. I've pretty much adhered to her one-pound-a-week rule (save for last month when I gained an extra pound after too much merrymaking...).

Overnight, it seems, I've turned into a preggers cliche: My stomach has suddenly begun to feel incredibly heavy and itchy, I can no longer lie on my back, I'm peeing all the frickin' time, I have to deal with acid reflux, and I sweat even with the A/C on full blast and the fan pointed straight at me! To deal with the itchiness, I guess I have to step up on my belly moisturization. Since the first trimester, I've been applying all sorts of products to keep my tummy skin supple, in the hopes of preventing stretch marks. I started with the Body Shop's Cocoa Butter Moisturizing Stick.

Available at The Body Shop

I purchased one during a Body Shop event, and the next time they sent me some products, they so sweetly included another stick! (Thanks, Body Shop!) I've since gone through both sticks.

As recommended by our art director, I also got me a bottle of the Body Shop's Olive Oil Dry Mist Oil. I've also been using it on my legs when I wear shorts because it gives my skin a nice sheen.

And just recently, my sister-in-law (also pregnant!) gave me Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter.
 
 Available at Beauty Bar

It's got cocoa, shea, and jojoba butters, but surprisingly has no scent. It's nice and thick, and I really feel like my skin has some extra moisture locked in when I apply it.

I've been slathering on a product every morning after showering and every night before going to bed, but it looks like I'll have to add a midday application. Reeeally hoping these will keep my tummy blemish-free. I'm also hoping the extra padding I had before the pregnancy would help keep stretch marks at bay--I read somewhere that thin people tend to get stretch marks since their skin doesn't have much give to begin with. If that's true, then hurray for belly flab!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Getting Ready for the Esquire Ball


SHE
Days before:
  • Try on different outfits. Wail about how nothing fits anymore. (30 minutes)
  • Once dress is finalized, look for appropriate accessories. (15 minutes)
Day of:
  • Shower. (15 minutes)
  • Get hair done. (40 minutes)
  • Put on makeup. (30 minutes)
  • Choose appropriate (no-VPL or -VBL) undies. (15 minutes)
  • Put on dress, accessories. (5 minutes)
  • Shoe emergency! Change into backup shoes after first choice decides to retire just before leaving the house. (2 minutes)
Total: 2 hours and 32 minutes

HE
Day before:
  •  Check if suit is clean. (1 minute)
Day of:
  • Shower. (10 minutes)
  • Put on suit. (5 minutes)
  • Select tie. (1 minute)
Total: 17 minutes (does not include 20-minute nap)

Sigh.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sign It. Now.

When Jim Henson passed away, Kermit the Frog was perched beside his casket with a sign saying, "I've lost my voice."

That's kind of how the Filipino people feel today.


Today is the death of freedom of speech. Our lawmakers (the very same ones that we put into power) saw it fit to pass The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. While I understand the need for protection against cybercrimes, the law has some very scary parts. So scary, in fact, that Filipinos are now protesting what's being called cyber martial law. It's interesting to note that our president signed the damn thing--the son of the very president who had a "never again" campaign. Never say never?

This whole cyber martial law thing is very upsetting. I do not just feel stripped of my rights as a writer, blogger, and social media user--I feel oppressed as a free citizen of a supposedly democratic country. If you feel the same way, sign the petition now. Write to your senators. Make some noise.

(Just know that whatever you say online can get you thrown in jail. No bail.)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Frivolous Things I Want for the Nursery

In the midst of booking birthing classes and researching breast pumps, I find myself daydreaming about what I want to do with the nursery. Sure, we have important decisions to make when it comes to the little monster's room (like: convertible crib or Pack N Play?), but truth be told, I seem to be thinking more about aesthetics! I'm dying to repaint, but with all the (more important) expenses and the fact that we don't know how long we're staying in this house, it just doesn't seem to make sense.

Other things that don't make sense, but that I really want:

An Eames Rocker. Some people say that rocking a baby to sleep is a good idea, while others say it isn't (they get too used to being lulled to sleep in that way). My reason for wanting this iconic chair has nothing to do with that. Har. I just like how it looks!
I do know that I'll need a chair in there, and I just want something as comfy as possible. While La-Z-Boys seem ideal, working at Real Living magazine kind of turned me into a bit of a design snob.:s The most comfortable chair that I've ever laid my butt on is Kenneth Cobonpue's Oasis. Never mind that it's made for outdoors (I was told that it's on all these designer yachts)--sitting on that thing is HEAVEN!

A cowhide rug. Even a faux cowhide rug. It seems like the perfect floor covering to go with an Eames Rocker!

Tord Boontje's Midsummer light. I know it's so eight years ago, but I've always found it so purty and have wanted it for years. I am still kicking myself for not getting one on sale a few years back.


Putumayo World Music. Loaded in my iPod and connected to some cute speakers.

 
The monster and I have been listening to a bit of music in the evenings, and he/she seems to respond to Putumayo French Cafe (and Mozart). I really want to expose him/her to all sorts of music from all over the world. I imagine us starting each day with music from a different country.

I guess it's kind of obvious from the list that I don't really want anything too kiddie for the nursery. I really don't want a primary-color-and-cartoon-character overload. I just want something cozy and soothing and kind of elegant. But with all the preps that have to be done, I won't be surprised if we end up with a room that has nothing but the bare minimum! Sigh.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yes, I Actually Read It

OK, I'm gonna come right out and say it.

I read Fifty Shades of Grey.

No, wait--I read and actually finished Fifty Shades of Grey

...And the two books after that. Whut? 

Take that silver silk necktie and hang me now.


Your honor, I had my reasons for reading it: 1) A friend insisted that I read it for the, um, sexy time. (Er, hi mom.) Said friend shall remain anonymous. 2) I figured it was unfair of me to bash something I haven't actually read. 3) It was lying around the office!

And my reasons for finishing all three of them? 

I plead insanity.

Yes, the writing was atrocious. It's essentially Twilight for the desperate housewife. (Read this hilarious post called "How Twilight Works" by The Oatmeal, replace "Twilight" with "Fifty Shades of Grey," "Edward" with "Christian Grey," and "vampire" with "billionaire with a BDSM fetish," and you'll pretty much get the gist.) But I think the reason it's crazy successful is because it taps into most women's ultimate fantasy: being pursued by a ridiculously rich, ridiculously handsome man who needs to be "fixed." The author may not know good writing, but she sure knows women.

I was texting unnamed-friend-who-recommended-it as I struggled through the first couple of chapters, wanting to gouge my eyes out after reading "sandstone" too many times in three pages (YES, I GET IT, THE PLACE HAD SANDSTONE FLOORS), but I was eventually sucked in. And just when you think one book is all you could take, you realize (and want to kick yourself for it) that you kind of do want to find out what happens next, even if what happens next isn't told in the most masterful fashion. And even if the lead character gets progressively more annoying in each book!

So. That's my big confession. If there's anything fantastic about the books, it's that women have reported feeling more amorous towards their husbands after reading it. 

Said women shall also remain anonymous.

P.S. I have no idea how this book will be turned into a movie. Unless the movie has three x's in it.

Recipe: Roast Chicken


I found an awesome-looking roast chicken dish in the October issue of O, and decided to try it out. I didn't have any kosher salt, white wine, scallions, artichokes, or parsely on hand, so I had to modify it a bit. And, as usual, I just eyeballed it, so no measurements provided.

Don't let the sad-looking beans fool ya (we left the chicken in the oven a while to keep it warm). This was yummers!


Roast Chicken with Green Beans
Serves 2

Ingredients

Half a chicken,chopped
Dried oregano
Salt
Ground black pepper
Chili pepper flakes (optional--I lurve a bit of spice!)
Half an onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Olive oil
Red wine (it was all we had)
Chicken broth
Half a chorizo Pamplona, sliced
Green beans
Half a lemon, sliced into rounds
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Rub oregano, salt, ground black pepper, and chili flakes on chicken. Place in a pan or baking dish, along with onion and garlic, and drizzle with olive oil. 
  2. Pop into oven for about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven. Pour wine and chicken broth over chicken. Add chorizo, green beans, and lemon, making sure that they're partly submerged in the wine and broth.
  4. Return to oven for another 10 minutes or until done. 
You can serve it with rice or mashed potatoes. So good! I wouldn't think twice about serving this at a dinner party.:)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Living on Less

Two years ago, we did a "Live on Less" story, featuring families who cut back on their spending for one reason or another. This year, we decided to do a similar feature, issuing a challenge to four women: Give up something you're "addicted" to for two weeks, and tell us all about it.

One woman gave up TV, another gave up Facebook, another gave up shopping, and another (namely, me. Haha) gave up buying lunch. (I normally buy my midday meal as we don't have household help, and I just don't have the energy to cook in the morning.) Art director Kara conceptualized a shoot with all white props against a brown setup. And because our editorial staff is also our shoot production staff, I got busy making the props!

Photo by Stanley Ong. Makeup by Cathy Bala-Pablo. Hair by Elaine Ganuelas.

I made a huge Facebook logo using foam board, painted boxes to make TVs (we just pasted on black-and-white printouts by Kara), and made all-white shopping bags. On the day of the shoot, the entire GH staff (yes, all six of us) plus a bored hair stylist who was also at the studio got their fingers numb folding dozens of takeout boxes.

The hardest part of the challenge was getting up in the morning to actually cook. At this point in my pregnancy, I was still feeling sluggish, and all I wanted to do was stay in bed. But I did learn a few things from my own personal Lent. You can read about this, and the other women's stories, in this month's issue of Good Housekeeping.

Photo by Stanley Ong. Makeup by Krist Bansuelo. Hair by Bonita.

It's a fantastic issue, so do grab a copy now. It features the stunning Vicky Morales on the cover (doesn't she look gorgeous? And her hair is so fab!), who brought these yummy cookies to the shoot that were gone in five minutes. She also told me I look like our August cover girl. Har.

Other features this month: 
  • A "What's your money personality?" quiz, so you can figure out your saving and spending habits, and determine the best game plan to grow your money. (If you're married, you can ask your husband to take the test as well. A lot of marital problems stem from finances, and the quiz can help couples better understand each other's money habits.) 
  • Healthy shortcuts--if you think all the health rules are impossible to follow (like drinking eight glasses of water a day, working out 30 minutes every day, and all that), we've got the cheats that can still keep you healthy without the hassle. 
  • Meals that you can cook in 30 minutes or less--something that would have come in handy while I was doing the challenge! 
  • And one of my favorites this month: our "10 Pieces, 25 Ways" fashion feature. I ended up buying a few pieces mentioned, and I think I now have six or seven out of the 10 pieces! They really do help you streeetch your wardrobe! Hmm, maybe I should do a related fashion post.
The issue will be out until next week, so do grab a copy. It's only a hundred bucks.:)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Baby Love

At 20.5 weeks in Siquijor. Needed the scarf to keep my hair in place on that windy day. A friend said I look like a pirate. Shiver me timbers! (Photo by Fel)

I am now at week 24 and I get kind of panicky when I think about how little time we have til little monster arrives. I can now understand why people always say that kids grow up too fast--I feel like this pregnancy is just zooming by!

At 23 weeks, with my best friend (34 weeks) at her glam baby shower. We call ourselves BBFFs--buntis best friends forever.

I think I'm pretty big for 24 weeks (someone thought I was seven months preggers!), and I am so worried about my blood sugar test and weigh-in tomorrow! I resolved to cut back on my sugar, but it's not that easy considering people are constantly sending me food, plus I've been eating out at great restaurants for various reasons (anniversary, mom's birthday, a NY boss was in town...). And when you're pregnant, one of the hardest things to do is to say no to food!!!

At 24 weeks: dinner with a NY boss at Las Flores

I think by next month, we really have to start thinking about details--how to rearrange the bedrooms, where we'll put all the stuff that will be displaced, finding a yaya... A few days ago, a friend asked if I had thought about whether we would be using cloth or disposable diapers. I broke out in a cold sweat, because it represented everything I hadn't thought about. I've just been enjoying being pregnant, feeling this hyper one kick and move around, hearing people tell me that I'm "glowing," and being the recipient of such good vibes from people who can't help but be nice to the little round lady.

Sixteen weeks to go. On the one hand, I want to meet the little monster already (and start running again). On the other, I really wish time would slow down--it's possessive but I like having him or her all to myself (and, well, H), and sharing those intimate moments with my husband when he kisses my tummy and whispers for the little one to kick.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Three Years

A sweet treat from the folks at Aubergine

Three things I've learned from three years of marriage:

1. Choose your battles. You can't make an issue out of every little thing, because eventually, you'll either just resent each other or tune each other out. Besides, who wants to live in a state of constant bickering? Learn to let some things go, and make your case when it really matters.

2. Learn his language of love (and yours). It sounds cheesy, but it helps. You can love a person with all you've got, but if you speak different languages, there might be some miscommunication. For example, his language may be "receiving gifts," so he shows his love for you the way he knows how: by giving you little presents. You, on the other hand, may be a sucker for "words of affirmation," so the gifts--with no sweet nothings behind them--may do nothing for you. Talk about lost in translation.  

Sometimes you can figure out what an underlying problem is when you know what your language is. I've realized that my languages are "quality time" and "physical touch," which means proximity is important to me. (I'd have a hell of a time managing a long-distance relationship!) So when I'm feeling particularly pissy or lonely or hormonal, it might be because I feel like I'm not getting enough QT with my man, and the solution is to spend a couple of hours together.

3. The secret to a happy marriage? Choose wisely. It all starts from there. Some girls have some sort of messianic complex--it's the reason we fall for the bad boys. Deep down, we want to be the ones to change them. But when it comes to men, what you see is what you get--so marry someone for who he is, not for who you think he will (or should) be. I married a man who opened doors for me, waited for me even when I was hours late, loved spending time with me, was very secure with himself, let me do my own thing, made me feel safe, respected my family, did random acts of kindness, and loved my mom. He still does. I was overjoyed to marry that man, but after saying "I do," I was quite happy to discover that he would also cook for me, give me back massages and foot rubs, wash the dishes, call me on his way home to ask if I was hungry and if I wanted anything... The thing is, even if I didn't get all these surprising extras, I would marry him all over again. Because from the start, I already loved him for who he was.