Monday, April 30, 2012

Passion and Happiness in the Month of May

In case you didn't know, I'm a Kylie fan. So this outtake from the May issue...

Photo by Carlo Ambrosio Lina

...was inspired by...

Photo from here

GH managing ed Lola and I were able to tap into our inner rock stars in between layouts for our main feature about moms who pursued their passion. The photo above was taken on the day we shot a mom who's also the lead singer of an indie band, as well as a mom to a 16-year-old who is a member of the Polecats! (Other featured moms: one who quit her job to raise her baby and concentrate on making chocolate, another who wrote a book after having a baby, and a lola who's a member of the women's national rugby team!)

There are a bunch of other great features in the May issue, including a feature on finding happiness now--whether you're a mom or a non-mom, you can definitely pick up a few tips.

And, oh, new mom Regine Velasquez is on the cover for the first time. Grab a copy now for just a hundred bucks.:)

In an earlier version of this post, I mentioned that Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project column appears in this month's issue. Sorry about that--it will be debuting next month. Such is life in the magazine world--the months start blending into each other after a while!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Childhood Is a Magnolia Ice Cream Cake

A child of the 80s will most likely remember the Magnolia Flavor House, an ice cream place in Cubao, which, in retrospect, reminds me of the Archie hangout Pop Tate's. The Flavor House served fancy concoctions like peach melba, back when I was perfectly content with a chocolate sundae. It had this distinctive smell--a strange yet comforting mix of sweet and cold.

The place was adjacent to the factory, where grade school kids would go on field trips to see how ice cream was made. And at the back was an area which sold a much-loved, much-missed treat: the Magnolia ice cream cake.

The ice cream cake is long gone, so I just grabbed this photo from here.

For some reason, I've been missing Magnolia ice cream cake so much lately, and it saddens me that I will never ever taste it again--a few years ago, Magnolia was turned into a condo development. My last trip to the Flavor House was maybe eight years ago, when I had to revise a story I wrote for Reader's Digest. It was my first taste of some heavy-duty editing, and I needed Hamil's opinion and a banana split to help me through it. If I could have had ice cream cake, I would have, but it had been phased out years before. Even then, I missed it. To some people, it was just jazzed-up vanilla ice cream in a box, but to me, it meant so much more.

It tasted of anticipation--going to the old Magnolia felt like Christmas Eve. Waiting for that big, striped box containing our order was a lot like waiting for the clock to strike midnight so we could finally open our gifts.

It tasted of celebration--an ice cream cake meant a special occasion, a party at home, a chance to play with my cousins.

It tasted of wonder--I marveled at the dry ice in which the cake was packed. I was amazed at how it melted into nothing, and how we could make an instant fog machine when we dumped it into some water.

It tasted of novelty--cake AND ice cream in one? Possibly the best invention ever. Come to think of it, it might be why frozen brazo de mercedes is one of my absolute favorite cakes.
Most of all, it tasted of family--ice cream cake reminds me of my grandparents' house, trips to the ice creamery, and the neighborhood where I grew up.

I can't remember exactly what it looked like or even what it truly tasted like. But because of it, I remember so much more.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Keeping House

And my housekeeping tip of the day is brought to you by my maid-less existence: When cleaning the microwave, check the "ceiling." I thought I had gotten my microwave to sparkling, lemon-y fresh levels (using a damp microfiber cloth, an eco-friendly surface spray, and a dollop of some heavy-duty surface cleaner for tough spots)--until I bent down and looked up to see the remaining MoMA-worthy spaghetti sauce splatters.

We normally have a maid come over once a week, but she's been on vacation for the past three weeks. (Buti pa siya.) So I had to come up with a manageable system--given my full-time job and packed weekends--that would keep the house from falling into total disarray while the trusty help is on her extended leave. My solution: housework as my morning workout.

To keep things from getting too overwhelming, I try to do one or two little things a day, right after breakfast. Day 1, for example, is for sweeping and mopping; day 2 for cleaning the kitchen counter and organizing; day 3 for setting aside our freshly laundered clothes; day 4 for cleaning the microwave. (Making the bed and washing the dishes are givens.) Vacuuming is for free time during the weekend.

Save for vacuuming, I do enjoy most of it. I like scrubbing away stains and seeing a pristine surface after I'm done with it. I like walking on our shiny floors. I like the smell of clean. Still, I think I'm going to like it even more when our helper comes back! She is AWESOME at her job (and, more importantly, she's incredibly trustworthy), and I love her to bits.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Musings: Do You Love Your Job?

On a recent evening, faced with the prospect of an all-nighter at work, I thought about how lucky I am to be doing something that I love. I don't mind working overtime for this job, and even when I'm faced with challenges, I just want to figure out how to overcome them (as opposed to just raising the white flag). It made me think about how many people are stuck in jobs they have lukewarm (or ill) feelings for. That, in turn, made me think about how people can tell if they have a job they truly love. And THAT reminded me of a story I read earlier in the day about three Mega Millions lottery winners in the US who'll be receiving $35 million apiece (*whistle*) after taxes.

Image from Maryland Lottery, via Yahoo!

The winners were two public school teachers and an administrator who pooled together to buy a bunch of tickets. The article said:

"The three winners have chosen to remain anonymous but did allow the lottery officials to reveal some details about them. All three reportedly currently work multiple jobs just to pay their monthly bills. Even with their newfound fortunes, all three told [Maryland lottery director] Martino that they would keep their jobs at the school. 'One said "I can't give up on my kids,"' he said."

How about that?

So that got me thinking: If you won megabucks at a lottery, would you quit your job? If your answer is a resounding "Yes!" then it might be time to think about going after your dream job. Life is too short to spend at least a third of your day doing something you don't have strong feelings for. If you're afraid of making the leap, seek professional advice. You can even email Good Housekeeping's career columnist ( to help you figure out your next step.

And my answer is no.:)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Best Medicine

These two clips made me laugh so hard, I teared up. The first features Maya Rudolph doing impressions on Ellen. It was so funny, I tweeted the Ellen Show to thank them for making my day.

The second video is something Mad Men fans (with a sense of humor) will appreciate. A day after Megan performed "Zou Bisou Bisou," everyone was singing it--and the parodies, naturally, followed.

Hope these cracked you up, even just a little bit. Happy weekend!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Before and After: Old Chair

Finally, another item checked off my to-do list! I had been meaning to have this old chair repainted and reupholstered with fabric that I got from Real Living's style editor, Gwyn.

This chair is part of an antique-y desk set that I got from my mom's house. The matching desk has been turned into a vanity. You can see a hint of it in this post. And the chair?

So cute!<3

I'd been wanting to have this done for a really long time, but when I asked around for quotes, the prices I got were pretty steep (as in I could buy a nice, new chair for the same amount)). I finally thought of asking interior designer Grace Moslares, who took care of repainting and rewiring our house before we moved in. She gave me such a good price. If you're looking for a pro for your home projects, email her at

Hmm I should have had the desk repainted too...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What I Am Thankful For

Last night, my husband got into a major car accident. Thankfully, he escaped unscathed, and so did the idiot of a motorcycle driver who was too drunk to realize he was in the wrong lane. The car, though, is in pretty bad shape.

I've been told a few times that I'm such a positive person, but truth be told, I think I'm more of a glass-half-empty kind of girl. Of course it's great that he didn't get hurt and all, but an annoying voice inside me questions why it happened in the first place. The reason I am able to (try to) stay optimistic--through anything--is my husband.

When he came home after spending hours at the police precinct, I expected him to be down and out. Because that was kind of how I was feeling--we've been hit by one bad thing after another, so the past few weeks haven't exactly been easy. Instead, he had a serene expression on his face, managed to give me a smile, and calmly told me exactly what happened. We talked about how a few seconds--a delay in getting the bill where he ate, for example--could have changed everything. I thought about how the accident wouldn't have happened; he, on the other hand, thought about how it might have saved him from something worse, or how this was meant to lead to something else, something better.

So there's today's big reveal: I am no Sunshine Sally--I just bask in the glow of my husband's positive energy. And that is what I am thankful for this Easter: that I am married to this incredible man who inspires me to be a better person.

Happy Easter, everyone. And it would be nice if you could say a little prayer for us. I'm so raring to welcome something good into our lives. I may not deserve it, but he certainly does.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My New Obsession

I had been wanting to watch Downton Abbey for ages, but I couldn't seem to find the time for a marathon. A few people actually told me to catch it because they thought I would like it. (Blame it on all my tweets about old movies on TCM--some of the very few things I actually watch.) Then I had a day off from work and, now, five glorious days off, so I could finally spend all the necessary hours in bed to finish the two seasons (so far) of this British costume drama.

My friends were right. I LOVED it. I can't believe I have to wait for months for the third season to come out! For now, allow me to share the top five reasons I love Downton Abbey:

1. As a friend so aptly put it, it's "a British Falcon Crest." (You can tell how old said friend is by this reference. And how old I am for getting it.) It's been described as a costume drama that runs like a soap--there was even a storyline involving amnesia at some point! I'd call it a guilty pleasure, but since everyone (except the American Cora Crawley) has a British accent, it all seems so highbrow. Har!

2. The story line. While I find it cool that, even with over a dozen characters on the show, everyone seems to get an equal amount of screen time, what I find most entertaining is the idea that this could have really happened. This place and these characters could truly have existed in the past--but this could very well have been Middle Earth for all I can relate! Men wear tuxes to dinner, aristocracy don't work and have endless "weekends," Downton Abbey is a frickin' castle... So surreal!

Highclere Castle, where parts of the show are shot. People actually lived in places like this!

I am so fascinated by the class distinction (for example, marrying a lawyer or a doctor was considered beneath them). I grew up having househelp, but nothing like Downton Abbey servants--I didn't even know the difference between a butler, a valet, and a footman before watching this show.

3. Lady Violet Crawley's zingers. I've laughed out loud so many times because this character, played so brilliantly by Maggie Smith, has the best lines! Some gems:

"No Englishman would dream of dying at another person's house, especially someone they didn't even know."


Mary: "I was only going to say that Sybil is entitled to her opinions."
Violet: "No, she isn't until she is married--then her husband will tell her what her opinions are."


(When her granddaughter was feeling sorry for herself) "Don't be defeatist, dear, it's very middle class."


(And possibly everyone's favorite...) "What is a weekend?"

4. The setting. There's something about the past that speaks to my soul. (It's one reason I'm often tuned into TCM.) It sounds cheesy, but shows (and movies) like Downton Abbey are kind of like a time machine--they give me a glimpse of a time that I'll never experience. Women were proper ladies, men were proper gentlemen, and everybody dressed up for a simple family dinner. At home. Seriously, the clothes are tuhdiefor. And I like that the characters repeat their outfits, so it's realistic in that sense. (I don't think Upper East Siders would be caught dead wearing the same thing twice.)

I want to have something Downton Abbey-esque made for one of the weddings I'm attending this year. In fact, if I were to get married all over again, the entire theme would probably be inspired by the show!

5. Lady Mary Crawley's skin.

Good god, woman, have you never seen the sun? Either that or Downton Abbey has THE best makeup team in the business. Every time I watch the show, I just end up being mesmerized by her perfect skin. It's almost enough to make me want to retire from disc and try to reverse all the sun damage!

At first, Mary was the character I loved to hate. But as the show progressed, I found myself rooting for her more and more (and staring at her more and more). She's made mistakes, she secretly has a soft side, and, well, she has the most luminous skin ever. Can you say "girl crush"?

Sigh. Five more months. I'm tempted to watch everything all over again. I do have two more free days! (Dowager Countess, for us working-class folks, it's called a long weekend.)

Click on photos for image sources

Friday, April 6, 2012


Today was supposed to be Big Cleanup Day. Since we don't have a maid, we were supposed to spend this day cleaning the house, top to bottom. I decided to start with the dressing room, particularly my vanity. This was halfway through the cleanup, when I had removed a lot of the drawer's contents, thrown a few things out, and was still deciding what to do with the rest...

Good grief. I had to keep telling myself that it was going to get worse before it got better.

I just have so much stuff, and even though I've trained myself not to be a pack rat, there are still remnants from my pack-rat past. I found love letters I wrote more than 10 years ago, an invitation to a party in college, negatives, old P10 and P5 bills, three boxes of bandaids (whut?), high school grad pics, and many other random things. I threw out a lot of old makeup, trying not to think it was sayang because, really, who would want to use orange-colored lipstick that's been in my drawer for three years? I'm not even sure it was orange when I first dumped it in there.

The most difficult part about cleaning up is finding paper, because rather than making an immediate decision to keep, toss, or give it away, I actually have to read the damn thing before deciding. But despite all the dust and sweat and the sometimes weird trip down memory lane, I got through it. Two hours and two bags of trash later...


What a relief! It's still not as pretty as I would want it to be--I intend to streamline the jewelry I have on my dresser so that I could just keep one jewlery box, then put all those ostrich and peacock feathers in a slim vase. (Those I cannot let go of--they were part of my bridal bouquet, and I painstakingly dismantled it so that I could keep the feathers.) But for now, it's functional, pretty uncluttered and, above all, clean!!!

Of course, I had neither the time nor the energy to clean up everything else, but it's a great start. I've decided to break down the house projects over the next few days so I won't end up feeling overwhelmed. Tomorrow is general sweeping-vacuuming-mopping day. And I'm hoping that a chair that I had reupholstered and repainted will be delivered. Check back soon for a before and after (and some other home projects I've got lined up)!

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Think I'm In Love

Meet my new sweethearts...

The stylist pulled them out for our June cover shoot. One look at those babies and I was a goner--it was love at first sight. What's a girl to do but give in to her urges? Sigh.