Thursday, May 25, 2017

Marguerite's Summer Art Workshop Experience

We're artsy-fartsy in this family. The girls are artsy, and the boys are fartsy. JUST KIDDING! We really do like art, and not just pretend to.

Marguerite had a fun month learning drawing and painting at the city's summer art workshop. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, we'd drop off the boys at my mom's and then Mark would drop Marguerite and me off at the theater, the venue of the workshop.

My family wasn't used to the pace. We're home-based, school-wise and work-wise, so rushing in the morning was definitely something different for us. It was worth it though since both my daughter and I made new friends and she really learned a lot.

Marguerite has always been interested in art and we sign her up when we come across good opportunities for lessons. We jumped at the chance when my cousin Jaymee, who works in the city's tourism office, told us about this one.

I got to observe most of the classes, and I noted that many in the drawing class (basically most of the boys and one girl: my daughter) were all about manga (Japanese comic art). The teacher insisted that they learn the proper basic style of drawing people, and they followed his instructions. Until it was time for free drawing and they all went back to drawing manga-style pictures. In Marguerite's case, she also frequently draws in chibi (Japanese slang for short person) form, which is even less realistic-looking, but, you know, it's all cute, er, kawaii, sorry, which is really appealing to young girls. Her favorite character to draw is Vocaloid's Hatsune Miku.

Meanwhile, in painting, the class did a still life with fruits, a still life with furniture, a portrait of their favorite character, and a landscape/seascape. Marguerite ended up doing the landscape at home since she missed the make-up class. I asked her if she wanted to paint one of the pictures from my lighthouse coffee book (a gift from my friend Maf) or copy a painting from my Thomas Kinkade book. She saw a picture with pink trees painted by Thomas Kinkade, thought they were cherry blossom (according to the title of the painting, they were actually dogwood), and since she's obsessed with Japan, chose to copy that.

She got a lot of compliments on that painting. I know some people thought she got help, but that was purely her work. Not to diminish her effort, because it was really quite good, but it would put suspicious minds to rest to consider the original. As for the color mixing, that has just always been something that she has an aptitude for. Her art teachers have frequently complimented her eye for color, so... that's enough being defensive.

My mom, ever the proud grandma, has asked for this painting. She's going to have it professionally framed to be able to show it off on the wall, but for now, it sits on top of the piano.

Now that we've invested in a bunch of art supplies, I think we'll continue lessons. Since I'm cheap, I mean the Internet, particularly YouTube, when I say lessons. That is, until another good deal comes along.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hoarders and Birders

Last Saturday was interesting. It was the day of our church's first ever summer yard sale. We've always held a yard sale every December for almost two decades now, but this year, we're shooting for two events.

My daughter was also supposed to have drawing and painting classes in the morning, but both were canceled. It was marked in the theater (venue) calendar, too. My bad for not checking the thing out, but the teachers should definitely have informed their classes. Most of the students showed up. What a way to desecrate a Saturday morning, lol. We could have had a more "chill" start to the day. And for us homeschoolers not used to the morning prep rush, that was probably even more annoying.

We spent most of the day at church, where I spotted several of my books being sold. I had left them at my parents' house in my old room, which has been turned into the new kitchen. I had a brief struggle over that because I never sell my own books. I'd sell those that I'd bought for the express purpose of selling, but never books in my own collection. In the end, I was okay with letting them go. It was just my natural impulse to cling.

I also spotted a Betty Neels book that I missed when I was rounding the lot of them up from my mom's collection, so I had to go buy it from the yard sale. I didn't mind. The money goes to the church, and it was all of ten pesos, lol. Betty Neels is a fave of mine from my mom's romance paperback era, her and Essie Summers.

I was shocked to see my dad's fishing rods though. I'd been counting on borrowing them when I finally went fishing. They used to be his stepfather's, something Dad held onto for twenty years, but I guess my folks are serious about de-cluttering these days. I whined at my husband to buy the rods, but he sensibly pointed out, "When do we ever go fishing?" He's obviously not the hoarder in the family. I want those rods though. They're totally useful for the lifestyle we have in my head.

After the yard sale, we headed up to Timberland in the mountains of San Mateo for some birding and view-binging. We saw the usual maya (Eurasian Tree Sparrow), a couple of pied fan tails, a crested mynah, and this guy, a lifer (first sighting ever of this kind of bird) for us.

You can't see it, but the back is a layer of brilliant blue and black.

That's his profile, so definitely a kingfisher. According to my pocket guide, it's a brown-breasted kingfisher.

That's his front. It could be orange, red, or brown, but the sunset made it seem fiery red to our eyes.

Here's a view. I wish I lived here, but there's no Internet connection yet for homes. And it's far. And expensive, so I'll just keep on being a (Marikina) valley girl.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Toddler Destruction and Mayhem

This one lasted almost four months. I got this really neat planner for 2017, nothing too fancy, but nice enough for me to want to keep it looking attractive. My planners were usually freebies that I schlepped around and treated like scrap paper when one wasn't handy. This planner, however, my husband bought for me, and I know he would have spent some time really looking for one that would suit me well.

My husband's like that. He's methodical about shopping, and, man, what a stickler for quality. I love that about him, especially because I know he ends up getting the best deal there could possibly be, but I don't really want to be tagging along when he's hunting down crazy bargains. It's hard on my feet and my patience. Also, on my back if I happen to be carrying a baby as well.

So, anyway, I had this nice planner I'd planned on keeping nice for as long as possible, but with little kids around, that was nigh impossible. Four months into using it, my youngest took a pen to it and scribbled all over it.

Okay, before I proceed, let me just put out there that I'm the kind of parent who believes in letting her kids use and experience our things. It would be silly to hold on to something and never use it for fear of the kids destroying it. In my mind, destruction is pretty much a forgone conclusion. With things, it's going to happen sooner or later, with or without kids. It's best not to get attached. And, as far as I'm concerned, my kids' exploration and learning should be prioritized over material possessions.

If I didn't want them messing with something, it would be hidden in some locked up drawer and probably never used until they're grown. I've learned my lesson. My eldest made short work of my favorite pearl choker, a gift from my mom, when she was two.

Everything else is pretty much fair game, no matter how nice or how expensive. Expensive doesn't always equate to important, in my opinion. If it's something that either I or my husband especially cherish, it's up to us to ensure that the kids don't get their hands on it. And, resourceful creatures that they are, they get into pretty much everything.

You may think we're too permissive, that we're not doing what we should to train them to be respectful of other people's things. First, different families, different values. Second, we do teach them to respect other people's things; we're lenient with our own things. Third, destruction is only an issue with babies and toddlers; after that, they learn to use and care for things properly, so the issue becomes only a matter of normal wear-and-tear. Wear-and-tear definitely wins hands down over preserved in careful storage and never used.

My husband and I both sometimes struggle with this attitude, but we're learning to pick our battles and not sweat the small stuff. That's why almost all our sheets have ink marks on them, why we've been taping up my old books that my eldest now reads and sometimes leaves somewhere her youngest brother can access. why my laptop has missing keys, why my wallet has pink scribbles on it, etc. They can all still be used despite their battered appearance, so no biggie.

The same is true with my planner. For a moment there though, I'd regarded my youngest child's super cute face and exclaimed, "You will not rest until everything is destroyed!" He looked back at me, the picture of innocence, and then reached over to pick another key from my laptop.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Berry Weird

Few people get me. I suppose, everybody feels that way every now and then. In my case, it's pretty much all the time. I'm almost always with the unpopular vote, like the only one who wanted to go to the park instead of the mall, the only one who wanted to take the train instead of a plane, etc. It can be lonely, but it just makes finding kindred spirits even more delightful.

Why did I even start with that? It's just that, despite being an oddball all my life, I still get surprised when nobody shares my enthusiasm for, well, whatever it is that I'm enthusiastic about. For instance, in a recent planning session for our church's fellowship activities, I excitedly suggested bird watching. I love birding. It gives me such a thrill to observe different kinds of birds freely flying about. Anyway, my suggestion was met with crickets and some bewildered faces, clearly expressing, "Why would anybody want to do that?" For some reason, I really thought everybody enjoyed watching birds, lol.

More recently, I scored a few berry-bearing plants. I love berries - their taste, their smell, their look... The fact that they are so rare around here also magnifies their appeal to me. Actually, one of the things on my bucket list is to go berrying. It's not just berries though. I love the idea of foraging for comestibles in the wild - ferns, mushrooms, truffles...

Going back to my berry plants. I already have a mulberry and a strawberry, but both have yet to bear fruit. On our way to church camp, we happened upon a place that sold rare fruit plants. It had quite a selection, but I was most interested in their mulberries (fruiting too!), raspberries, and blackberries.

I was over the moon about having these plants... and nobody cared. Not that I was seeking attention, although I was expecting some interest because they're not common around here at all. Oh well, me and my weird fascinations, lol.

So, you probably won't get it, but this right here brings me such joy. :D

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Sunday at Home

We just got back from church camp in Pansol, Laguna. It was a fab time, although I wish I could have participated more. Naturally, Mark and I had to spend most of our time minding the boys. Midge no longer needs a lot of supervision, so she was free to go off and do her thing. Apparently, her thing was to boil herself in hot spring water under the relentless Holy Week sun (the sun has always seemed like the most severe to me during this time of the year) and she's now the color of teak for her efforts. She also got a little overtired and overheated, so she ran a temperature when we got home.

Cameron was also a fan of playing in the water (Sawyer hated it with, aptly enough, the heat of a thousand suns), but he has very sensitive skin and he itched something fierce after getting out of the water. He also developed an infection on one of his big toes.

So, with the state Midge and Cameron were in, we had to miss the Easter service at our church. We still wanted to celebrate Easter though, so I gave them their Easter basket in bed and organized an egg hunt within the bedroom.

The basket I put together was a blend of religion and fun. I got them five books, all Bible-based with two specifically about Easter. I was really happy with that Book Sale (secondhand bookshop) haul. I was hoping for just one Easter book and actually found two. Every book I got was also in great condition, like new. The Veggie Tales (anyone else bust their gut laughing watching Veggie Tales?) one even came with a CD, also seemingly unused.

Besides the books, I also included a play dough set, that connect-four-bingo-game thing that every kid has at one point during childhood but we didn't have yet (rite of passage!), plastic Easter eggs that we can reuse (I finally gave away last year the ones I had gotten for Midge when she was but a toddler, so I had to get new ones this year), and candy-coated chocolate eggs.

After the initial egg hunt and rooting-through-the-basket commotion, I read one of the Easter books to the kids and then let them leaf through the other books by themselves and play with the game and the eggs. We also decided to finally eat the Easter eggs we made last week.

That's how Easter Sunday this year went for us. I wish we had been able to make it to church, but it was what it was.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Meet My Latest Gardening Scourge

A week ago, I noticed some fuzzy white spots on our mulberry plant. Worrying that they may be mold, I quickly google-imaged (you know what I mean) "fuzzy white spots on mulberry plant" and discovered that I was dealing with mealybugs.

They're bad news. They're like little plant vampires, and an infestation could mean death. I think the ants lured them over. They supposedly like the honeydew produced by the mealybugs.

Good thing I caught them early, so there were just a few in a couple of spots. I have to tell you though, finally registering those white spots in their bug form kind of gave me the heebie jeebies. I just wasn't expecting them to be creepy crawlies.

The most popular recommendation to get rid of the things was to get Qtips, soak the ends in alcohol and then use those to scrape the bugs off the plant. I tried that and, while effective on the bugs that were fully exposed, the method was a bit more difficult to employ with those squeezed in the nook between the spurs and the stem. I had to try the second least invasive method, which was to spray with a homemade solution of water, alcohol, and dish-washing liquid.

The second attempt effectively dealt with those mealybugs. I did it twice and that did the trick. I'm not sure how long they'll remain discouraged, so I'll be as vigilant as I can. I'm resolute about getting berries from that plant, so I'm quite prepared for combat against plant pests and disease. :D

So far, I've had to deal with slugs, caterpillars, ants, mealybugs, and birds. I let the slugs and caterpillars win, co-exist with the ants, put up stakes against the birds, and sprayed the mealybugs. Adventures in the garden, eh?

What pests have been the bane of your gardener's existence? 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Different People, Different Braids

I was recently talking to somebody who referred to a Dutch braid she'd done on her hair as a French braid. Being an obnoxious know-it-all, I pointed out that what she actually had was a Dutch braid. This person's ego, however, dwarfed mine because she as good as told me that I didn't know what I was talking about and insisted that her braid was, in fact, French, ta gueule!

How can you move forward with somebody who wouldn't accept correction? You just shrug your shoulders and think, "Oh well. There's no teaching the arrogant ignorant." That's what sensible people who don't want to waste their time do.

Me, however, I make a YouTube video on the subject and rope my daughter into the silliness with me. We did have fun making the video. It was particularly challenging because we made an incorrect assumption (that we could do a voice-over or dub using the YouTube video editor). We experimented with a few free video-making programs downloadable from the Internet before we settled on VideoPad.

And this is what we ended up with.

So now that you know the difference between a French braid and a Dutch braid, you can now live a happy life, rule the world, or smirk knowingly the next time some arrogant ignorant tries to incorrectly school you on this very important distinction. :D

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Weather Made Me Do It!

It's already freakin' summer here, but first everybody had to go and get sick first. The shift in temperature can really mess with the body. Don't ever tell me again that discussing the weather is banal. The thing obviously rules our lives.

Ever since I finished high school, I couldn't care less about summer. The only good thing about it had been that we didn't have to go to school. Living in the tropics, I can't get excited about warm, well, even warmer weather. I just can't. It honestly fills me with dread, especially now that I'm an adult who has to worry about the spike in our electricity bill with the air conditioning running practically the whole day. 

With that no-school perk gone (we're unschoolers), I couldn't find any other redeeming quality. Except maybe it does give me an excuse to binge on ice cream, snow cones, paletas (popsicles), and halo-halo.

Last Saturday, the freezer was stocked with ice cream.

There was marshmallow fluff, leftover from the marshmallow bars I'd made earlier that day.

There were syrup and sprinkles as well, so out came the sundae glasses (a present from my sister Chipi) and we commiserated the miserable (to us - we thrive better in muuuuch cooler temperatures) weather by putting together the most decadent sweet-cold concoction we could from what we had on hand.

If I gain weight and diabetes, the weather is to blame, right? Right? No? Oh well.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Ditsy Tale of a Non-Rescue

*Warning: pictures of lifeless pre-peep.

We missed church yesterday (it was Monday when I started this blog post) because this family's health is still a mess, but we're getting better, don't you worry. It's mainly our bodies adjusting to the shift in weather and the approaching summer.

Anyway, as I set out to water the plants yesterday, I immediately noticed something resting on one of the mulberry's leaves. I thought it looked like chewed up food that somebody flicked off. As I came closer, I could tell that it was a bird and surmised that it was perhaps part of a balut's chick (a balut is a boiled fertlized egg, a common street food in our parts).

Upon closer inspection, however, it became clear to me that it was a partially hatched peep (pre-peep?) with some of its egg shell still on it.

The image clutched at my heart and squeezed. The poor thing. I supposed that there was a nest somewhere overhead because that would have been the second time an egg had landed in that area to my knowledge. The first time, the egg was really young (I don't know how to term it) and the yolk and white splattered on our windshield when it fell.

This one, though. The peep was pretty well-formed, and it looked so peaceful nestled on that mulberry leaf, so the mother in me kicked in. In my mind, that was a baby and I had to do something. I observed that the ants hadn't gotten to it yet so I deduced that it hadn't been there long yet.

This is where I let pure science dictate my actions.

Even though the thing wasn't breathing and I was mostly ignorant when it came to birds and their birthing/hatching system, I decided to go ahead and try to revive it. I placed the peep in a nest I'd made using a plastic bowl and shredded paper towel. I then found a goose neck lamp and tried to warm it up. Belatedly, I realized that the bulb was no good because it was LED.

What to do, what to do? I had to get it warm.

I was in the kitchen, so my eyes lit on the microwave, the oven toaster, the stove top, the actual oven... Don't worry. I didn't stupidly end up roasting the peep I was futilely trying to save. Obviously, those weren't viable tools in this undertaking. I did find something that I could use though. It wasn't the best option, but it was the only one I could come up with at the time - a candle.

So this is where I got really scientific.

I had several candles, all of them scented. The choices were vanilla, apple pie, cinnamon, peppermint, and apple. I decided to go with cinnamon because it would present the best suggestion of that Ikea bowl-paper towel nest being on a tree, considering that cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree. Also, that particular candle was brown, so... Like I said, these were decisions borne of scientific data, hard logic, valid reasoning, etc. 

I know I was being an idiot. When my husband came down, he took in the candle and the lifeless peep and asked me if I was holding a wake. It's just another one of the long list of things I do that he thinks are pointless.
I knew right off that it was an exercise in vain. It did feel foolish (and felt even more so after I read that mother birds sometimes push eggs off the nest themselves), but, hey, that had never stopped me in the past. I had to do it. It's kind of like when I'm at the store and an item falls to the floor. Others walk past it and I tell myself that a clerk will take care of it, but, noooo, I can't bring myself to not pick it up and place it back or put it somewhere safe.

What would you have done? Let nature take its course? Buried the poor thing? If you would have gone through the same trouble as I did, then I hope we're friends because we can have fun doing a lot of impractical things together. :)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

No Rest for the Weary

We're a miserable bunch here. My eldest has been nursing a cold since Sunday. My second seems to be starting his own bout. My youngest is fine except for what I suspect to be corneal abrasion, so we have to bring him to an eye doctor. I've also heard some coughing from my husband.

And then there's me.

Every month, Aunt Flo comes for a visit and my immune system seriously plummets. I mean, it. Plum. Mets. It takes a plunge into depths unknown and leaves me suffering with all sorts of inconvenient maladies. There's almost always a cold or an allergy attack, both of which may lead to asthma if I don't get any rest always lead to an asthmatic episode. Of course, there's also some sort of body ache, usually a back thing, but it's often compounded with some leg or arm issue. And then there's the migraine, which is a real treat to have if you're also wracked with cough. Every tickle in your throat fills you with dread because you know to cough is to take an axe to your skull and split it open - or it feels that way, anyway.

That's not even getting into the abdominal cramps and the depression.

Now, it's my own fault because I refuse to take drugs as much as I can help it. I pickle myself in vitamin and mineral supplements and just hope for the best. They'd have sufficed too if I could just reinforce them with some rest. There's the rub. There's no rest for the mother of young children,

And so the ailments persist with the invasion until my immune system finally staggers its way up, swinging for all its worth, It usually manages to knock away the migraine and the pains, but the cold/allergy/asthma has the tendency to linger and fester.

This is my roundabout way of telling you why I'm out of commission for one week every month.

I'm in the middle of such a week.

Funny anecdote: Earlier this week, I told my husband, "Aunt Flo is here!" Marguerite was there and happily exclaimed, "Really?" That reaction didn't make sense until I realized that she thought my real aunt whose name is Flor is here for a visit.

My head is beginning to pound and my right eyeball is throbbing, so bye.