Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Anybody Else Want to Live in the Books for Less Warehouse?

August didn't use to be a month I got excited about. It had a couple of important birthdays (grandmother's and two cousins'), but it didn't really have much else going on. It has two national holidays that don't really impact our family much since we homeschool and work from home. It had about an average rating, excitement-wise. I didn't dread it, but it wasn't really a month I looked forward to either... until Books for Less started having its month-long warehouse sale. Now, August is one of my favorite months of the year.

I like warehouses. I want one of my own. But to fill that warehouse with cheap used books? It's like paradise 10 miles and an hour away (Manila traffic!). It's like a slice of heaven that sends me into sneezing fits. No allergy can deter this very determined bibliophile, however, especially since the book lover in question is also a cheeseparing one whose only indulgence is books, lol.

I've been taking advantage of this warehouse sale since 2013. The first time I went, the sale was held in the last half of June and the first half of July. I think it became an annual August thing the year after.

My first time, there were maybe fewer than ten other browsers. The following year, there were significantly more shoppers. The same for the following year. I think we went sometime in the middle of the month both times. And then, last year, there was so much hype about it that I was afraid that if we went later in the month, the pickings would be slim, so we went on the first Saturday of August, and it was totally insane!

My sister and I braved the crush of that crowd. It wasn't enjoyable browsing. but I was resolute about scoring good books for cheap, so we forged on. The checkout lines were a nightmare, but we emerged from the warehouse triumphant.

I didn't want to go through that again, so I told my husband we were going on a weekday, hopefully at an hour where most people were at work or in school. We ended up going after lunch Friday last week, the first week of the sale. It was mildly humming when we got there, and became more bustling as schools let out.

This year, the books were all worth Php 20 (about USD .40), which I found awesome because it was so much easier to stick to my budget. There was also no need to do any rigorous mental math and gut-wrenching editing pre-checkout since I didn't have to look at price stickers. If it appealed to me, it went sailing into the cardboard box that served as my shopping basket.

Let me share what I scored. I divided them into the following categories: homeschool, Christmas (apparently, I'm obsessed with the holiday), hobbies and interests, stories and children's books, and piano.



Hobbies and Interests

Stories and Children's Books


Buying books makes me giddy with happiness, so you can bet I was on a high last Friday. It's Tuesday and the feeling still lingers, lol. Are you the same?

PS - The Books for Less warehouse had eggplant plants lining up the drive, which makes the place even more awesome in my book.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Leftover Genius, Pampanga Picking, and Berrying Hopes

It has been a while, so lots have happened since the last post. It would be tedious to talk about each item at length, so I'll just go with (hopefully) succinct bullet point entries. That's the hope anyway. My writing is hardly ever succinct. I tend to go on and on, even with bullet points. So...

Before everything else though... I'm worried that it's raining right now and I've got wash on the line - towels and sheets at that, harder to dry. Anybody want to throw a free drier my way? Driers aren't commonly used in this country, and I do love line drying, but I'm thinking a drier makes a lot of sense in the typhoon season. My wash is under a roof but the rains have frequently been accompanied by strong winds lately. Anyhoo...

Here are those bullet points. They're based on the most recent pictures I have on my phone.

  • Bastille Day Picnic - I made crêpes galore - crêpes aux pommes caramélisées and crêpes jambon fromage. I also tried making macarons à la meringue Française, but I used rice flour instead of almond flour, and then I was too lazy to wash the sifter, so I didn't sift, so is it really any wonder that they were a dud? The kids still enjoyed them like champs though. I had quite a bit of caramelized apple left over, so I made vanilla cupcakes a week later and frosted them with apple cinnamon buttercream. No picture.

  • Pinoy Pickers - We drove over to Pampanga one Saturday to pick up this vintage toy pedal car. My husband got it for the boys, but first he's going to restore it (so maybe it's not really for the boys, lol). Pampanga seems the place to go for picking. That's where my husband bought his classic VW Kombi as well.
  • Movie Night Munchies - Friday is movie night at our house unless we're going out. Anyway, we had red sauce pasta earlier for lunch. My second. Cameron, finished off the pasta (vegetable fusilli) for his afternoon snack, picking them straight off the pot until they were all gone (no sauce, just drizzled with some salt and olive oil; he actually prefers his pasta that way.). So we ended up with a lot of left over pasta sauce, tomato with ground beef, and since we had a loaf of bread on the brink of expiration, I decided to combine both into some sort of pizza bread. There was still sauce after that, so I stored it and just yesterday, incorporated it into a second tortilla de patata (the first one just had dill and spring onion). No picture of the tortillas. but there's one of the pizza bread along with the apple cookies I'd also made for Movie Night. Dang, that rain's getting stronger.
  • Blooming Mulberry - I'm excited about these flowers! We waited months for this plant to bloom. I don't know if it was the rain or I unwittingly pruned correctly, but whatever - I'm stoked! I'm just praying right now that they actually turn into berries. See those cinder blocks beyond the wall? That's one of the townhouses they're building next door. At least they've painted the firewall, so when I look out my bedroom window, I see a blindingly white expanse. It actually makes me a bit claustrophobic even if there's about 15-20 meters of open space between my windows and that stupid wall. When I stand close to the window, I can see some sky. Ugh, I hate it. These structures have blocked not only the view, but the natural light and mountain breeze as well. 
Now that I'm done with the bullet points, I remember a bunch of other noteworthy (to me anyway) details from the past weeks. I didn't snap a photo though, so they're not getting blogged about, lol.

We do have a couple of videos to string together into a vlog episode, but we need more time to post that. Until then. Or until another video-less blog post. :)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Blogging Vlogging Maid

Don't expect the title to have some serious or deep significance. I was trying to think of a title, said "blogging vlogging" out loud and segued to "She's just a woman!" :D

I haven't been blogging lately and I will point the finger at the baby (He's two! But as you know, the youngest will always be referred to as the baby until he raises a fuss about it.) and rightly so because the main reason it was so hard to blog is that he had finally succeeded in his wicked attempt to pick off all the keys of my laptop keyboard. It was a losing battle. As soon as I'd replaced the keys, off they went again. I finally just asked Mark to let me use his old USB keyboard.

I blogged about corn dip on Our Lemonade Days and there was supposed to be a follow-up post, but it occurred to me that nobody's that interested in corn dip - not even me, so, yeah, that second post's not happening. I did make a second batch following a more common recipe, but I soon realized that the only difference was in the fact that I used diced tomatoes and not tomato sauce. There was no noticeable difference in flavor. Here's a pic of the second batch and then I'm done talking about corn dip for now. Honestly, it's tasty, but I'd probably order good ol' salsa con queso y carne if I had to choose.

We've been back to Palaya, btw, and we plan to return on the next market day. Last time, Mark and Midge lost a flipflop each in the river. The day started off rainy so it was pretty foggy in Tanay, but it fortunately cleared up in the afternoon. I bought a few herbs and pepper plants. The only one that failed to survive was the cilantro. I've never been able to make that plant live. Any tips?

We also participated in a multi-family "garage" sale held by the Antipolo Homeschool Group to help raise funds for a fellow homeschooler who recently fell gravely ill with meningoencephalitis. Praise God that the little boy is now on the mend.

Midge attended a pottery workshop, which I thought she'd enjoy, considering her penchant for salt dough. She has been working a lot with it, making tiny toys for her collection of LPS, Shopkins, etc. We don't have the saucer and whatnots she made in class as they are still to be fired, painted, and glazed by the teacher, but we're excited to see what they'll all look like when they're finished.

I actually managed to capture a few videos from these events, and Midge was able to put them together to create a vlog episode. I'm afraid the video clips are grainy since I used my phone to take them. I swear I'll get around to using a better camera. In the meantime, please watch this video and like it if you're so inclined. While you're at it, please subscribe to our channel as well. :)

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Different Chocolate Spread, Rufous Night Heron, and Classic VWs

So that's what happens when your fudge doesn't set. My daughter spooned some of it into a bowl and ate it like pudding while I scraped the rest of it off into a container and pretended I really meant to make some chocolate spread.

It was so serendipitous, like God working in mysterious ways, but in reality just me getting tired of all the stirring and convincing myself that the thing has lost its sheen (sign the fudge is ready for setting) when it's really obvious that it's still glossy. Making fudge the old fashioned way is not for the impatient. Or the lazy-armed.

In other news, it's so hard to type since my youngest has triumphed in his quest to denude the keyboard of my laptop. This is why I leave you with useless birding pictures and a crappy video taken at the most recent VW meetup at the Manila Yacht Club. My husband is a VW guy so you'll probably find us at most gatherings.

 There's a bird on that boat somewhere, but you won't be able to tell from this picture.

This bird? 

And this bird? They're the same kind. You don't have to take my word for it but my guidebook tells me it's a rufous night heron.

And here's a video with VWs, monobloc table legs, some cops, and Mark chasing Cameron.

It all boils down to,,, the fact that I blogged today. :D

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Green Saturday: Marilaque Highway and Palaya Natural Farm

Our weekend was really busy, which I'm glad about because the rains are coming and it would be harder to spend time outdoors.

We were able to go back to Little Baguio, Infanta to check out the weather in the summer. We went there in November for the Kombi Run and it was cold, windy, and misty. We were hoping for the same temps but without the strong winds and the thick fog. Unfortunately, it wasn't cold this time. It was cooler up there than in the city, but didn't warrant the jackets we brought along in anticipation of much lower temperatures. It's nice to be able to clearly see the view this time though. Mark, Marguerite, and I went up the bluff across the road from the bulalohan we ate at and the view was spectacular. We were even treated to a few raptors soaring above. I wish I had the binoculars with me but they were in my bag inside the car. I should just have the thing hanging from my neck all the time.

In any case, I'd like to go back for some proper birding. We saw a lot of different species while on the road, but it wasn't the kind of trip where we could stop and watch, so I have no idea what we saw. I know I saw a big monitor lizard along the side of the road, but it disappeared into the thicket before I could take a picture.

We also visited Palaya Natural Farm for its market day on the way back to the city. It was pretty much at the end of a looooo-oooo-oooo-ooong and winding dirt road. It was like a baptism of fire for my sister's new sedan! Our own vehicle has four wheel drive, but it was still a grueling ride for us. The destination was a delight though. I wish we had gone earlier in the day and spent more time there. It was heaven to see all those plants. I wanted to buy a whole bunch of them, but I didn't get the chance to shop, too busy chasing after the boys (wow, twenty-five years totally changed the context of that phrase, lol). We did get to buy fresh produce, and my mom also bought some herbs for her garden.

Because we got there so late, we didn't have time to see much of the place, just the area where the market was set up. It was still really charming with vegetable gardens, trees, huts, swings, and, more importantly, a nice, clean little river flowing right nearby. The kids loved wading in it. They would have been happy to stay in the water, but it started drizzling and we had to find shelter.

While waiting for the rain to abate, we were able to chat with the owner and his son, who happens to have also been homeschooled. They told us about the farm and its advocacy, the fascination of watching a dragon fruit flower bloom, which only happens at night, and the different offerings they have on the farm. We're certainly intrigued by the idea of non-smelly pigs and are eager to check those out. They also have a pond for fishing higher up in their property. That's something we're doing as well when we go back because, make no mistake, we're definitely giving the place a proper visit soon.

There's so much to see and experience. The whole outfit spans more than 60 hectares and consists of lovely verdant valleys and mountains. Those and the view along the Marilaque Highway are a treat to the eye. Seeing all that green truly felt like a balm to the soul.

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.