Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Turkey's Dread

Last week, my second grader had to work on his 'Turkey In Disguise' project. Admittedly, my being foreign-born and -bred made me clueless as to the rationale of a turkey wanting to be something else. It's during those times when Google becomes an indispensable best friend. 

In the end, my son decided he wanted his turkey to be Batman in order to avoid being hunted and eaten. And since I'm a normal mom with other concerns and don't exactly swoon over each and every school project my son completes, I didn't bother taking a picture of his Batman turkey. Instead, I have Mr. Boxer Champ below as a sample picture just to give some of you an idea as to what this 'tradition' is all about. 

A Turkey in Disguise

In any case, I got inspired by this school project to create a haiku, something brief so as not to interfere too much in the chaos that I'm sure we'll all experience at some point during the festivities this week.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! 
And remember--Be kind to your turkey and try to do it justice.  

The Turkey's Dread

In disguise this week,
I'm hoping to spare myself
from mushy stuffing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Too Much is Never Enough in Food Network Land

Original Image by: Beverley Goodwin

I'm not a big fan of Thanksgiving. Sure I appreciate its meaning, its historical significance, and that for most, it marks the beginning of a long holiday season filled with both family time and overindulgence. It's the American way after all. 

However, I just don't have the same level of emotional attachment to it as I do towards Christmas, or even the New Year. Though I've learned to embrace it and join in the celebration, I still generally feel as if this holiday is alien to me, perhaps mainly because I didn't grow up having this holiday to celebrate in the Philippines. Maybe it's also because I'm not a big fan of turkey and haven't met stuffing that I understood, let alone impressed me. Who knows?

So in an effort to get in the mood and have better understanding of all the fuss that surrounds this holiday, where do I turn to? --- The Food Network.  Because let's face it. The holidays just won't be the same without acquainting ourselves with all the possible calories and diabetes-inducing treats we can consume. 

Though I enjoy watching a number of the network's shows and even record a few of them (mainly because they relax me), I've come to notice something extremely annoying, and something that I feel transforms the experience from a G rating to PG. And no, it doesn't have anything to do with the amount of cleavage I see, nor the unsexy guest chef / restaurateur who consistently describes all the food he stuffs his mouth with as 'sexy' and thinks it's so eloquent. Let's not even go there. 

What I'm talking about here is the "Too, too".

Since when has it become grammatically acceptable to say that? I don't know if these cooking 'stars' are just trying to be cute, but I hope they know it doesn't really make sense when they say it.

"Now, I like to put a little bit of hot sauce, but not too too much."

"Stir in the chocolate chips into the dough, but not too too much. You don't wanna overdo it."

"Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the top...just a little, not too too much."

It. Drives. Me. Insane!!!!

God forbid my second-grader starts thinking it's acceptable to speak this way, and so now I make it a point to pay closer attention and make sure he doesn't start picking up on this nonsense.

What exactly should that mean? Why isn't 'too much' enough anymore? Is it in addition to in addition to? Is it to an even higher degree than the higher degree? Seriously, what the hell is it supposed to mean? Should it just be a little too much and not more than that? More than what?

I have no idea who started this but I'm afraid it's becoming a stupid trend. I've counted at least three cooking celebrities who speak this way, from the kitchen, to the beach house, and up to the middle of nowhere. They spit it out so naturally and with no awkwardness whatsoever. It hurts my ears and makes me squirm, much like when I hear people drop the 'ng' sound at the end of their words and replace them with just the 'n' sound (e.g. 'overpowereen'; 'freakeen'; 'lovin'; 'chatteen').

Am I just getting too old? 
Is it just me or have you noticed such things too and found yourself shaking your head too too much? *Dammit!*

Friday, November 14, 2014

When We Became Three: A Family Adventure

*All opinions expressed in this post are my own. I was provided with an e-copy of the book for the purpose of this review, and was not financially compensated. This post also includes an affiliate link (Amazon Services LLC Associates Program) which means a commission may be credited to this site when a purchase is made through that link.


As far as my mother is concerned, I'm one of the best story tellers she has ever met. Among her children, she says I'm the most animated and I suppose, most curious as well. Okay, maybe 'nosy' would be her exact word but you get the picture.

I didn't grow up in an outdoorsy or adventurous family. My idea of adventure really revolved around searching for hidden treasures around our house -- (Translate: sneaking into my parents' room to very carefully and systematically go through my mom's closet and eventually be able to open THE trunk). It's an antique army metal trunk which she inherited from my grandfather. I remember feeling the rush as soon as I open her closet door and see the olive green metal box in front of me.

One of the things I loved pulling out of that trunk was my mom's scrapbook. My mom was never the craftsy type. She was a busy working mother and couldn't be bothered with cutting and gluing to make things look nice. But she was organized and was able to do her best to document our major milestones. Leafing through her scrapbook, I remember seeing cut hair from our first haircut; our umbilical cord; or first tooth pulled out. I loved looking at bits of my life that I don't remember and have always admired my mom for being able to do all the documentation for three kids.

I have only one child and can hardly keep up with it. I have pictures and papers around my desk from five or so years ago, noting down something funny that my son said, or something remarkable he did, and I keep promising myself I will create a nice, fancy scrapbook that will put every Pinterest mom to shame....Yeah right!

In addition to my curiosity about my childhood, I'm sure my mom would agree if I said that I was the most curious about how she and my dad started out, as a couple and then as parents. I guess very early on I couldn't deny the hopeless romantic in me. The trouble is, every time I asked my parents for information, I was left feeling even thirstier for details than when I first asked. 

And this is why I was so thrilled to be acquainted with this book 'When We Became Three' by Jill Caryl Weiner.


It's a family journal, and not just your typical 'baby book'. It's something I can get for myself to fill out for my now seven year-old child, as well as a thoughtful gift for either expecting or new parents.

There are so many things that impressed me about this cutting edge memory book, but I'd like to highlight my Top Three Reasons:

1.  It's highly insightful. This book will not only require you to write down the same old facts that the usual baby book offers. Instead it's like having your personal novelist write the outline of your story for you and your partner to fill out the details to make it your own; details such as why you love being your child's parents, or what you wish you had done differently with regard to childbirth. There's a section on 'The Painful Truth' where parents can write about certain baby stages that scare them or were difficult for them to experience, as well as how they dealt with it. That truly resonated with me and kudos to Jill for having the wisdom to include such an important section.

2. It's refreshingly creative, truly one of a kind. This memory book captures the 'real' without being predictable or cookie cutter. Seriously, where else can you find a memory book that includes "Yoda" as a choice you can tick to complete the sentence, "Baby looks like...." But it's brilliant, isn't it? Or what about the page about Mom with an item that says, "Height in heels or flats", and "Hair color at the time"? It's simply adorable!

3. (And this is my top reason for falling in love with this book!)-- It includes BOTH parents, unlike other memory or baby books in the market that are solely baby-centric. This book feeds the romantic in me, in that it includes the love story of the parents, as well as sections that focus on the individuality of the parents before they even became 'Mom & Dad'. Emphasis was placed, not just on parenthood or couplehood, but also on the individual traits and experiences of each parent. Also unlike most memory books, this one also puts a spotlight on Dad. I really think that's an important element in a memory book, at least for families with a traditional role set-up (i.e. those with a 'mom' and 'dad').

Stories are meant to make you feel something. In reading this memory book, even with the details left blank, I found a truly endearing narrative, and I asked myself how it made me feel. 

Sure, I felt nostalgic. That's a given with any memory book. 

But beyond that, I felt grateful. Grateful for the good, the bad, the new normal reached as you become a parent, which Weiner successfully highlighted in this book. And as far as I'm concerned, anything that can pave the way for more gratitude in my life is a welcome experience. I assume this to be true for all jaded parents out there. 

Hopefully, when I finish filling out my copy of this book, my son won't have to dig through a trunk or chest that I've hidden somewhere in the house. I can just give it to him and he will be on his way to a lovely adventure, with all the details he would ever need to discover who he is, who mom and dad were (or are), and most of all, how we became three.

*With the holidays coming, I can't think of a better, more meaningful gift for parents, new AND old. You can get your copy of When We Became Three by clicking on the image below.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lessons From My Two Imperfect Weddings

This week I celebrated my wedding anniversary. My 'other' wedding anniversary for the year, is what I call it.

You see, I married the same person twice; one was a civil ceremony, while the other, a church (Catholic) ceremony.

And neither one was perfect.

My civil wedding happened three months after I entered the United States. We had to do it very quickly to take advantage of my Mom being here on vacation at the time. More importantly, we didn't have the luxury of delaying for obvious immigration requirements. I entered a tourist, and ended up being engaged and, eventually, married to a U.S. citizen. (You can read more about this story here).

Lacking in preparation, as well as funds, it meant compromising on a lot of things and forgoing certain traditional elements in a wedding.

I had to go to Nordstrom to buy my (first) wedding dress and it was a champagne colored three-piece gown. It was gorgeous and I've gotten so much mileage out of that dress. But it wasn't white and certainly didn't make me look or feel like a princess.

On my wedding day, I opted to do my own hair and make-up. I didn't see the need to fuss over it considering I was only headed to the courthouse, a quick in and out, and that there was no party afterward. Lunch was served for intimate family and friends at our favorite Chinese dim sum restaurant in Chicago. There was no dancing-the-night-away affair, nor a DJ to play the Chicken Dance, the Cha Cha Slide or Y.M.C.A.

The most imperfect detail of that day was the fact that my groom had a severe gout attack. He was in so much pain that he couldn't help but limp and wince with every step, and it certainly took the element of romance out of the entire morning. At some point it made me wonder if it was a case of cold feet. But no. It was uric acid toe.

Short of a year and a half after that, we finally had our church wedding. We decided to do this for our faith, and to share our union with more friends and family. Objectively speaking, however, I felt it was sort of anti-climactic and was really just a formality. There was not much excitement to it since I had already been married to this man for a year and four months. 

We had a guest list of close to 300, but still didn't include majority of my family and friends from the Philippines. Instead, probably close to half of our list was filled with names I didn't know, people who didn't know me either.

For this second wedding ceremony, I did go to a bridal store to get my traditional white dress. But the whole experience was so anti-'Say Yes To The Dress'. I went in by myself (no female relatives and close girl friends for a cheering squad), showed the associate a picture of the dress I had already picked online, fitted it and paid for it. There was no ambivalence, and definitely no drama and the 'oh-my-God-this-is-it-I-feel-like-a-princess-bride-goddess' moment. Though I loved my dress and thought it was beautiful, my thought bubble was more like, 'Shit-can-I-really-wear-this-all-night-long-and-do-I-really-have-to'?

And did I mention how I hated our photographer who eventually screwed us by twisting part of the contract and wanted to overcharge? I was also bloated on that day as it was the time of the month and I don't think he was skillful enough to feature my better angles. 

For a perfectionist (now a recovering one), all these glitches felt like shards of glass I was forced to swallow. I had to compromise on a lot of details which made the reality quite far from the vision I've held on to for years prior to finding the man I would marry.

But maybe that was the Universe being kind to me. Instead of feeling like the stars were conspiring against me, I believe the imperfections in my weddings were trying to teach me two things: (1) that perspective can be my best friend; (2) that weddings, like marriages, are never perfect and that the success of the journey ahead depends heavily on the partners' willingness to compromise. 

So what that there was no dancing and partying for my first wedding? I never really enjoyed dancing anyway and to be honest, hearing the Cha Cha Slide and Chicken Dance only makes me want to shoot myself in the head.

So what that our first 'reception' was at a dim sum place? We love Chinese food! 

So what that neither one of my dresses made me tear up, nor made me look like a princess? In truth, I wish I could've just gotten married wearing jeans and riding boots. And it really doesn't matter that my dresses didn't make me cry because both the officiating judge and the priest did that for my husband and me. I remember the judge saying how comfortable my husband and I both seemed, compared to other nervous, seemingly uncertain couples. And I still remember my husband tearing up, his voice shaking when he was saying his vows to me in church. I would take those tears any day over simply tearing up at the bridal stores.

So what that I didn't like certain small details? Beside me was a man who did all he can to marry me, TWICE, and who was clearly committed to loving me and building a family with me. It doesn't make sense to be upset over the little wedding wrinkles and thorns. After all, as the years go by and our relationship continues to grow, what we truly celebrate is not the wedding but our Marriage. 

It's not because we said "I Do" twice that makes us strong. It's that, after ten years, we still continue to constantly choose to be each other's witnesses to how our souls are being perfected through our imperfect union.