Saturday, 12 December 2009

the babies are coming!

If this film trailer doesn't make you broody, I don't know what will.

Friday, 21 August 2009

'the greatest president we never had'*


It has been twenty-six years since Ninoy Aquino was shot dead. I can still remember that day—anticipation heavy in the air; Tatay listening to Radio Veritas (a Catholic station, one of the very few media establishments that dared report on the activities of opposition leaders), visibly excited. And then the reports started coming from the airport: Ninoy had been shot. People waiting at the airport were scared, worried, distraught. The world, my little ten-year-old's world where nothing went horribly wrong, where there were no monsters, completely fell apart. My father, for the first time, openly angry at the Marcoses. He was dead certain they were behind the shooting. The sorrow, oh the sorrow. I'll never forget that day. I remember crying, realising with finality that our president was a bad man. I remember looking at a copy of the Sunday Bulletin magazine, which had a lengthy feature on Manuel L Quezon (born on 19 August), muttering, Marcos is no Quezon; he doesn't love his country. And I cried for this man I had only heard of a few weeks ago, when rumours of his return from exile surfaced, and my father, joyous and hopeful, started talking about how this man was going to change our country and set things right.

And he did. Through his death, he gave his country a new life. His statement, 'The Filipino is worth dying for', woke us up, dared us to prove him right. The fear, the resignation, the apathy—they all went on that fateful Sunday in 1983, to be replaced by anger, the righteous anger of a nation that had been treated so wrongly for so long. It was that anger that toppled a dictatorship and let democracy reign again in our country. For that, we shall always be grateful.




*Words uttered by another great man who should have been president too— Jovito Salonga.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

rest in peace, tita cory


Image courtesy of Associated Press


I woke up with a start at 4 o'clock this morning and I knew at once something was wrong. I went to bed late last night but didn't bother to check the news, so the first thing I did when I woke up was check the BBC website on my phone. And there it was, among the headlines: Cory Aquino passed away last night. I was too tired to feel really sad this morning, but now, sitting here and reading articles about and tributes to the late former president, I feel that I'm in full mourning.

Cory Aquino, or Tita Cory as we Filipinos fondly called her, embodied the hopes and dreams that our nation never thought could ever come true. Having suffered the atrocities of the Marcos dictatorship for twenty years, most of us had lost our voice and the will to fight. Many of us learned to be indifferent. The few who dared to oppose the Marcoses were either murdered in very savage ways ('salvaged' as we would call it) or sent to prison on the flimsiest of made-up charges.

It was only when Ninoy Aquino, Cory's husband, was assassinated upon coming home from an exile that all the pent-up rage of twenty years suddenly became too much to bear for the Filipinos. And we started taking to the streets. Suddenly, we weren't scared anymore. There were certain personalities we would never forget from that era of rallies and the never-ending threat of being doused with water cannons or worse, being fired at by anti-riot policemen. Chino Roces, Lorenzo Tañada, Pepe Diokno-venerable old men who lent dignity to the rallies. Younger political figures like Rene Saguisag, Joker Arroyo, Nene Pimentel. Artists, filmmakers, students, socialites and ordinary people like my father. They were all there. And in their midst, this tiny quiet figure in her plain yellow dress, Ninoy's widow, who had unwittingly become the moral center of the fight against the Marcoses. And how glad were we when she agreed to run for the presidency! The Marcoses knew they were done for, no matter how flagrantly they cheated and used guns to try and scare people into voting for them.

During her rule, despite the setbacks and the many coup attempts, Cory never wavered from the path of democracy that she set out for our nation. She never entertained the idea of changing the constitution so she could stay on as president-she never wanted to stay on as president. She was not greedy for power or money. She may have made some mistakes but she never stole, cheated or lied. Most of all, she kept our hopes and dreams alive, and allowed us to have opposing views and engage in debates without fearing for our safety. I attended many a political rally during her presidency and never had I been afraid of getting hurt or arrested for no reason.

The Philippines has been fast descending into the dark ages again, thanks to a president who seems bent on holding on to her seat and the growing apathy among Filipinos, especially the young ones. With Tita Cory's passing goes an era of democracy and optimism and faith in our ability to work our way out of the dark as a nation. But maybe, just maybe, her death will awaken us once again and help us remember that once upon a time, we did conquer the dark and it felt wonderful.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

“I have been laid up with intentional flu.”-samuel goldwin

Nothing intentional about this bug that I've got. I've lost my voice and have been sniffing and snuffling for more than a few days now. I had grand plans of doing potato printing today with the kids, but I was exhausted and nauseous before it was even 10 a.m. so it was back to sitting down and resting for me.

Oh, and yes, thanks to the weather forecast that I always rely on, my wash is soaking on the line right now because hey, instead of the sunny intervals throughout the day that we were promised, we are being rained down with hail. Argh.

So anyway, I hope your week has been better than mine. I'll come back when I'm not so ill and grumpy.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

a little bit of tote-fulness*

Just before school broke up for the summer, I decided to give Lucas's teachers handmade presents. Given that I had no means to bake cakes nor time to crochet some nice useful things, I was forced to rely on my crude sewing skills (and by sewing skills, I mean on the sewing machine, because I can sew by hand quite well). Hence, these little tote bags:



Each bag is just the right size to put a wallet, a small notebook and little toiletries in, and there's a pocket just big enough for a small mobile. Or some pens. Or a compact mirror. Or Post-its. See, the possibilities are endless.



I loved the fabric that I used as lining. It's so colourful and feminine. I have some left over which I'm planning to make into a skirt or a dress for Sofia.



I put a little bag of bath bombs and Lucas's handmade thank-you card in each bag. The boy was pleased with the results (he was a slave driver, reminding me every chance he got to finish the bags already please!).

I made four in two days. Yes, that's how slow I am. I could tell you about how the bobbin threader kept acting up and the needle thread kept breaking and how I had to do an unscheduled clean-up of the machine to get it going, but I'd rather not. The bags turned out well and the teachers said they loved the bags and the thoughtfulness that went into making them.


*I hate puns, but I couldn't resist this one.**

**I hate puns because they remind me of tabloid headlines and I hate tabloids.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

a prayer for cory



A prayer for a woman who showed dignity in grief and in victory and united and led a long-suffering nation in its fight against an evil regime. Get well soon, Mrs Aquino.

Friday, 17 July 2009

today is my favourite day

I couldn't find the Electric Company clip on YouTube with Julie singing 'Today Is My Favourite Day' (because it was her birthday, see) so I'm feeling a bit disappointed. I found this one though, which is my second favourite song from the show.



Remember this, Ate Ne and Ate Lenie? My Ate Lenie used to do a good imitation of Rita Moreno. Those were the days, hey?

And this clip shows why Morgan Freeman has been my hero ever since I was a child. He was ├╝ber-cool even then.



I miss The Electric Company and Sesame Street. They just don't make shows like those two anymore.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

a no-bake summer

Our oven has committed suicide, just when the summer holiday is about to begin. We think we can still revive it, we just don't feel like doing it right now. S and I have such hectic work schedules all through the summer that just the thought of having to move the darn heavy oven out of its cabinet and back in again is enough to make us groan in dread.

No oven means no baking, of course, so we've had to resort to grilling food that normally gets cooked in the oven. Does anybody have any recipe for grilled cakes? I am missing baking so badly these days and I'm sure the kids will soon notice that they've been having store-bought cakes and cookies lately. Ah well.

At least I have these to console me every day.




The lilies are in full bloom now. They are so elegant and beautiful I feel like crying 'I'm not worthy!' whenever I look out from my kitchen window and get rewarded with the sight of them. We also have cascading begonias, coreopsis and geums coming out. Unfortunately, the lupins and red hot pokers that I planted in May aren't doing as well. It was my fault, as I keep forgetting how tall the hollyhocks and the peonies grow, so they eventually dwarfed the young lupins and pokers. Sigh. They're still alive, though, so I'm still hopeful.

Edit: I just have to state that the beautiful photos (and most of the nicer photos in this blog) were taken by Simon, the official photographer of our family.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

a language murdered

I couldn't help but gasp in horror when I read this article today. Antonio Calipjo Go, an academic supervisor in the Philippines, has been campaigning against 'sick' textbooks for years now. He has exposed plenty of grammatical and factual errors in textbooks used in both public and private schools in the country. The latest culprit is a series of English grammar books, called English for You and Me, used in public schools. According to Go, the Philippine Department of Education paid the textbook publisher almost 400 million pesos (around 4 million pounds!) for the six titles in this series.

Here are some cringe-worthy quotes from the books:

  • Love one another and let them express/For life is short and leads to an end/So feel the touch and moving caress/And may God be the divine witness.
  • Read the (English) words in the box. Form as many compound words as you can by putting together two different (English) words. Be sure that the words you form are English words.
  • There is also a young woman with her hair in disorder.
  • The baby winked her eyes.
  • The small cavities of Paulo's teeth were not filled because these teeth could be strong and healthy again by eating the right kinds of food. During his next visit, the dentist found that his teeth (with unfilled cavities) were harder and had stopped decaying.
  • Ants have long hairs on their front legs. They use their hair like a brush. They clean their bodies with their tongue. When they cannot wash with their tongue, they clean with their feet. Why Do Ants Like to Clean?


I couldn't help but utter a cuss word after reading some of these sentences. The books should never have been published if they contained errors as atrocious as these.

As someone who used to work in textbook publishing in the Philippines, I know how much work ideally goes into the publishing of a book. Yes, most of the work is done by the editors because let's face it, most textbook authors are not writers. Publishers hire them because of their teaching experience. Well-known academics are in great demand as textbook authors because schools will buy books based on the authors' reputation.

Usually a manuscript that comes from an author will be made up of what appear to be randomly written bits of text, with plenty of instructions for illustrations. Only the activities will make any sense at this stage, which is quite reasonable, as teachers are supposed to be good at designing learning activities for their students. The manuscript undergoes a lot of editorial work, from content to grammar to layout. Most of the time, the finished title hardly resembles the manuscript, but the author can't complain because he or she knows the edited version is so much better.

That's how the process goes. In the case of the textbooks checked by Mr Go, however, it seems that the books totally skipped the editing stage. Which makes me wonder who the people behind the publishing house could be. I have never heard of Book Wise Publishing House, so I wonder if the owners have some connections at the DepEd. I think that if the DepEd really wanted to produce good-quality books, they would have gone to established textbook publishers in the country. The fact that this publishing house doesn't even have its own printing press (the books were printed in Thailand) is making me wonder whether it's a real business or something that someone haphazardly made up in order to bag a very substantial deal with the DepEd. Given the fact that we're talking about the Philippines here, where corruption is a way of life, I'm pretty sure I'm not just being paranoid.

If that is indeed the case, then shame on the people involved in this scam. I can just imagine what they were thinking as they planned this: 'It doesn't matter if the books are terrible. They're just going to be read by public schoolchildren. They and their teachers won't even be able to tell how bad the books are.' And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have more and more young people coming out of schools with barely enough skills to help them make their way through the world. Our government simply does not care.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

guess who's two?



She's a perky little girl with a lovely head of curls.



She runs madly around and jumps up and down.

She loves cuddly toys of all sizes, beans on toast and pretty dresses.



She talks and counts like a young Einstein,

'I'll do it myself' is her favourite line.



She comes across as a feisty young lady

but insists that she is still a baby.

So who's two?



That's right, Sofia, it's you!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

bread, at last: or why I regret giving up chocolates for Lent



Yes, I'm still alive. I had a rather disappointing beginning of March when my expectations were dashed by some rather inconsiderate people and it took all the optimism I had in me not to feel angry and hateful about it. Hey, life is tough, but there are so many good things about it as well.

Take handmade bread, for instance. After a long wait, I finally got my copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. After a few more weeks of trying to find the right equipment (measuring cups, loaf pans, a tub for the dough), I finally managed to make my first dough. I was craving for something sweet-ish, so I decided to make the brioche dough. I don't have enough fridge space for a big bucket of dough, so I halved the recipe. The initial preparation was surprisingly quick and easy. There were a couple of hours of anxious waiting for the dough to rise and fall in the mixing bowl, but that happened eventually and it was ready to go into storage.



I made this brioche loaf the next day. The smell that wafted from the oven was plain heavenly. I couldn't wait to taste the bread when I got it out. Best of all, the kids loved it too. And this is why part of me is annoyed with myself for giving up chocolates for Lent: this brioche is perfect with Nutella. My kids said so!





To get around this no-chocolates-for-Lent rule, I decided to make a cinnamon loaf with the rest of the dough. It wasn't a big hit with the kids (who are not big fans of cinnamon, except when it's in apple cake) but I loved it. Scrumptious, yummy bread.



I didn't get very good results with my next batch of dough, however. I tried to follow the American-style white bread dough recipe, but was too excited to notice that the flour I was using was labelled 'fine' so I ended up putting too much into the dough. The resulting bread wasn't as fluffy as it should be. Ah well. That's one mistake I won't be making again.

All in all, it was a great initiation into the world of making handmade bread. Once I get more space in my fridge, I'll prepare my next batch of dough.

Friday, 13 March 2009

i was going to post about bread . . .

. . . but I watched 'American Idol' last night (we get it a day late here in the UK) and I'm still feeling blown away by Adam Lambert's performance. I never thought I'd ever get into watching something like 'American Idol' but as soon as I caught a glimpse of this really cute guy with the glam rock look and heard him sing (the voice, the range, the confidence!), I was hooked. More so when he spoke and my gaydar went off like mad, making me mutter 'Velvet Goldmine' over and over like a mantra.

Anyway, I'm so glad he's been doing really well. Even Simon (my husband, not Mr Cowell, although he was very impressed too) liked his rendition of 'Black and White' last night. I'm in full fag hag mode again. I just love it whenever I find a beautiful, talented gay man to obsess with admire.

Here's a clip I found on YouTube of a number from 'The Ten Commandments the Musical' (with Val Kilmer playing Moses! No, he's not a great singer, but he had a good supporting cast). Adam must have lungs of steel; how he can sustain those high notes is a mystery to me. Yumminess.




I'll go back to regular programming and write about bread (my first attempt at baking brioche) in my next post.

Monday, 2 March 2009

spring comes at last



There's no denying it. Everywhere we go there are tiny colourful things that remind us that spring is here. A group of crocuses here, a bunch of daffodils there. The birdsongs that we wake up to in the morning are more varied and energetic.



We marked the beginning of spring by adding a den and a slide to the children's climbing frame in the garden. I also bought some new bulbs to put in the ground. The children have been enjoying the den and slide and Simon and I have been enjoying the flowers coming out in our garden.



Today the sun is out and despite my still recovering from a tummy bug (no, I didn't get it from eating at the Fat Duck), I actually feel happy and hopeful.

Things I'm enjoying:

  • Planning which plants are going this year into our garden—Garlic and onions are definitely on the list for the vegetable patch. I've promised Simon that I will just go for hardy perennials for the flowers from now on - no more delicate, frost-sensitive tubers like the dahlias I bought two years ago!
  • Reading The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield
  • Spending a lot of time doing girly things with my little girl—Sofia loves playing rough games with the boys, but she equally loves more sedate activities such as window shopping, going through my cosmetics bag and spraying on three different perfumes on herself, rummaging through my fabrics and yarns and sitting down on my lap for a long reading session (she's still crazy about Miffy, Eric Carle and the Ahlbergs' baby books, but is now beginning to enjoy the Elsa Beskow books I bought for her).
  • Watching the wonderful BBC series The Victorians—Presented by the no-nonsense news presenter Jeremy Paxman, the four-part series takes a close look at life in the Victorian age. Throughout each episode Mr Paxman, a Victorian art lover, relates important events to paintings that had come out at the same time.






Things I'm looking forward to:

  • Reading Watchmen— I thought I'd better read it before it gets murdered on screen. Poor Alan Moore. His books are so great that every filmmaker out there just wants to make them into films. But so far, none of them have succeeded in making films that are worthy of the books. In fact, the film versions have all been utter failures.
  • Finishing the bunting that I'm making for Sofia's room.
  • Working on a series of watercolour pictures. More on that later.
  • Easter—Mainly because I stopped eating chocolate for Lent. Simon totally forgot and bought me a box of truffles from Hotel Chocolat last Saturday. And now I have to fight the urge every day (more like every hour, really) to just open the box and sneak a piece out. Sigh.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

hearts

I thought I'd better post these photos from Valentine's Day before February ends. I had grand plans of putting up Valentine decorations all over the house, but in the end, I just made these Valentine thingies. I don't quite know what to call them as I followed a recipe for biscuits but the dough turned out so sticky that I couldn't roll it at all. I had to bake it as a cake then just cut out the heart shapes afterwards.



Sofia called them cakes (although the word came out as 'takes') though so I guess they were just that. Except that they weren't as soft and moist as normal cakes. I bought a few vials of Sugarcraft dusting colours on impulse while I was in town one day and used two of them (peach and blue) to colour the icing on the cakes.



These two biscuits take the prize for being the most 'Valentiney' things in our home. They were baked and iced by Sofia while she was at the childminders'. I have to admit, though, that they were so frighteningly red none of us dared eat them.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

this made me laugh



The problem with some atrociously written songs is that they're so catchy they get stuck in your head for years. And years. You might even find yourself singing them unexpectedly, out of the shower, and in front of your cool friends. Before you know it, your reputation as a connoisseur of good music is shot. Ugh.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

my kids

He's mad about Moomin.



She's just plain mad.

candlemas





Some of these candles almost didn't get decorated, as the children were so busy playing in the snow in our back garden. Who can blame them? They hadn't seen this much snow before. Neither had the rest of the country in eighteen years.

They eventually came in from the cold, and after a nice hot bubble bath, got down to the business of getting the candles ready for our Candlemas celebration. We melted wax crayons, which they quickly dabbed on to the candles with wooden skewers and watercolour brushes.

We switched off all the lights and lit the candles at dinnertime. Sofia couldn't resist trying to blow the candles out after every mouthful of her dinner, but the candlelight put everyone in a good, almost-contemplative (it's hard to tell if this was true with Sofia) mood. It was cold and snowy outside, but warm inside our home. Just as it should be.



Friday, 30 January 2009

scenes from a winter day













Monday, 12 January 2009

january clearance

There. I've done it. I've quit my job. Good-bye, work-related stress. Hello, unemployment. Actually, it's not that bad. Once all the legal stuff has been sorted out, I'll be able to work freelance for the company. All in all, this should be a good thing.

I've been spendng the past couple of weeks just tidying up, making plans, signing the children up for swimming classes and finding a piano teacher for Lucas (I never thought this would turn out to be so difficult; piano teachers are in great demand in our area!). Simon bought me this organizer for Christmas, which has proved to be a great help. I'm comfortable with all things digital, but deep inside, I'm still an analogue girl. I prefer writing on pretty paper to typing my thoughts out on the computer, and despite my promise to Simon to use Google calendar for planning our daily activities, I still prefer to write everything down on a paper calendar. That's why I'm definitely loving my bulky organiser. I had to spend a few days copying birthdays, anniversaries, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses from my phone and computer to the organiser, but it's nice to see most of the information I need in just one place. I have my to-do lists and budget and menu plans in there as well. I know I sound like I've just made a huge discovery here, and most of you probably have an organiser like this, but I really have no idea how I managed to do do without one for the past six years. Life feels so much easier now.

New beginnings require new rituals so we're slowly adding them to our lives. Sofia and I have discovered the joys of duck spotting in our local meadows. Every school day, after dropping Lucas off, she and I wander down the park and onto the meadows. We normally catch the ducks swimming down the stream that runs through the estate. When it's not too cold, we stop for a few minutes to give them bits of bread. Sofia has a funny way of feeding them—she holds up the bread, shouts 'Duck!' and throws the bread at her feet. Of course the ducks are too wary to go near her and wait until we leave before they touch the bread.

I'm also trying to get our family more attuned to the rhythm of nature by celebrating festivals. I found two great books on festivals, both used in Steiner-Waldorf education: All Year Round: A Calendar of Celebrations (Lifeways) and Festivals, Family and Food (Lifeways). The books contain information on the festivals for each season, along with games, songs and recipes related to each festival. The first one we're celebrating is Candlemas, on the second of February. The children and I will decorate some candles on Sunday to prepare for the festival. Maybe we'll come up with our own Candlemas cake as well.

Maybe there'll be some Candlemas music as well, now that the little ones have a real piano to tinker with. It has been crazy around here since the piano arrived on Tuesday. It has been an object of faascination for children and adults alike. Oh, the look on Sofia's face when she sat on the piano stool and discovered that she can make music by pressing a few keys. She has tried fingers, elbows and feet to do the pressing, her whole tiny body sliding across the stool as she tries to hit the lowest and highest notes. It is pure delight! In a few weeks' time, Lucas will start his piano lessons. So much excitement around here! I'm so glad I'm here at home to witness all these.