Wednesday, October 31, 2012

November 1 All Saints' day. I hate to steal the thunder from all these haloed beings, but, exactly six years today, I messaged Kristan telling him that I love and care for him too. (I knooooow, the cringe! But please indulge me.)

Totally unrelated. This was our "proposal" photo - 4 years after that November 1

Like most of our major life decisions, it was also an impulsive leap of faith - that text message. For one, we started exchanging text messages the morning of October 31, and stopped only the following day - the afternoon of November 1- without sleeping even for a minute! Even when I took my bath or ate my meals that day, my other hand still twiddled with my phone, anxious to send a reply - even if it was only a nonsense Hehehe with a lot of smileys in the end. So you can blame it on the lack of sleep that my emotions got the best of me. 

For another, and more importantly, I realized now that you don't really know you love a person just by two days of looking at him differently. True, at that time, it had just been two days (thereabouts) since he was promoted in my book from the friend zone to an "interesting person" category.  But then, he was interesting enough to reduce me to a mere instrument with no other thought than to reply with "I love you". And to me, that was the perfect thing to do right at that very moment.

That reply was empty words, or if it had meaning at all, still, it paled beside the true meaning of I love you and I care for you. That reply had no sense - just pure instinct, sparkling and undeniable interest, and perhaps a little kilig.

But that reply was indeed the perfect thing to do, because it gave us an opportunity to learn about unconditional love.

Now, 'I love you' makes more sense.   It speaks of our commitment to stay in love even if we turn out to be the most annoying person with the most unbearable attitude.  It is no longer instinctive, it has become a decision. A decision that took six years in the making, and will take the rest of our lives to stand by.

I love you Mahal :) To six years and beyond. 

P.S. Akin ang remote mamaya. Nag-sara na ang PBA.

(Tan: Start na ng NBA!)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gandhi...or not?

One of my bestfriends, and also Zohan's Ninang, Jona, invited us to their house blessing which, incidentally, fell on their subdivision's annual Trick or Treat. It was Zohan's first ever Halloween party (mine,too!), so I just had to look for a cute outfit.

After I learned how utterly expensive ready-made costumes were, I decided to just create one for Zohan. So Kristan and I browsed through the internet to look for interesting ideas. After narrowing down our choices, we unanimously voted on this one:

Photo taken from Pinterest

At the back of my mind, I was ecstatic at the thought of Zohan (who is Zahir Mohandas in real life) sporting a true Gandhi fashion. I would have wanted a bald head and a plastic reading glass to go with the outfit, but I soon realized that to do so would be a little over the top.

Inspired to create a DIY outift, I went to Glorietta and bought a yard of maroon cloth (P150) and half a yard of yellow cloth (P62) for the outfit. I also added a wooden black bead necklace (at P70) which I saw at Landmark. Good thing Zohan had a Moses-type sandals at home which looked perfect for the outift. As opposed to P600 to P1000 price range of ready-to-wear halloween costumes, I spent only P282, and came out with this:

In my attempt to convince myself that I had done a wonderful job of bringing Mohandas Gandhi to life, I immediately sent a photo of Zohan in said outfit to two of his Ninangs, and after several exchanges:

Ninang Joyce: Mare, mukha syang from Nepal! or Tibet!

(But Gandhi was from India, right?)

Ninang KQ: Sino ang character nya mare?

(Wasn't he a give-away Gandhi?? I mean, do I really have to go for the faux glass or bald the poor boy's head?)

A sense of panic kicked in, so I sent the same picture to Kristan, and asked:

Me: Mahal, parang hindi agad na-gets nila Ninang yung costume nya :-( Hindi ba sya obvious na Gandhi?

And the unimaginable came in:

Kristan: Huh??! Anong Gandhi?? Hindi naman sya si Gandhi! Buddhist monk sya. Monk yung ginaya natin. Pag puti ang suot, yun si Gandhi.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bitten by the Jollibee Bug

So I thought parents made all that up - the Jollibee fascination of kids. Having a one year old got me convinced. Kids really do enjoy Jollibee parties, and for Zohan, he absolutely loved the spaghetti, too!

Zohan's first and only cousin TJ celebrated her first birthday in Jollibee. And I must say, I was a little surprised how Zohan seemed to enjoy the party even at his young age.

Look who's a happy camper
He delightfully finished almost an entire order of spaghetti. It was funny seeing him all messed up in his face. And he didn't want Nanay to be spoonfeeding him. He could not yet eat on his own so it took him forever to finish his food. And not without traces of spaghetti sauce all over his face and his clothes. Such a messy eater! 

Of course, he is still too young to join, or even understand, any of the games prepared for the kids. But it was just a delight seeing him clapping every so often whenever he saw the other kids clapping and laughing. It reaffirms what has not yet dawn to me - that we now have a little boy who will tag us along to possibly a lot of kiddie parties in the future. OMG we now have a little boy!

The kid who got cropped in the photo is Paul - Kristan's inaanak. He's Zohan's constant playmate whenever we go home to Kristan's hometown. Zohan was giving him the gigil face - so cute!

And he became attached to this balloon, which he never let go of until the party's over. He was playing with it on our way home, but I was afraid the darn stick might hurt his eyes so I forcibly took it away. There was a lot of crying involved, but I was used to that by now. 

I liked this photo very much. Looking at it felt like these angas boys were suddenly transformed into doting titos. These are the Cristobal boys who adore Zohan so much, as you can probably tell. They are all itching to teach him basketball, Tatay included. Right now, Zohan's favorite toy is his small basketball, so we'll see about their dreams.

These are the Cristobal girls - they are Kristan's pretty sisters and his loving Mama. The only guy up there is TJ's Dad.

And this is the only decent family photo that we have - and we were not even looking at the camera! Well, except for Zohan. 

This was the part where Jollibee the mascot showed up. While the rest of the older kids were frantically jumping and shouting in excitement, Zohan clung to me like a glue and wouldn't allow me to go anywhere near them. Haha! It was his first time to see a mascot. I hope he get over his fear of it sooner than later so that he could start truly enjoying the rest of the kiddie parties in our books.

Happy Birthday, TJ! Here's a birthday smack from your Kuya Zohan. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Photobook Project

Guess what just arrived today, straight from Malaysia!

It's our wedding photobook, which I have been raving about on twitter. If you have no idea about what a photobook is, well, welcome to the club! I didn't know about it either until I saw it being offered on a discount in one of the group buying sites. 

Here's how the system works:  You need to look for a photobook provider to print your photos in a coffee table book. Then, you have to download the provider's software (for free!) which will take just a few minutes. Easy Peasy. 

Next, you have to choose the photos and create your own lay-out. Yep, the labor is yours, as well as the style, designs, arrangements - all the not-fun stuff if you weren't born an artist like me! It took me several nights (which would start when the boy is finally asleep!) to finish the damn thing. It was the laying out (and selecting which ones to print from a thousand photos) which was the hardest for me. 

After you finish your lay-out, upload it, pay for it online, and wait for the confirmation of your order, then you can sit back and relax. It took seven days to arrive, and I didn't even know it came straight from Malaysia until I saw the package.

I chose to create one for our wedding photos, given that we actually didn't have a wedding album - just a couple of photos printed and a virtual album on Facebook. Such a shame. So before we totally forget what really happened that day or who celebrated with us, I decided to give this photobook a try. If things would  turn out well, I had planned to do another one for Zohan's first birthday party photos.

There were actually a lot of photobooking services out there in the market, but so far, it was Photobook Philippines which had good reviews. So I decided to try it out. I chose the Imagewrap style for the cover, Medium portrait size (it's 8x11 inches) with 40 pages. The pages were made of 170 gsm Premium Silk. It costs P3,500.00 (I know, it's expensive!), but I liked their Facebook Page and I was given 40% discount. I paid a total of P2,300, including the shipping fees.

Kristan and I were so thrilled when it arrived, but we became a little disappointed when the supposed front page, which was this:

 ..was interchanged with the supposed back page cover, which was this:


I was not really sure if it was their fault, or - knowing how computer illiterate I could get - I may have committed some error uploading it and accidentally had it interchanged. I did not bother reaching out for the USB in my bag to verify the saved copy of the photobook project -- spilled milk and all.

Anyway, there were a couple of pictures which made up for it, like these:

Now come to think of it, the aesthetics were products of my lay-out, while the quality of the photo could be attributed to our talented photographer back then, Joyce Ducut. Photobook just had them printed, so, I guess I should just commend their quality printing and the good paper. Oh, and their efficient service.

If you have important photos, which somehow did not land on a tangible photo album, you might want to give Photobook a try. If you are willing to take a certain level of risk to save a few bucks, there's a 75% discount offered by Groupon (from P3,570 down to P899), in collaboration with Photobook Philippines. I haven't tried Groupon yet, and Kristan recently had a very bad experience with a group buying site, so I'm wary of trying out new deal sites and risking hard-earned money again.

At any rate, I will still get Photobook Philippines to do another photobook project, this time for Zohan's first birhday party. But first, I need to catch up on my zleep.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Zohan sets his foot in UP

..and it was a hopeful premonition of sorts for me.

I came from a different school but I had always been fascinated with UP education and its products. To this day, I had not met a single person who came from UP whom I didn't like. Ok, that sounded non-sequitur, but I just happened to associate UP people with intellect, humility and simplicity. My husband and most of my closest friends were UP grads. They were all incredibly funny and sensible, with a good dose of humility.

The point of that rather verbose introduction was my dream for Zohan to be UP educated. So it was quite momentous for me that Zohan set his foot in UP for the first time.

Last Saturday, the husband had a work meeting in UP and we decided to tag along. Husband dropped us off at the Acad Oval, so the minute Zohan alighted from the car, he was greeted by the luscious greeneries and a breath of fresh air. Initially, he was quite apprehensive to roam around and explore his surroundings – perhaps a little overwhelmed by the enormous shift to a sprawling yard from his usual four-cornered space.
After a while, he became comfortable and started pulling me towards the kids who were playing soccer from afar. 
It was a humid mid-day, and with the scorching heat of the sun and with my growling tummy, there was no way I was caving in to the whim of that little mister. Politely, he settled into picking up trash, dried roots, leaves and God-knows-what from the ground.
 If he were a little older to understand and appreciate, I would have invited his attention to the Educ Building where his Tatay and I hung out on our first date. Too bad I forgot to take a photo of the building, for added drama to this story-telling. (If you have a photo of it, please, can I borrow?)  

On that first date, we spent the entire night sitting by those steps and talking about everything that came to our love-drunken minds. Everytime I look back at those times, I couldn't help but think of the movie Before Sunrise and Before Sunset – which I only came to know and watch recently. We were similar to those kids, we were drawn to each other by conversation from the intellectual to the mundane. The following day, after our first serious conversation, we weren't able to look at each other the way we did when we were just friends. And that started the happy chapters of our lives. Anyway, that's a story apt for a separate post.

After walking in the Sunken Garden for a while, Zohan grew tired, and his companions hungry. We decided to have lunch at Beachhouse, which I tried for the first time. It was not as cheap as I had expected, but they served one of the tastiest boneless bangus and barbeques, so I was sold out.

While waiting for our orders, at Beach House

After lunch, and in a true going-out-for-a-picnic fashion, we loitered under the shades of the gigantic trees by the Acad Oval while eating taho. Zohan liked it, which was a surprise, because he had refused to eat one before. Or, was he aware he was in UP?

I didn't notice how sweaty he was until I uploaded this photo. Poor boy!


It didn't took long before his Tatay finished with his meeting and we had to go. I left with a hopeful heart that Zohan would call the place his second home in the years to come. 
Well, he seemed too close for comfort, because he left a stinky smell and a small non-biodegradable trash just before he left - if you know what I mean ;)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Family Budgeting Tips for Dummies

I have to admit - starting up a family and trying to make it on our own, from scratch, was one of the toughest challenges we ever had to hurdle as a newly married couple. In fact, more than a year into the marriage, and we are still learning the ropes of the game. 

I attribute the difficulty to starting late in almost everything (the downside of spending more years in school than the usual four-year course). It took us more than eight years before we started establishing a career, enjoying our salary through thoughtless spending, and giving back to our respective families. By the time that we got married, we were barely even scratching the surface of a frivolous life. And now, as a married couple, we are often torn between wanting to try a little extravagance, and trying mightily to become responsible spenders. Most of the time, the voice of Robert Kiyosaki saying "delay gratification" wins, and I owe that a lot to the husband. (If it were up to me, we'd mostly be eating bagoong and kamatis in our newfangled shirts!)

So far, these simple rules work for us. If you are a starting family like us, and are mostly clueless about the whole budgeting shindig, you might pick up a thing or two from this list:

1.  Know thy enemies and keep a healthy distance. 

The mall is a dangerous, dangerous place, so we stay away from them. The Cristobal's hardly go out. During weekends, we either go home to our provinces or stay at home. Remember the adage, what you don't know won't kill you - well, if you have no idea that prices are at 70% off, you'll never know what you're missing. So stay away from temptation and live your life in peace.

Seatsales and promos are dangerous, too. If you know that CebPac is offering piso fare, chances are, even if you don't have the money to spend for a trip to the Caramoan islands, you will be enticed to make way for an unplanned trip. And we all know it doesn't take one peso to do that! So, I opted to remove all my email notifications from airline promos. Travel will have to wait.

2. If you have to spend, look for the cheapest way to do it.

No matter how hard we try not to spend, there are of course, things that we really have to buy. And when we do, we make sure we are getting the best deals. Take for instance - gas. Prices are way lower in Tagaytay/Batangas compared to Manila, so everytime we go home to my province, we fill up the gas tank. 

We also do the groceries once a month and we buy things in bulk. Kitchen supplies like soysauce, cooking oil, vinegar, etc. are bought in large quantities that could last us for a month, or even longer. These techniques save us a lot of energy, gas and money. If we run out of anything during the interim, say, coffeemate, we all have to make do with black coffee until the next grocery date.

3. Group-buying sites, contests and promos are there for a reason - utilize it wisely.

To prevent feeling absolutely deprived (which can be a dangerous thing,too!), the husband and I go out for dinner every once in a while. And that's when the group-buying sites come in handy. So far, we've tried A-deals and MetroDeal and the results were great (insofar as their restaurant/food deals are concerned). We tried it twice, and in both instances, we paid for half the price of our food. And if you do not have sensitive tummies, you can save a lot if you settle on service water instead of ordering drinks, which are usually unjustifiably expensive at restaurants!

If you have the time, just sign up the darn raffle tickets thrown at the grocery store or department stores. As for me, I join contests (I join BIR's Premyo sa Resibo every so often), sign up for promos, even buy lotto tickets every chance I get. Not that I've experienced winning, but they're just a lot of fun. It makes me giddy and hopeful all the time. You'll never know, it might just be your lucky day. 

4. Random things that work for us- which you can check if applicable to you, too.

  • The husband and I work nearby, so we just walk on our way home. This is also the time that we get to talk to each other about how our day went, because the moment that we get home, it's going to be our time for Zohan. We only use our car when we go home to the province, so that's a lot of savings on gas, parking, and wear-and-tear. 
  • Breastfeed your baby and save a lot on formula milk. 
  • Cloth-diaper your baby, if not completely, at least once or twice a day, and that will save you a lot on disposable diapers. 
  • Do not overbuy baby clothes, because babies will outgrow them in a snap. Zohan receives a lot of hand-me-downs, too (thanks to Tita Zynia), so that's a lot of savings for us. 
  • Buy baby books in BookSale, Books and Mags, or other second-hand bookstoresIf you are patient enough, you can score books which are almost brand new at more than half its original price!
  • Use your credit card for grocery and other necessary expenses - BUT - earmark the money to pay for the full amount. This can save you from paying interests, and then - you can score a free meal at Chowking or PizzaHut or wherever's the deal of your bank for the month, for a minimum amount charged to your card. (We're loyal BPI customers!)
  • Enroll your utility bills online, for facility and convenience. 
  • Buy meat, fish, fruits and vegetables from the wet market on a weekly basis. It's cheaper and more fresh than when bought from the grocery.
  • Think long-term - if you think you can squeeze your budget a little tighter to buy a house or a condo, do it. The money that you spend on rental expenses are money down the drain for a space that will not be yours at the end of the day, so do away with it as much as possible.
  • It is never too early to start investing!

5. Keep a budget and stick to it.

 As a new house manager, a trip to the grocery can be pretty exciting for you. And if you go by the aisles of the grocery without keeping a budget in mind, you will notice that your needs appear to add up. (Oh, we need this black trash bag, blah,blah.) But if you're working on a budget, you're most likely to sift through what you actually need and what you don't. (Ah, we can utilize the used plastic bags from the palengke as trash bags!) As for us, we keep a budget for grocery and wet market expenses, and we try to stick to it as much as possible. 

6. Realization and Acceptance.

As a starting family, the husband and I realize that things are different now, and we try to accept it as it is. Gone are the days that we can go to coffeeshop at our whims, or buy the latest gadgets. There has to be an acceptance that as parents, priorities will have to change, but...

7. Remember to stay positive!

Tightening our belts cannot go on forever. Right now, our goals are to settle our personal liabilities and then save up for a small business to augment our income. When we look at it that way, saying no to out-of-town trips or dining out more often doesn't seem so sad at all.

There you go. So the next time you see the husband and I looking silly and making funny faces at each other while walking along Pasong Tamo, you know we're walking because we're saving up for the future of the little boy waiting for us at home.

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