Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happiness is in the Struggle

I am currently hooked to Gretchen Rubin's book entitled The Happiness Project. Don't get me wrong, I am already happy with my life as it is now. But I guess I just want to be happier, or perhaps, a little more optimistic, that's why I started reading it. 

Halfway into the book and I am already in awe. This woman makes a lot of sense and I tend to agree with a lot of her ideas! The fact that she's a lawyer who left law practice to write a book adds to my already mounting interest. 

Among the many ways that she embarked on in her quest for a happier life, there is one particular concept that struck me most. She said that to eke out the most happiness from an experience, we must anticipate it, savor it as it unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory. In relation to "anticipation", she narrated a short story about how she patiently helped her daughter choose the best cake for the latter's birthday. According to Gretchen Rubin,

"Before the happiness project, I would have resisted, but now I understand that this birthday errand isn't birthday ineffeciency, but the very fun itself. It's my Sixth Commandment: Enjoy the process. Eliza will enjoy eating the cake for only five minutes, but she can have hours of enjoyment from planning the cake. In fact, in what's known as the "rosy prospection," anticipation of happiness is sometimes greater than the happiness actually experienced. All the more reason to revel in anticipation."

Now, I know it's a little boring to dissect her brilliant lines further, so let me indulge you in a little chismis instead.

One of the petty issues I have with my husband is my fervent desire to have our condo renovated. Being the practical one, my husband always dismiss the thought, with the resolve that it is something at the very far end of our list of priorities. (Well, I get that, and frankly, I don't mind waiting for months, years even, until we are financially ready for it.) 

However, my husband's approach has brushed off with me that I have also voluntarily stopped looking at interior design magazines, websites and Instagram photos of anything related to home designs. In the process, it makes me sad and wanting, despite my understanding of where he's coming from. (With another baby on the way, and a long list of other financial responsibilities, the last thing that we actually need is a drop-down ceiling or an artistic corner chair.)

But after reading the line I quoted above, I realize that I really don't have to feel bum about it. In fact, I can turn this whole "struggling" part into a one big happiness project. 

I recall a time in a not-so-distant past when Kristan and I were constantly struggling to come up with our downpayment for our condo, which was spread in a 12-month period. We were still single then, but we embraced maturity way too early. For each month that we were able to fund our check, we'd happily bring out our statement of account and goofily cross out the month paid with a bright-colored highlighter. We'd color it together to symbolize how we both tried to make both ends meet. It was a happy time because we felt so accomplished, and at the same time, there was still something bigger and better that we were looking forward to.


It was a happy and defining moment when we finally moved in. But the happiness was, well, fleeting. It lasted for only a good one week or so, for by then, more grown-up problems already came in. And frankly, coloring our statement of account was a much, much happier time for me. I guess it was the combined struggle, the planning, and the dreaming that really mattered. 

Now, I feel like I am allowing my "wanting more" to strip me of the opportunity to feel happy. Instead of focusing on what we can't afford yet, the Happiness Project has helped me ask myself, why not make the struggle, the planning and the dreaming once again a happy time?

Thanks to Gretchen Rubin, I intend to do just that from now on. I have compiled photos of my design pegs and started following interior designers on Instagram. I don't look the other way anymore when I pass by furniture shops in mall; and I plan to buy back issues of home magazines. I don't care if it will take us years before we can execute our plans. That only means we will have more years of opportunity to be happy, right?

My husband has also started his little projects at home. He changed the grout of our tiles in the bathroom, and cleaned up the grouts in the sala. (Tip: The best cleaning agent is to combine baking soda with zonrox and zim!) His next project is a better clothesline for our tiny utility area. 

I just have one reassurance to tell him though -  that even if I keep on planning and yakking about the renovation, he doesn't have to feel pressured to provide it at once, or to provide it at all. (Check out Chinie Diaz's fabulous blogpost about why "admiring but not acquiring" is also a good thing over at her blog www.fabafter40.tumblr.com.)

Seriously husband, I CAN wait. I'm chill. I'm all zen. And if the time comes and we really cannot make it happen, I'll always remember that "happiness is in the struggle." At least, it's another happy journey in our books.

As for the rest of you who are also in a challenging phase of your life to reach for a goal, let's just keep going. There's something better waiting for us at the end, but our struggle towards it-- well, that's where real happiness is.



Sunday, October 20, 2013

My husband's 30th birthday

Just a quick post, for posterity's sake.

My husband turned thirty last October 8. I didn't have anything grandiose for his birthday, but I wanted to celebrate it, no matter how simple, because I believed turning thirty was something big.

I had thought of a few surprises, but my husband would not really buy those sort of things. He discovered my mom's gift to him a few days too early. And he was so close to guessing everything I planned for his birthday had I not gone berserk.

So for our itinerary for his birthday, I decided to just let go of the surprise factor and wrote everything down on a simple birthday card. He woke up to this:

          

The plan was to have a light breakfast at home, then head off to Trinoma and SM North to look for my birthday gift to him. (He asked for a TV console/entertainment table that would not exceed P4,000. You could tell he was the practical one.) Then, we would have our buffet lunch at Vikings in SM North, scour Mandaue Foam in QC, and be back in Makati for a special dinner reservation at 6pm.

But before starting our day, I insisted on taking our family picture - something that would remind us how we looked like when he turned thirty. (I intend to take more pictures of us from now on.)

     

Zohan knew it was his Tatay's birthday. He said he'd give his Tatay cake, burger, and getti. But those were all Zohan's favorite foods, so I doubted if the little boy fully grasped that it wasn't supposed to be about him that day.

Anyway, Kristan and I did everything by the book. We had a really sumptuous lunch at Vikings, and paid only P700 thereabouts. The birthday celebrant's meal was free! He just needed to present a government ID with his birthday information. (I researched this in advance, coz you know, I could be practical, too!)

My biggest discovery was the block of stores in SM North which got everything home-related like furnitures, tiles, lightings, wall papers, paints, a whole lot more. Definitely my happy place! I remembered having been there before, but it wasn't something that caught my fancy at that time. Our visit proved I had truly become a homemaker. Unfortunately though, we weren't able to get anything with our tight budget. It was enough feast for my eyes.

Then we went to Mandaue Foam, which turned out to be a little disappointing. So, we decided to head back and check out the malls in Makati. Ironically, the birthday boy got what he wanted at Landmark. Lumayo pa kami di ba?!

For dinner, he had no clue that I had requested his entire family to go to Manila for a surprise birthday dinner. This little bugoy greeted him for dinner at Yakimix in Greenbelt.


Family picture.


Birthday cake from his Cristobal Family.


--------------

Happy birthday mahal. I'll skip the cheesy part because this post should be about you, and you're anything but cheesy. Instead, I'll try to remember my take-aways from your birthday, because squeezing a learning from the passage of time pretty much sums up your idea of birthdays: 

1. No matter how difficult it is to forego of anything grand for a big day such as your 30th birthday, it will always have to be about what you want. And I have to do just that, even if it is opposed to what I personally want.

2. A ruined plan or surprise doesn't take the joy of out you because you're not a fan of it anyway. It takes the joy out of me. And I don't have to raise hell when that happens.

3. I still consider us the same carefree kids wandering about the streets of Gastambide some 8 years ago, only now with children to raise and bills to pay. And I owe the attitude of keeping it light and easy to you - the one person who knows how to make fun out of the biggest trials and responsibilities. 

4. My professor was right when he said that the worst person one can marry is a philosopher. But I'll take the worst at any given day, if it means spending a lifetime with you. Well, there goes the cheesy part. I just can't help it!

Happy 30th birthday mahal! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The perfect Vintage Romantic Wedding!

After almost half a year, finally, here's a blog entry about the best wedding I've ever attended in my lifetime! 

My cousin Rodney and his now-wife Dutch ruined all the other weddings for me, with their vintage romantic wedding held at Chapel on the Hill on the 15th of May 2013. 

I mentioned it in passing here, but since I wanted to do justice to the event, I opted to wait for some of the official photos before I came up with a blog entry. 

It was Zohan's first time to be part of a wedding entourage, so it was also momentous for me. He was one of the ring bearers, which the couple artistically coined as "Ring Security." They imprinted it at the back of the little boys' costumes. Cute!


As expected, the silly boy refused to walk on his own. I had to carry him, which earned me a double appearance since I was also one of the bridesmaids.


During the mass, Zohan roamed around and bugged everyone. Hence, not even halfway to the occasion and his cute costume already looked lousy!


 Now, here are some of the details of the wedding:

The bridal gown was designed by Dutch. The fabrics were chosen by her, (she got it from Dubai, where they were based), dyed it to get her preferred hue, then searched for a good couturier to execute her ideas.  Her efforts obviously paid off.


 
The photo of the bride and her mom was one of my favorites. Like Nanay, the bride's mother also worked abroad during her children's growing up years. This made Dutch and I certified lola's girls.

Look at the lovely back details of her gown. Very intricate and pretty. And only a svelte figure could pull off such a lovely  gown. 


Rodney's suit was by Zara Men. He looked so dashing in the photo below. 


The gowns of the bridesmaids were locally made - in Taal, Batangas. But the fabrics were also bought by the couple from Dubai and the designs were all Dutch's idea.  Very Grecian goddess!



I liked the flower girls' gowns best! The couple bought it from H & M, but had it altered in Taal to fit the little kids. Huge flowers were added on the waist, which matched perfectly with the head dresses. 

Another quirky idea from the artistic couple was the wooden banner which read "Here comes the Bride!" The little girls were holding the banner when they walked down the aisle. So cute!


The rest of the flower girls carried flower pails, which were DIY-ed. You could find the instruction how to do it on their wedding website.

Photo taken from the Dutch and Rodney's wedding website


I also fell in love with the lovely shoes uniformly worn by the little girls. It made me wish for a baby girl for our third baby! Look at the sample below.
Daisha and Zohan

The invitations were designed by the couple. 


The wedding giveaways were also DIY-ed. The lovely jars were from Ikea, which were filled with coffee beans. It signified our family's love for coffee, Batangas kapeng barako to be exact. The beans were brought from our local store.


The reception was equally lovely. It was held at Hill Creek Gardens in Tagaytay. And true to the vintage romantic theme, we were transported back in time with the set-up.


The guests were greeted with huge chairs and other vintage trinklets that were perfect backdrops for pictures.
The usual message boards were ditched for this very clever message pin-ups.

The catering and reception set-up were by K. by Cunanan. The table setting definitely evinced romance. Too bad though that I wasn't able to savor the food because I was too busy running after the little boy. 


Meanwhile, our silly ring security changed his outfit during the reception because he was no longer comfortable with his long sleeves. Haha. 




The wedding was more than lovely!  

Congratulations Dutch and Rodney! Now, off to the next chapter of your lives. I can't wait for your little one to arrive. :)


*For the details of their wedding, you can visit their wedding website.
Their pre-nup photo session was featured by BridalBook. You can read about it here. 
Credits to Red Stilettos for the official photos.  

Here's a rundown of their wedding suppliers:
Church - Chapel on the Hill 
Reception & wedding preps- Hill Creek Gardens 
Catering & styling - K by Cunanan 
Wedding coordination - Supernatural Management 
Photographer - Red Stilettos Photography 
Videographer - Stephen Wedding Film 
Invitation & give aways - DIY
Flowers - Serge Igonia



















Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bread Pudding Success

After my failed baking story here, I had tried my luck in cookies and other cupcakes. They all turned out okay, but the most successful of all, at least for me, was this bread pudding.

Remember my breakfast with my lawschool friends which I had written here? There were a lot of leftover foods (pan de sal included) since we were mostly talking and laughing than eating. So I thought of turning them into a bread pudding the following day.

Joyce shared with me a bread pudding recipe which she got here. I just had to tweak it a bit to fit what was available in our pantry. (Naks, kung maka tweak!)


Ingredients:

13 pieces leftover pandesal 
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 1/2 cups milk (non-fat)
1 tetra pack all purpose cream
1/2 c raisins (optional) 
5 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c brown sugar 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Break bread into small pieces into an 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over bread. If desired, sprinkle with raisins.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, all purpose cream, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.


I liked it better when served after being stored from the refrigerator. 


Enjoy!!!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How has your life changed?

Last weekend, my lawschool friends went over to our house for some "girl bonding".   Amidst our laughters over our usual "kagagahan", a thought suddenly hit me:  motherhood had transformed me and my mommy friend - Boinks. 

Unfortunately for our single friends Joyce and Fila, they had no choice but to be dragged along.


For one, we met at our condo at freakin' 7 o'clock in the morning! Boinks wanted some sunshine for her 5-month old baby Kloud, but knowing how talkative we could all get, we finished breakfast at way past the time for a healthy sunlight.

Over breakfast, I was imagining our lives not too long ago - drinking and singing at videoke bars until wee hours of the morning, long dinners, chitchat at coffeeshops, and occasional sleepovers. Contrastingly, at our place that morning, we were acting like some domestic diva wannabes - meeting for breakfast, gushing over a really good Vietnamese coffee paired with sinangag and tinapang salinas with kamatis, and talking about weekly  household budgets!

Likewise, instead of picking a crowded mall for our next agenda, we voted on scouring the good old Makati Cinema Square for thrifted clothes. I had been a fan of thrifted clothes since I became a mother. Being a big convert, I thought that the good money I'd spend on brand new clothes should rather be spent for other essential  things for my family. (Shopping when extremely emotional not included, of course!) My ultimate favorites were Surplus Shop where I'd get coats for my hearings, ukay shop near Makati Med for non-office clothes, and a "secret store" near Cash and Carry for branded dresses and other office attires. (I hope to muster enough courage to showcase some of them here soon.)

After our cheap thrill, we had lunch at Aida's at the basement of Makati Cinema Square which, to my mind, served the best chicken inasal in the metro. Then we had dessert at this dainty little place called Sophie's Mom, located at the corner of Santol and Aranga streets in San Antonio Village which served really good red velvet cupcakes.

After dessert, my little family had to go home because I had a scheduled check up with my OB late in the afternoon. Boinks had to go too, because she left Kloud at home with the yaya after breakfast, and she needed to express milk.

I couldn't help but think of the old times. Kristan and I were used to spending the whole day (and night!) with this group and yet, we couldn't seem to get enough of each other. But last Saturday, it was just a little past lunchtime and we were already done for the day! Times were really changing, and we were getting more mature by the day.

On a lighter note, it was the first time we brought Zohan along with us at an adult's affair. And I was so proud of that little guy for not giving Nanay and Tatay a hard time - except that his Tatay always had to carry him because he wouldn't walk. Tamad! He was a constant source of laughter for his Ninangs. (Now I know how fun it is to have a child who can respond to questions without being coached. A few more months and I really have to censor what we talk about in his presence.)

Before we retired that night, Boinks told us through iMessage how much she enjoyed our short get together. It was her first time to go out without the baby after returning back to work. And I could totally get her when she said how much she enjoyed the day, but she just had to go home to Kloud immediately.

That's what I felt too everytime I went out with my friends. I was all for the "giving yourself a break every once in a while." Taking care of a family, with a full-time work to boot, could feel so exhausting that I could really use a breath of fresh air. But after a few hours with friends, all I could think of was Zohan - what could he be doing, was he looking for me, did he eat enough for dinner - which would prompt me to head home.

I remembered a line from What to Expect When Expecting when I was re-reading it for my second pregnancy. It said that an expectant mother should spoil herself, because if she was a first time mother, it would probably be the last time for a long while that she could take care of herself without feeling guilty. 

I could relate very well with the book's idea. My life was never the same, postbaby. It was as if I had been taken over by this new creature that all my decisions and actions had to revolve around him. I felt vulnerable and empowered at the same time. Of course, there were bad, tiring days. But at the end of each day, when it was time to kiss my child goodnight, I always knew for certain that my son was worth all the changes.

What about you? How has your life changed?

(By the way, check out the short vid made by Joyce to chronicle our shenanigan last Saturday. You can make a video, too. Just download the app for free!)


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