Dec 30, 2010

Happy Days

'Tis the season for fresh starts. If only I could send all you lovely people this just-as-lovely, graphically-good Life Calendar for the new year…

How was your day? Calendar by Brigada Creativa

I wish y'all at least two hundred smiley faces to mark 2011! Coincidentally and appropriately reminiscing…

I used to put together the year-end video mash-up in the newsroom--to go with the end-credits for the last newscast of the year. Years later, I still can't turn off my radar for songs to mark the end of a year and the start of a new one. A few days ago, my Baby Bear (God bless him and his musical inclinations) kept singing this R.E.M. song, and bam! my goodbye 2010/hello 2011 soundtrack hit me.

Okay, some may see it as a song about the apocalypse. How literal of you. Not me. It's the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine. Right, Michael Stipe? Time to reboot and power up for 2011. Cheers to a better world this New Year!


P.S. So where were you and what were you doing when that song was a huge hit? It's making me remember a lot of happy days and crazy nights in the 80's. Insert smiley face!

Dec 29, 2010

Fat Witch Brownies

What was your favorite food gift this Christmas? Mine was a brownie mix in-a-box. Yup, a box-mix, and not some artisanal what-have-you. But hey, this was beyond Maya Kitchen or Betty Crocker. Have you met The Fat Witch? 

Fat Witch Baked Fresh!

The Fat Witch Bakery in New York claims it makes the best brownies in the world. Even Oprah agrees. If you can't go to Chelsea Market on 15th and 9th, their boxed mixes are enough to bring you to brownie heaven wherever you are. Thanks to a cousin who just came from NYC, the kids and I baked a batch this morning. We were in brownie heaven right here in our Manila kitchen! Thanks Ciabel!

See the shiny, crusty top and the chewy, fudgie center?

I have a tried-and-tested brownie recipe I got from Scharffen Berger and it's pretty darn good. That recipe is right here. BTW, if you don't have Scharfenn Berger 70% bittersweet, you can use Ghirardelli (available locally) or any favorite bittersweet chocolate. So there. I just shared our favorite brownies-from-scratch recipe. But now, we know there's a brownie box-mix that tastes just as great, arguably, should I say, better? Ayayay, this witch is getting fat indeed... 

Dec 27, 2010

The Black Swan and Her Smother Mother

Someone please give Natalie Portman an Oscar now. She was amazing in Black Swan, just as the movie itself was fantastic. So maybe the script bordered on implausible and it portrays the cliche of another loopy ballerina. Nevermind, because director Darren Aronofsky just made magic out of the whole thing. I have never felt a movie like this in a long time. It was so visceral. The cinematographer is Filipino by the way. Matthew Labatique is genius and shot some dance scenes using a DSLR for heaven's sake. He also worked with Aronofsky in Requiem for a Dream, which I Ioved, but now I love Black Swan more.

A very interesting part of the movie was the relationship between Nina the ballerina (Natalie Portman's character) and her mother who is played really well by Barbara Hershey. Talk about Smother Mother. The movie still over there belies the extent of her creepiness. She is a reminder that control freak moms who expect their children to be perfect all the time can really contribute to messed up psyches. No matter how "loving" mom is, smothering is not good mothering.

And so.

Black Swan is not only brilliantly directed and beautifully shot, it has a killer score that combines techno with Tchaichovsky, scenes that make you jump as if you were watching a Japanese horror flick, and because I am such a girl… the most beautiful ballet costumes by Rodarte. If you hear someone say Black Swan is good, believe the hype.

Dec 24, 2010

Merry Merry

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
- Dr. Seuss

Merry, merry, happy wishes!

Dec 12, 2010

RPG Metanoia

You've probably heard how Filipino animators are some of the best in Hollywood. They've made their mark in animated classics like The Incredibles, Up, Toy Story, Cars, Titan A.E., Ratatouille--and that's just naming a few. In the field of television, the Pinoy director of The Simpsons has even won an Emmy, or is it two Emmies already?

Well, talented Filipino animators aren't just working for Pixar or Disney anymore. This December 25, the first Filipino-produced 3D animated feature will hit local screens. RPG Metanoia, a full-length Filipino animated movie is produced by Ambient Media and Star Cinema. This cartoon is made by Pinoy talent and backing all the way. A little disclaimer though, Bear's Ninong Jamie is Creative Director of Ambient Media. But hey, set that association aside, and let the animation speak for itself…

Support this historic Pinoy Film. Metanoia RPG is an official entry to the 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival. As Nico the Metanoia hero says, Kita kita sa sinehan!

Dec 10, 2010

The Deal with Santa 2

Mak is a foodie. An honest-to-goodness, true-blue foodie. The kind who'd rather be in a supermarket than a toy store any day. He could spend hours and hours in the aisles of a grocery if you let him. He loves crabs and lobsters and lamb and halibut. And sausages with dijon mustard. When his first tooth fell off, he seriously worried he wouldn't be able to eat. He smiles when he looks at a restaurant menu for the first time. His eyes light up when the meal arrives. He squeals if it was everything he had hoped for and more. He licks his lips to savor that one last bite. He says when food is really good he needs to close his eyes.

So it really was no shocker for any of us when we read his letter to Santa this year.

The boy wants a waffle maker. So he can top it with fresh strawberries and mangoes. And cream. So doesn't have to wait for our weekly Friday afternoon date in Starbucks to have it.

Santa... you there?

Dec 7, 2010

The Deal with Santa

Hard to ignore the fact that Christmas season is here. Not with the Mak-Tatos bugging me to put up the tree since bloody November. Complete with the whole guilt trip of who already had a Christmas tree while we didn't. The tree finally came up with a little help from ever-reliable Kuya Anton (the family's in-house Martha Stewart) who came armed with twin reindeers fresh from production for the boys to decorate.

The boys can now lay off the guilt trip even if Mak thinks "we have too little decorations". That boy wants the house to look like Christmas threw up all over us. Boohoo. Wrong mom. Technicality on our choice of decor aside, it's officially Christmas over here.

And then there's the whole business about Santa. As parents: Do we ? Should we? My parents and grandparents were all out with the whole Santa deal way back when. So, yes, over here, until the time is right, Santa "comes" over in the middle of the night, Christmas Eve when else, always while we are all asleep, gulps some of that chocolate drink we leave for him and brings THE presents. Assuming they were nice not naughty, of course. MammaMia used to tell us if we were naughty Santa would give us carbon. Spanish for a word I never quite figured out what exactly it was but assumed naughty kids received a sackful of charcoal on Christmas Eve. That was enough to keep me nice all year. (yeah right)

So anyway, with the tree up and the Christmas spirit in full force, it was time for the boys to write Santa Claus. Imagine how annoyed I was when I saw this from Tato. No hi. No hello. No please.

This was his sweet little note last year. What the hell happened in the last 365 days?

My blood seriously reaching boiling point, I told him there was no way I was sending that letter. And then I got this.

Change of mind with toy choice. No change with that ultra- fresh approach. One teeny tiny step closer to getting charcoal. Then the final draft.

The pleases and thank-yous and niceties all accounted for, along with the request for a ridiculously popular toy that isn't even available on this side of the world. Good luck, Santa. Then again there's always Santa's trusty little relative elves from the other parts of the world. Then again there's always carbon.

Dec 2, 2010

Christmas Blues and Reds

Truth is, sometimes its hard to get in Christmas mode. Obligations. Responsibilities. Expenses. The holidays even remind me of people who I wish were still around, like my Nona. I've been feeling melancholy lately so I thought of her, my favorite confidant and grandmother-confessor. Then, I'm reading Virginia Woolf who expresses morose thoughts in such a beautiful way. Have you met Septimus from her book Mrs. Dalloway?

Anyway. This morning, with no kids to attend to, no work needed doing, the Kindle tucked away, I cheered myself up by making the little family christmas card to go with all those gifts that need wrapping soon.

It reminded me of the best we can get and the best we can give. Dear kind reader, whoever and wherever you are, I hope you're feeling the love around you.

Channeling you all some Christmas Spirit,

Dec 1, 2010

Put the Lights on the Tree

It's the first day of December! Sufjan Stevens, through their signature brand of wonderful non-cheesy yuletide music, is reminding us to put the lights on the tree. Have you?

Merrily Yours,

Nov 21, 2010

Interest, Groups and Learning

Stumbled on another goose-bump inducing TED Talk. This one by education researcher Sugata Mitra. His experiments made me think of Keys Grade School. Children huddled about, questioning, talking in small groups, sometimes pairs collaborating on projects or solving problems. So different from the my experience of education-as-usual: classroom with 30-plus kids, where, ironically, it's actually just you and your notebook, or more specifically you taking dictation from the teacher.

I think Sugata Mitra is onto something with his Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE). It shows how interest-driven, collaborative work is among the best ways to learn. Sometimes, we need to let kids go off with their own wandering minds to boost critical thinking and confidence. I believe this.

Nov 19, 2010

Shanghai Calling

I'm back from a quick "girls-only" weekend in Shanghai with MammaMia, the SisInLaw and my fairy GodMother (not in photos..most likely out shopping).

Nona, remember our oh-so brilliant plan to spend the Christmas break and New Year's Eve there and in the Wall years ago? Only to freeze our butts -and everything else! - off? And to find out there were no New Year's plans in the city? Remember we couldn't figure out how to tell our cab driver our hotel address so we spent the stroke of midnight of New Year's Eve in the middle of nowhere in the backseat of a taxi? Fun times! We should go back.

Here I am in our favorite area, XiantianDi in front of our favorite bar. We loved TMSK, remember?

Xiantiandi won a ULI award the year after we were there crediting the developers for keeping the old structures and walls and everything they could instead of just demolishing everything.

Apparently no one wanted to invest in the project initially thinking they were crazy. Tearing down the old and building brand new high-rises was the easiest and only way to go. Glad they stood their ground. Totally paid off. We should go back.

Nov 14, 2010

The Book Thief

It's 1943, Hitler is on a rampage and Death is busy. Which is just one of the reasons why The Book Thief is a must-read. 

Death is the book's narrator and he, she or whatever, has a great story to tell young adult readers as well as older grown ups.  As Death itself says:
Yes, I have seen a great many things in this world. I attend the greatest disasters and work for the greatest villains.
But then there are other moments.
There's a multitude of stories (a mere handful, as I had previously suggested) that I allow to distract me as I work, just as the colors do. I pick them up in the unluckiest, unlikeliest places and I make sure to remember them as I go about my work. The Book Thief is one such story. 
Liesel Meminger is The Book Thief, one of the best young female characters I  have had the pleasure to meet. She's vulnerable but strong. She is damaged, but like the best people, she has gone through hell and come back a kick-ass heroine. Aside from Liesel, I fell in love with so many wonderful characters in this book. I love Hans, Rudy, Max, Ilsa and even Rosa. They made me cry buckets. 

Don't be daunted by my mention of Death as narrator and the crying-of-buckets. Markus Zusak's young adult novel is unsettling and at times heartbreaking. When you're done with it though, you'll realize how awesome it is just to be alive. Speaking of… this 4-year-old has a minor obsession about death and mamas growing old. 

Blame it on November trips to the cemetery and a creepy book by Robert Munsch. I Love You Forever, anyone? She is intrigued but also freaked-out about death.  "Mamas are not supposed to die!" One day, my dear Chicha you have got to read The Book Thief

Nov 8, 2010

Yo Gabba Gabba

Do you love Yo Gabba Gabba? We do. Here's one reason, Cornelius for Bear...

And another, Trembling Blue Stars for Chicha...

Japanese rock artists aside, plus The Shins, The Roots, The Ting Tings, Ladytron, Data Rock etc. we just love Yo Gabba Gabba. Just saying.

Nov 3, 2010

Shameless For a Cause

In case you haven't noticed,  Christmas is in fifty something days.  Whoa 2010, that was quick. Okay, okay...I'm about to sell you something but I promise its good. Its all good. 

Presenting the gift that gives back with the  Christmas ornament-in-a-card.

Honor those you love in a special way this holiday season with a Christmas donation to ICanServe Foundation

The card includes an ornament that you can hang on your holiday tree. It also includes a brief explanation that you (the giver) have made a donation in honor of the recipient. For a minimum contribution of P200 per card, you help ICanServe Foundation continue its early breast cancer detection advocacy through community based screening programs, as well as subsidize the treatment of breast cancer patients on treatment.

For orders, call ICanServe at 636.5578 or or email

P.S. Thank you for the photos, Mon. 

Oct 31, 2010

Blueberry Girl

Neil Gaiman just made me have a moment. Here's why...

If I had his wonderful way with words I would have written the exact same poem for my own blueberry girl. With a cute nod to classic fairy tales, "keep her from spindles and sleeps at 16, let her stay waking and wise," and a hope, "nightmares at 3 or bad husbands at 30, these will not trouble her eyes.

Gaiman wrote this for his friend Tori Amos when she was about to have her baby girl. It then became a book meant to celebrate mothers and daughters. Although in essence, I think it applies to blueberry boys too. Her could very well be Him.

Dull days at forty, 
false friends at fifteen--
let her have brave days and truth.

Let her go places that we've never been,
trust and delight in her youth.

Help her to help herself,
help her to stand,
help her to lose and to find.

Teach her we're only as 
big as our dreams.

Show her that fortune is blind.


Wishing the same for all the blueberry girls and boys I know,