Wednesday, March 31, 2010

30 years

I tried to play off my birthday today as just another birthday, but it's not. I turned thirty today and it really caused me to reflect on my three decades of life, celebrate my family, and get pumped for the next thirty years. I'm definitely not pretending to be a grown-up any longer. I'm not worried about trying to prove to anyone how grown up I am. When the babies came I had no time to worry about being a grown-up or not. I'm simply a grown-up, adult, wife, mom. This is my role and I love it. Turning 30 today really was the last step into adulthood. Just a week ago if someone asked me how old I was they would respond, as always, "oh you're still so young". This week when I tell people I'm thirty, it sounds, and is, no longer a childish number. Being in my twenties was my last hold on childhood. Now I start the third decade of my life.

Justin and the girls made the day extra special. My husband treated me to a wonderful steak house dinner last night so we could celebrate by ourselves and then with the girls tonight. Last night he stuffed me with delicious food and showered me with wonderful compliments about being a wonderful Mom, and even more beautiful at 30 than when he met me at 20. Aw shucks! Today I was showered with flowers, hugs, and kisses, joyful wishes from Addie as she hugged me good morning. She and I made a sinfully delicious Extreme Chocolate Cake. It was dark as night chocolate, moist, and so rich a few bites were all that we needed to satisfy that chocolate craving my girls and I get. Even Bella scarfed a few bites of cake and tested the frosting this morning. I got a lovely stack of books to read which is truly the perfect birthday present for me. My husband knows me best. Adelaide picked out three lovely gifts for me; a puppy dog bookmark, glitter glue, and a flower cookie cutter set for our baking adventures together. Justin explained that when they went shopping he asked her what she thought Mommy wanted for her birthday. No hesitation, her immediate response was "Playdough". Steering her away from that idea she settled on the three gems I unwrapped tonight. When I thanked her for the bookmark he had a smug look on her face as she said "you're welcome Mom". I could tell she was so proud of her choices for me. My ultimate birthday moment was sitting at the kitchen table with Addie at my side. Both of us chomping on our dark chocolate cake. She turned to me with a mouthful of cake and said "Happy Birthday Mom". That's what it's all about for me now. That was better than any wild night out on the town. 30 looks like it's going to be a fantastic year.

Monday, March 29, 2010

rainbow outfit

This morning Adelaide surprised me by choosing to wear shorts and a tank top instead of her usual dress. She announced "rainbow", when I asked her what she wanted to wear today. I gave her two outfit choices and she simply grabbed the shirt from one outfit and the shorts from the other outfit and combined them for her very own outfit. The ultimate independent choice. She has a very clear fashion vision. She insisted on rainbow hair as well so the colorful clips up front were a must. She's all ready to go walk Lucy with Yaya and pick up her puto (rice muffin-amazingly colored purple from the ube) at the local sidewalk vendor.

purple craze

There's a whole lot of love for purple in our house these days. Adelaide (when she wears clothes) insists on wearing a dress. God forbid I suggest she wears a t-shirt and shorts. Lately she only wants to wear this one purple dress Justin brought home from Indonesia last year. We have to tell her it's dirty sometimes just to get her to choose a different dress for school. Generally I have no problem letting her choose her own clothing. There are plenty of other more important battles raging on a daily basis. I have no desire to make her attire another one. School is out for Easter break this week so we met up with friends Sunny and Stella for some little girl mani/pedis and cupcakes. Tiger and Bella stayed home with Yayas to nap (yay for Yaya). Addie and Stella held hands and chattered away in their best friend way they do when they love one another. It can really go either way; either they love one another or they fight like they are trying to decide who's the alpha female. Both girls got their fingers and toes painted. Adelaide, of course, chose purple, Stella wanted blue. The ladies at the nail shop got a kick out of painting little flowers and butterflies on their toes. For a treat Adelaide chose a cupcake with purple icing. She was in heaven! I was just thinking how lucky these little girls are to have such cool Mommies. I don't think I had my first pedicure until I was at least 18.

Friday, March 26, 2010

good girl

Bella was a proud little fairy nymph yesterday, standing with her wings on. She's at the stage that she just wants to walk everywhere she goes and gets irritated that she still can't quite do it. She always wants a pair of hands to hold onto for balance walking. When she's fed, well rested, and content she will explore around the house on her own. I watch her crawl and cruise from toy to toy, going to the windows, the fish tank, her bedroom sometimes. I let her cruise around without following her everywhere. She likes the freedom but I have to be careful because she finds the tiniest bits of stickers leftover from her sister to put in her mouth.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

gets the job done

We had a throw-down battle with Adelaide yesterday morning over eating her breakfast before school. Both Justin and I were pretty disappointed with the situation. She was whining and crying and spitting out her oatmeal letting it roll down her chin on to her dress. Even acting like she couldn't use the darn spoon. Ugh! It was pretty ugly. I sent her off to school with a healthy snack and she was fine. At lunch she came home and ate a bowl of squash soup so I can't complain too much. I decided to pull out my two favorite cookbooks for kids; Deceptively Delicious and the original food hider The Sneaky Chef (I heard their was a law suit on the former by the later for stealing her idea-Mama chef girl fight!). Anyway, Addie's favorite are the breakfast ice cream dishes (go figure). It's perfectly healthy and their was no drama over eating it this morning. This breakfast ice cream is blended avocado, yogurt, cocoa powder, and honey. I added some chocolate sprinkles on top for additional aswesomeness. It went over well. Last night during a seriously boring installment of this season's American Idol, Justin and I pondered the question of how to teach our young daughter the value of listening to your body and eating when hungry and until you are full instead of just forcing her to eat what is in front of her or during the allotted "mealtime" (well, I pondered this aloud as he played his iTouch and nodded and uh hummed a lot). I think we are just going to chill out during mealtime and not force extra bites down her with our own utensils. If she's hungry she'll eat it and if she finds herself hungry after mealtime it might be a good lesson to eat with the family. Luckily eating healthy isn't a problem with our girls. Addie, when ready to eat prefers a pile of white fish and rice over chicken and potatoes (Asian eater!). The trick is to catch her when she's ready to eat and not be distracted by other things.
Bella got a taste of the "ice cream" and wanted more. Stink face!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

getting organized

Keeping with my new years resolution to get organized, I was pleased to find this tea box at the American Women's' Club bazaar (a.k.a. retail therapy for expats). It now houses all my jewelry. Much of the jewelry is from my thrifty-vintage-jewelry-bargain-hunting Mom! I gave her the mission of finding some fun old jewelry for me and voila, much of what is in this box is the result of her hunting. I have also accumulated lots of fun pieces here. So much so that I was tired of the messy piles of jewelry in my bathroom. Now it's neat and tidy and it makes me so happy. My next project is the closet. I am partly thrilled, partly irritated at the task at hand. Onward to organized life


I allow myself a cup of wonderful coffee in the mornings with breakfast while still pumping for Arabella. With Addie I waited until she was completely done with breast milk to indulged in caffeine or alcohol (13 months). I admit, even to myself that was pure craziness and decided to allow myself a little slack this go around with the nursing. A few months ago I added in the cup of coffee and now I have a glass of wine with dinner here and there. I never overdo it especially since I am donating my extra milk to little Manny (and any other needy infants). A cup of coffee in the morning is a wonderful treat and it's even better with this yummy walnut cake. I have been obsessed with finding a good coffee cake and this one fits all the criteria I have. It's not too sweet (no frosting just a dusting of powdered sugar), it's dense but still fluffy, and the walnuts add a great texture. It pairs with coffee nicely. It came from one of my favorite cookbooks given to me by Justin's Aunt Leslie. It also has the wonderful carrot cake recipe Justin loves.

diaper shipment

If you are a faithful reader of this blog you will already know that I tend to focus on the good things about our life here in the Philippines. Contrary to what you read on here, it's not all tropical beaches and afternoons poolside. The beach trips are few and far between and while at the pool we are listening to the constant roar of construction sites, horns honking, parking garage bells, all while we smell either the diesel exhaust or the sewer. We have gotten used to this "background noise" in Makati. Our noses are still offended but if we didn't learn to live with it we'd be holed up in our condo all day every day and that's no way to live life. There are plenty of things in this country that we have created "filters" for. Justin and I joke about how putting up filters is the only way to live life in this country. The only way we have been able to truly come to like (dare I say love) it here in Manila. Buying baby necessities in this country is one thing that generally needs a filter and low expectations.

The week or two ago I realized we had finally gone through the supply of diapers we had shipped here after Arabella's birth. We used most of the size four diapers for Adelaide so I am pretty pleased that we got to 10.5 months with Bella before needing to buy diapers again. A box of U.S. imported diapers (200 count Huggies) is about $75 here (atrocious). I ordered through CVS Pampers for much cheaper. While waiting for the diapers to arrive in the mail I had to get some local diapers. The brand name is still Huggies and Pampers but they are not the same diapers. If I were executives at either company I'd be ashamed to put my name on these cheap, poor quality version of the originals. To obtain these local diapers I had to go to the atm to get cash, then choose to sit in traffic for 30 minutes and leave the girls at home or send my driver to pick them up. Not knowing the size she'd need I just let Garry wing it and buy big. I would have given anything to be in the States so I could plop the girls in their car seats and just drive to Target and pick up a pack of good quality diapers at a reasonable price with my debit card. No third party driver would have been needed. Filters, filters, filters.

No more crummy rough diapers for my baby! is amazing and the diapers arrived very fast! I think Bella knew the boxes were for her. (I promise my eldest daughter owns clothing).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Easter celebration

As I was kissing Addie goodnight last night I told her she could look forward to the Easter celebration we would be attending the next morning as a family. I really got her pumped up when I reminded her she would be wearing her pretty dress. Her next question was what I would be wearing. These things matter to this little girl.

It was touch and go this morning, but we got out of the house, all of us dressed on time. Poor Bella had to forgo her morning nap for this event and for a moment I thought we were going to have to bag the whole thing. We pressed on and made it.

Addie wasn't a fan of the Easter bunny but loved dyeing Easter eggs and the Easter egg hung. Even better, all her friends from school were there. I have to admit that all the kids looked adorable in their Easter best. The day was sunny and glorious, everyone was happy, and I was feeling extremely blessed to have such a wonderful family.

good girls

I took some really cute photos of the girls but am always sad to see that Addie never has anything on but her undies. She has a closet full of clothes, I swear! This must have been during a costume change.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy Birthday

We celebrated Justin's birthday today in style. Addie helped me bake Dad's favorite cake and decorate the house with balloons. She made a gift which she wrapped and hid the day before. She was so sweet about keeping it a secret. She didn't want Dad to find it so she found the perfect hiding spot: underneath her covers in her bed. She donned her party dress and tried to wait for Justin to get home to dig in to her dinner. Unfortunately she inherited my crazy hunger streak that causes her to go from sweet little girl to demon child when she gets really hungry. It's best to feed her before this transformation fully takes place so she had to start eating before Dad got home. Arabella, did the same cause there is no waiting for a 10 month old. If she's hungry she's going to eat (as seen in photo above, Justin came home to his girls shoveling pancit in their mouths). Justin was thoroughly touched that his girls went to so much trouble for him. We loved having him home an hour earlier than normal. It was a great birthday celebration.Addie waiting for cake and Bella eating her cake.

Monday, March 15, 2010

first steps

Arabella took her first steps tonight after dinner. The whole family was present and she took a few steps to each of us, including Yaya. Each time she walked she started out holding on to the couch, let go, turned, and walked right into our arms. She took two to three steps each time. We all cheered, which startled her. She didn't seem phased by the monumental milestone she had just accomplished. It was just another moment in her life. Justin and I were a bit misty eyed. Our sweet baby is getting so big and growing so fast. It's hard to keep up with her.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Babies love other babies. Arabella is particularly pleased with our friend's new son, Carson. She squeals every time she sees his birth announcement on the refrigerator and gets angry when I don't let her hold on to it. For some reason her favorite time to admire him is after dinner. I indulge her and let her pull the photo off the fridge. She loves holding little Carson! I had to get a photo of her admiring him. She's got a little love affair going with Carson and he doesn't even know it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

another hungry baby

Meet Manny, nicknamed after Manny Pacquiao, because this little baby boy is a fighter! Abandoned by his birth mother at 2 weeks he weighed roughly 4 pounds when his foster mother first took him home. Manny was breastfed by his mother and wasn't doing well when the orphanage switched him to formula. Luckily, this little one is now the sole recipient of my extra breast milk. After a few weeks on his new diet, Manny has gained 3 pounds, regained his healthy color and is thriving. You can tell he is staying in a very loving home in very loving arms. What a lucky little boy. Adelaide and I had the pleasure of meeting Manny yesterday when we dropped off some more frozen milk. It makes all the pumping worthwhile when I get to see the benefits in breast milk in not only my own child but other children, including Manny. He is so tiny at six weeks (smaller than both my girls were at birth) but he was so warm and snugly in my arms. I hope and pray he gets placed in a wonderful home for adoption. I would like to encourage other breast feeding mothers to consider pumping your extra milk for donation. The benefits can be seen in-person in a country like the Philippines. Manny is a good example of that. There are lots of milk banks in the States for donating milk. It makes this even harder to think about knowing how many babies could have benefited from my milk. Sometimes First World countries have so many regulations that get in the way of doing the right thing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

my favorite things

If Oprah can have a list, why can't I? My birthday is coming up and since my husband took his birthday gift buying in his own hands this year I think I'll do the same for myself. Hello (they ship to FPO/APO now). I love online browsing. Most of the time I put things in my shopping cart and never check-out. Here are some of my favorites right now (both the attainable and the not-so-attainable).

This jacket at Anthropologie. For the price, I will be copying this with my dressmaker for less than a third of the price. Can't decide if it will be khaki or navy cotton twill. Love the hardware on this piece.

My favorite belt is this little piece of perfection. Also at Anthropologie. Love this one in lime too but it's less practical than my first choice.

I'm a big fan of Etsy and I love the Australian designer, Divine Rose. Her pieces are just enough vintage and just enough modern to make this the coolest funky-chic jewelry. I would like to own every single piece.

For a simple classic beauty in jewelry I adore my friend Ruby Knight's line of jewelry Ruby&Robin also on Etsy. Not only does she have a trained eye for matching simple designs with gorgeous stones, she also is standing up for a great cause. In memory of her mother, a portion of the proceeds from her jewelry sales go to the Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland Medical System for melanoma research. I have lots of eye popping necklaces and never the right earrings to wear with them. Ruby's earrings are the ones you can wear with any outfit and coordinate well with other pieces. I love the understated beauty of her styles. I'm also not sure if I could find anyone who meets Ruby and didn't love her!

Orange is my favorite color this spring. I am still searching for the perfect orange that is neither sparkly or see through. Hot and Spicy by OPI has to be my favorite right now.

I need a pair of leg warmers! You can tell I have had two full years of summer weather to be wishing for a a cute pair of slouchy soft leg warmers. Now the question is how to make them work in the Philippines! This could be my biggest fashion challenge yet. These American Apparel rust colored warmers are pretty darn perfect.

I'm hovering on this pair of black caged heels for myself. I like Nine West for mid-priced shoes. I can't bring myself to spend more than a hundred dollars on shoes. I'm always looking for a deal. I need a good black pump but want something a bit edgier. The caged T strap on these patent leather pretties are my favorite. I've got my mind set on getting long sleeved sequin mini-sheath dress made for next year's party season. These shoes would be perfect.

I'm loving Kork-Ease shoes. They are perfectly retro platform cork wedges. I'm not sure how I've gone this long not knowing this brand.

My favorite designer who created a line for Target is Jean Paul Gaultier. I love that Target is bringing in designers to create affordable lines for the average woman. Only most items sell out the moment the line hits stores. Too bad for us average women.

In the completely unattainable category; my favorite big design house has to be Burberry. I will probably covet a Burberry trench until the day I die seeing as how unaffordable they are. The closest I will get to real Burberry is the Tender Touch I spritz on my wrists. Sometimes I imagine convincing my friends and family that they need to select me for the show What Not to Wear. I can run around in awful clothes for a few weeks while they tape me. Then when I get on the show take the $5,000 they give me to buy a new wardrobe and run to Burberry at Tyson's Galleria (in my head the show is in DC) and buy the perfect trench and maybe a handbag too. Then I kiss Emma Watson as I skip out the door swinging my shopping bag. I live happily ever after. The end. Check out the Art of the Trench. You'll want one too.

My favorite drug of choice right now is the Tom Ka Gai at Azu Thai restaurant in Makati. I'm not kidding. I take a sip and I'm already looking forward to our next week's date at this eatery. This soup has made me rethink street drugs. Maybe crack cocaine is really just galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and coconut milk.

My favorite food item that Americans should use more often is oyster sauce. Asians have mastered the art of cooking vegetables so they are tasty and not boring. No wonder they eat more veggies than Americans. Stir fry your veggies in a tablespoon of this stuff and you won't need meat.

My favorite beauty item is under eye concealer. I'm using basic cheap one from Sonia Kashuk at Target. It has to be the single most underrated beauty item on earth. I wish my take home bag from the maternity ward included a sampling of under eye concealer to go along with my breast milk freezer bags and storage info magnets. Knowing that having two kids in two years and sleeping as much every night as a 17 year old at a high school lock-in would result in sunken dark eyes; would have been nice to know. Concealer makes me look like I've had a good night sleep. I make sure to apply this after my husband leaves for the day. I wouldn't want him to get the wrong impression about what goes on after he nods off to dreamland every night.

So there Oprah!