Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memorial Day

Last year, at Memorial Day, we went to Colonial Williamsburg. It was a lovely restored 18th century colonial town where they preserved homes and other colonial establishments (like a general store, apothecary, gunsmith, tavern, tailor, post office, etc. etc.) It was my second weekend outing since I arrived. I remember that pleasant, sunshiny day, and I couldn’t believe it has been one year since.

This year, at Memorial Day, we went to Old Town Alexandria, another charming colonial city. We wanted to see the replica of ‘Godspeed’, one of the three ships which sailed to America from Britain to form the permanent colony of Jamestown in 1607. I love anything historic, and I definitely wanted to see the much talked-about ship.

Maybe it was because I played in my mind that the ship would be grand and imposing over and over, that is why I was a little disappointed to see a modest-looking ship docked at the Potomac waterfront. It was definitely smaller than I had expected, which made me wonder if they ever really sailed that tiny bit of a ship across the Atlantic. But then again, sea voyage back then was no mega-tankers or 525-feet super yachts, so I guess my expectations were a little off base.

The ship, even from afar, looked quaint. And it looked so delicate and vulnerable. Yet it traversed rough seas and reached Virginia. It was a marvelous feat. And to catch a glimpse of that part of this rich history is truly exciting and amazing.

I love the look of the Old Town. The cobblestone streets are so charming and the old homes are so pretty to look at. The outdoor cafes and many other old-fashioned stores magnify the historic beauty of the whole place. The Potomac Waterfront offer a best-looking view of the Potomac River and the everlasting enchantment of history. It’s truly admirable.

The sights and sounds at Old Town that Memorial day afternoon were captivating. There was an old “glass harper” who played Bach on a myriad of water-filled goblets, a magician enthralling little children with his rope tricks, a lone cellist playing love songs, a couple of young boys playing their violins on the street corner, even a bunch of tough-looking bikers, plus an assortment of revelers just enjoying the afternoon. And of course, the little piece of history called the Godspeed. It’s always awe-inspiring and exciting.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

by golly, they got married!

At last, our friends Darko and Janet tied the knot. After a couple of years engagement and countless challenges along the way, they finally wed. It happened on a perfect bright and cool Saturday afternoon at the penthouse of their home building. It was a lovely day to be wed- sunny and breezy and only the minor mishaps happened. Everything went well according to plans. (Well, almost. The DJ played the wrong song for their first dance). But all in all, it was a great wedding.

Friends cheered as they were pronounced husband and wife, and everyone was convivial while posing for the official wedding photographs. The groom's nephew, who was the ring bearer, looked adorable in his tuxedo. The butter-colored pineapple custard wedding cake looked so nice, (and yummy, too!). The bride wore a beaded white bustier wedding gown and she had a nice bouquet of cream-and-pink roses.

It was a nice party at the reception, too, because Peruvian and Bosnians do know how to party a lot :) So it was a jubilant mix of Latin music and Bosnian folk music, which the whole family zestfully danced to. The delighted bride danced all night! She was so full of energy.

Nothing can possibly spoil the beautiful evening (not even the snooty caterer's headwaitress who shooed other guests away at the buffet table, because, your table is not called yet, that's what the biggety girl actually said; or the absent-minded DJ who played a tacky Richard Marx song rather than the charming Bryan Adams song that they chose). There were free-flowing drinks, which made people happy and go me sick the following day. :) After the caterers left, sumptuous lamb was served by the family and more merrymaking was done.

The happy event was so great. The bride and groom could only sigh for relief because all their hard work has paid off. The cake arrived safely, the minister did not get lost, the ring bearer did not misplace the rings, the caterers showed up, and the bride showed up! :) Now they're bound for eternity- abundant happiness, tons of love and a dozen kids!

Friday, May 26, 2006

the weekend on my mind

I can't seem to to stop thinking about weekends. It overshadows like an impending doom about to clobber me. Well, maybe doom is such a pessimistic word. It seem to me like a pleasant secret about to be discovered. I dreamed of it last night, and the sense of excitement was undeniable.

I came to realize, not too recently, that people can change their long views on certain things in life as they grow older. Perhaps I should say- people transform their personal perspectives. I am an advocate for 'change for the better' mantra, and a fresher, auspicious and optimistic outlook change is always welcome. Over the years, I have transformed my views on weekends.

Weekend is such a simple, uncomplicated and inescapable part of our life: by definition, it is the end of the week, especially the period from Friday evening through Sunday evening. Yet people differ in their thoughts regarding it. Some people take weekends as a break, some people think it's yet another excuse to do more work especially at home. Younger kids look forward to do all the things they thought about over the week, preteens see it as another boring period filled with misery and inactivity. Some people love it, some people hate it.

Let me examine my evolving views on weekend. When I was little, weekends meant nothing else but play, play, play. As a schoolgirl, I looked at it as a respite from a week of school work, projects and various activities. As a teen, weekends felt like a severe punishment of being away from friends and being stuck at home being told to do this and that chores.

As a young adult, I had fluctuating emotions towards weekends, I guess. It was filled with highs and lows, there were glorious heydays and there was even a period when I hated it. I felt it were the loneliest days of the week, and if there was a chance to stay away from it, I would. I had thought of it as a waste of precious time. But then came a period in my life when I learned to appreciate weekends more. I welcomed the chance to take it slow and spend more time at home. I used to think (being young and believing I was invincible) that spending time at home was dumb, and that I need to be out gallivanting all the time (malling for hours and hours, and braving the heat of the sun).

When I got married and left home, a moment of realization happened to me. For a while, I was staying at my in-laws home (while David was away) and spent the weekends at my mom's house. And I never felt so anxious for the weekend. It was so true that one appreciates more the home after he leaves it. I remember being antsy all week, and when it finally came and I spent quiet afternoons with Gatorade and yogurt, I never ever felt so relieved. And to think I used to prefer noise around the house- the radio constantly on in the bedroom, the TV almost always in (rather) high volume, I was constantly chattering around the house, roughhousing with the dog. But it finally happened- I favored quiet weekends at home.

Now I have a different appreciation of weekends. David and I are together and we don't have much responsibilities at home (save the laundry and periodic house cleaning), and so we want to make our weekends as full as we can. Now that summer is coming, we have plenty of plans on our minds. If we can, we wanted to visit as many festivals as we can, theme parks, flea markets (my choice!), take many out of town trips, take tons of pictures and make it as memorable as possible!

I don't know what our weekends would be like, say, in three years. But I always want it to be cheery and productive. Our future weekends may not be quiet, or it may still be unrestricted, or it could become monotonous. But I always want to retain special feeling reserved towards weekends. That it doesn't have to be dull, too hectic or higgledy-piggledy to our liking. But instead, I want our weekends to complement whatever picks and passion we have at that certain time.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Today's Strategic Planning Activity

I was pleasantly surprised to have actually enjoyed today's Strategic Planning activity at work. I muttered to myself silently on the way to the office this morning how unprepared I was and how bored I would certainly get. I signed up for the Board Development small-group discussion (which was the most unpopular topic because only two people signed up for it!). We were merged with another small group, however, there were still few members on our group- three old-timers and two newbies (us).

We were asked to discuss for an hour and a half the strengths, obstacles and limitations of the agency and find solutions to meet the agency's goals, yada, yada. The quintessential points of any small group discussion. It was actually a very interesting ninety minutes. The older ones pointed out the weaknesses of the agency that has been tormenting the community for years, the truth about the system and a lot of other stuffs we never knew before. It was really interesting to listen and absorb all those information. And, as newbies, we got to share our insights, too. All in all, it was great and it was a nice group (being small, not prone to chaotic exchange of ideas, blah, blah).

I was assigned to write the details of our discussion and I got to write the conclusions on the paper for the big presentation. One of the oldies asked me if I went to a Catholic school. I did, and she said she could tell by my handwriting. I can't puzzle out the link, though :) We'll, I was glad our paper was, by far, the neatest and the most organized paper during the presentation. All the others are like vines on the wall, hehe.

We had pizza for lunch, and some Lebanese stuff (in the kitchen, others were unlucky to have missed it). It was a wonderful activity for me. It was a lesson in participation, cooperation and commendation. And I could proudly say, I passed fairly well. And that little thing, made me happy today.

Monday, May 22, 2006

my favorite cheapo* finds

Here are a couple of my favorite finds last weekend:

Maybelline Pure makeup. In porcelain ivory.

It's scent-free, oil-free and totally smudge-free. It doesn't leave a cake-y substance in my face, and since it's 50% water, it feels light and it doesn't give a warm, icky feeling like most of cake foundations do.

It comes in an attractive light-green tiny tube, which is trendy and fresh. It also takes lesser time to apply and blend compared to cake makeups. It gives an instant glow and less fuss, especially if you're in a rush each morning.

I looove this cute little fellow.

And here's another one:

Maybelline Moisture Extreme lipstick. In Rare Ruby.

I love how it glides and how pretty it stains the lips. It's the perfect red- not too bright, not to dark, not too scandalously-red. It's a healthy-looking red, I may say.

Plus the moisturizer doesn't chap the lips and it keeps it smooth and well-moisturized without being clammy. It has a nice scent, too. Not the overwhelming fruity flavor though. I think it's the aloe component, which really taste fresh and not gross.

This, should be, the perfect sales pitch. :)

Spring Greek Festival

Last Saturday afternoon, we went to the Spring Greek Festival at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church at 36th and Massachussets. It was a wonderful day, bright and breezy and it was a lovely day to be out. The Festival, with an array of food stalls selling authentic Greek stuff and an arts and crafts display under a white tent, turned out to be less than what we've expected. Well, maybe we just expected something more.

We sampled loukoumades and souvlakis. We liked the loukoumades, it was the first time we ever tasted it. It's chewy and the texture matched well with honey and sprinkle of cinnamon. And David was a little disappointed with the souvlaki. He expected it to be juicier and tastier, however, we found it a little dry. But I'd like to think of it as a still nice experience. We were eyeing the whole lamb roasting on a spit (in the manner of dear old lechon), however, they were gonna serve it in the evening, and since we were not planning to stay there longer, we regrettably turned our backs on it.

Well, maybe we were expecting bands playing Greek music, men in those silly Greek costumes, and lots of other Greek-y stuff. I liked the silver-and-resin jewelry I saw at the arts and crafts, and also the variety of Greek desserts on display. There was this man who gave samples for his kettle popcorn and the popcorn tasted salty and sweet. Very strange. :) But I love the smell of the Festival- the spit-roasted lamb, Greek coffee made in the lovely-looking Greek coffee pot called briki, the skewered souvlakis on the grill, and this tiny stall selling lemonatha.

The Festival is small, being held just in the church grounds. So much like a neighborhood flea market. I love it. It's a new experience and a new appreciation of a different culture.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

all the pretty little ponies

By the time it came to the edge of the Forest the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, "There is no hurry. We shall get there some day."

These unforgettable lines suddenly sparked a delightful memory in my mind. I knew I had read this somewhere, a long time ago, in my youthful years....

I remember our elementary school's old Library, I found a book with stories of Winnie the Pooh- the old, black and white, sketchy Pooh before he became too Disney-ized. I loved him since then. Suddenly the memory of the humid second-floor library, the smell of old books, the stifled silence typically imposed on 9 and 10 year old students visiting the Library, all came to back to me. I don't even remember the title of the book, but I chose it and held on to it, borrowed it a number of times until I finished all the stories.

Back then, it had no significant meaning to my 9-year old mind. What I found were endearing qualities of Pooh- his forgetfulness, his light-hearted attitude and his friendship with Christopher Robin. The words of Pooh rhymed, and it was beautiful. Its beauty, I never fully understood until now.

There were two books I read as a young girl which etched strong impressions on my mind. One is the Pooh book, and the other one is called Arrivals and Departures. Arrivals and Departures was a collection of short stories. I don't remember much about the stories anymore, but I remember best that I liked it very much. The only thing I remember is the story about a young girl with a blue nose and how she got it. The girl has plenty of freckles, and somebody asked her how many freckles she got on her nose. She tried to count, however, she keeps on losing track, which prompted her to dab her freckles with blue ink in order not to count the freckles over and over. Such puerile musings! So characteriscally dissimilar to the present generation's tales on demons and wizardry.

I read a lot. But I can't say there's a particular genre of reading that I belong to, I'm not into reading philosophy only, or biographies only or history only. I read everything. I read short stories, sometimes I read novels. I read a number of biographies. I read children's stories. I read magazine and newspaper features a lot. I had read all the articles in my 10-years worth collection of old issues National Geographic magazines. There are some books I read which I never finish. There are books I wished I had the energy to read (Tale of Two Cities and Romeo and Juliet). There are books I had read rather late (I never read The Little Prince until I was in first year college).

And then, there are books which inflamed my youthful heart, then buried into obliviousness and found its way back into my consciousness right now. Just like in the case of the passage above.

Growing up is a long, steady process. One does not sleep at night a child and wakes up the next morning aged and wiser. Just like reading, it is a step by step process. One does not read The Road Less Traveled at 10 years old and emerge with wisdom after that. When I was 13, I was in a hurry to grow up. I was impatient and resented that I was young and could not do things I thought I could do. I kept asking my mother why, and she told me- "you know when you're older. Don't hurry".

There is exactly a right time for everything. And there is a right time to read something. One must read Love in the Time of Cholera at the right time of your life. When one is young, he shall read all about the pretty little ponies, and one day, when he's older and calmer, those memories will bring a different spectacle in his life. And discover that in life, one should never lose wonder....

Monday, May 15, 2006

recipe for a bad night out

take 1 eager future sister-in-law,
1 strong-willed bride to be;
add 1 confused groom to be,
mix with sleazy-looking nightclub-
voilá! a disastrous night.

Last weekend, I got invited to a girls night out by a friend who's a bride-to-be (getting hitched in two weeks), and it was her future sister-in-law who organized it in her honor. The big glitch was- the bride was hesitant to go to the said night club and would rather go to a different place.

And so, I thought we were not going with her future sister-in-law to the club anymore, however, at the last minute, she was convinced by her fiancé to go and have fun with his sister, who painstakingly planned the whole thing for her.

When we got to the place (her fiancé and my husband dropped us girls there), it wasn't exactly the place we wanted to be at that particular night. The place looked seedy, and the location was in a badly-lit area, there was a construction site nearby, and the crowd we saw wasn't exactly a comfortable looking bunch (at least for us), and it's so far away from a well-lit, busy street where we could hail a cab home (because much to my chagrin, the guys were NOT planning on picking us up after at all). The fiancé, who was too eager to drop us off and leave, insisted we go in and have fun. However, our unanimous choice was NOT to get off the car.

The fiancé was faced with an enormous snafu- to leave his fiancee and her gang at the club (albeit obvious opposition) to elude his own sister's diappointment? Or to heed his fiancée's decision to skip the club altogether and go somewhere else?

Ah, what a complicated situation. The bride-to-be, who has her own mind and couldn't be told what to do, insisted (rather, demanded) we leave pronto and not wait anymore for the poor sister.

The fiancé, looking so distressed, had no choice but to leave and drive us at the place where the bride-to-be wanted to go initially. We ended up at the Carribean-themed resto-bar favored by her (which is practically steps away from our place). The fiancé joined us much later because he went back to the club to pick up his sister and clearly, the sister was pissed-off and cancelled the whole night out with her other friends. And also, their boys night out went kaput. And while the fiancé was so bothered by the turn of events, the bride-to-be, in her true nonchalant self, enjoyed the night away like the unhappy event never happened.

Oh, well. What a night. What rotten luck. It happens all the time. Although it is much, much bothersome when one is torn between two conflicting entities- and wanting to please them both. Tricky, tricky situation.

However, there are much more bigger issues to be concerned of rather than the inconvenience of an axed night out, bruised prides and who's right, who's wrong. And there are plenty of Saturday nights ahead to drink and be merry. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

red letter day

On May 14, Sunday, it will be exactly one year ago when I came here. Looking back, it had been a fruitful year. I've learned many, many, many lessons along the way and I could definitely say I've grown older, wiser and much happier.

Growing up, I realized, means coming to terms with myself. I have learned, and accepted that not everything comes my way and it doesn't have to be the end of the world. I've learned to throw my hat over the fence, and I have learned to appreciate more a quieter and peaceful life. I have become a better "me". And that, is the most important accomplishment.

I have learned a lot in my first year here. It's very exciting, it's like being in a huge laboratory, with all the gadgets and accoutrements- at first getting adrift and confused, and slowly, day by day getting accustomed to all of it. It's a BIG learning experience where at the end of the day, I always get the rewards.

Life is tough, we've experienced our share of rainy days, too. However, I have all the support that I need in the person of David. And I believe in my heart, that's the only thing one needs in wading through rough waters. I feel blessed to have someone to hold on to, to have someone to share with the burden of life. Life has been easier and breezier and rosier each passing day with him.

But I miss all the things I left at home- my mom, my spoiled, bratty little dog, my friends, the comfortable familiarity of everything. But I am happy to be here, and I love the new life and new experiences. And I'm lucky that the people I left behind are so understanding and not exactly the emotional sandbags type. I'm especially proud and grateful to my Mom.

Looking ahead, I'm optimistic. What I learned here is to be patient, calm, to be assertive and speak out, to empower myself and to be mellower and less frantic and to enjoy life. I hope to do better and better. I've learned to value myself and love myself more.

Monday, May 08, 2006

New York state of mind

My best friend Roselle visited from Australia last week together with her hubby and her cute toddler Liam, who's three. We had fun showing them around (hitting the famous landmarks and sampling out kabobs and Peruvian chicken) and then last Friday, we drove them to NY. We had a great time in the Big Apple! It was all fun, fun, fun. And when I got home last Saturday night, I felt a little sad because being on a short holiday with a childhood friend is incomparable. We haven't seen each other since the last reunion in 2003, (and we weren't even there on each other's weddings in 2004), so naturally, meeting each other here and taking a trip with our hubbies was truly exciting.

Our hotel was right smack in Times Square, so we couldn't complain about the location. We walked, walked and walked until our legs ached, hehehe. And we had NY style pizza for lunch on our first day there. And like bona fide tourists, Roselle and I had our pictures taken with the Naked Cowboy! (Our husbands took the pictures, and laughed at us for being so 'brassy'). We went to the Rockefeller Plaza, visited the St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the highlight of the day- the Empire State Building.

David and I missed the Empire State Building on our NY trip last year, so we were so excited to be there. We endured the long lines and security checks, and once we were up there, it was all worth the wait. It was a perfect Friday afternoon- sunny, airy and clear skies. And we had the perfect view of the city. We stayed there until 8pm and watched the sunset. It was spectacular! I love it! We absolutely love our Empire State experience.

Then we had an Italian dinner buffet, which was yummy, and then we took tons of pictures of Times Square at night, with all the splendor of the lights displays and swarm of people having a good time. It was a wonderful first day. :)

On Saturday morning, we started early. We wanted to be the first ones in line for the ferry going to the Statue of Liberty. We took the first ferry to the Liberty island (at (9:30 am). Again, it was a perfect, sunny, unclouded day- just perfect for cruising. We had a good time taking pictures, and going up the statue and enjoying the fantastic views of the NY harbor. Liam, the ever fireball toddler, imitated his dad and David taking pictures and insisted we 'pose' for him and say, wooow...! when he shows us his "shots" with the folded tripod. How adorable is that?!

We decided to skip the next stop which is Ellis Island because after climbing the Statue of Liberty, we couldn't get our minds off Chinese food (esp. noodles). And so we hopped into a cab and found ourselves in Chinatown! We tumbled upon a small corner restaurant and we had a wonderful (cheap) meal! We were busog-happy atfer that.

Our last stop for the day was Central Park. By that time, we got our car back from the garage and we drove to the park. I think it's the only relaxing place in NY City, and it's a fantastic spot to be to cap the day. While looking for (free) parking, we took a spin through 5th Ave, Park Ave and Madison Ave- admiring the expensive apartments, posh designer stores and hoped to catch a glimpse of celebrities sashaying down the streets. But we didn't have any luck ;) The closest thing thing we had to a celebrity sighting was seeing Helena Christensen in Rockefeller Plaza. Roselle and I were hoping to see Sarah Jessica Parker or Jake Gyllenhaal, hehehe.

David and I only stayed in NY overnight. We don't know when are we gonna see each other again. Maybe in a few years, when Liam is bigger and older and he would not remember me and 'Uncle David'. But I was happy to see Roselle again and meeting her hubby and her son, and them meeting David. Maybe we can visit them soon in Australia. Who knows? The possibilities of future rendezvous make it more exciting. The perfect time will come for us to meet again. For the meantime, we will always cherish the wonderful weekend we spent in New York City.......

Monday, May 01, 2006

good tv, bad tv weekend

It was a wonderful (and quite successful) weekend. We went jogging! We never managed to get up at 7am, so we jogged at 9:30. But we did not go far because I got sick. Poor me. And due to years of non-exercise, we are suffering right now of aching legs. We vowed to make it a regular weekend jog. However, next weekend we're going away on a trip, so I hope the following weekend we'll be quite lucky ;)

And my pasta friday night turned out to be General Tso's (not!) night. I decided to make my trying-oh-so-hard version of General Tso's chicken, however, I failed miserably. I'm brokenhearted. It's been a series of unfortunate events with my kitchen experiments :(

Has anyone seen Sweet 16 on MTV lately? Can you believe how those kids are acting? Spoiled, good-for-nothing brats! They behave as if they're gonna die when things don't go their way. They scream at their parents, they look down on their peers, they ridicule every creature who are not as cool as they are. And they only think about their grand entrance, and their expensive cars, and outdoing other sweet sixteen parties. I especially despise that girl Sophie, who humiliates other kids like she's the greatest and the most beautiful person on Earth. But then again, beautiful people DON'T humiliate other people. That's why she has humilation frenzy against other people because she is u____. Enough said.

The show is a shallow, debilitated example for other kids out there. Riches and self-centeredness and extravagance are not the only way to be cool, popular and accepted. The show is giving wrong, poor messages to teens.

On the other hand, we love Big Love and National Geographic Channel's Dog Whisperer! Big Love had an exciting episode last night. And we love to see mean dogs 'rehabilitated' on Dog Whisperer :) These shows are entertaining without giving you the a dreadful mood. We also love The Amazing Race. And yup, we watch AI, too, hehehee.