Friday, August 30, 2013

Shopping for Value

It was almost serendipitous that I found myself inside Japan Home last week. I am not normally enticed by stores selling all items at P100 or so-and-so insanely cheap prices. I’d always equate quality with higher prices, and would not mind spending a bit or a lot more than spending less and ending up using the items a few times and regretting the purchase.

An occasional trip to Divisoria is always a welcome adrenaline rush as there are really good bargains that I am able to get there like the classic Kentucky white sando for my kids, face and kitchen towels (P120-220 pesos per packs of 12), cartoon character pajamas (P200/set for all kids’ sizes), and party décor and favors. The last time I went was last June to buy items for Gabee’s birthday party (piñata, invites, party hats, balloons, give-aways). My 1,000 pesos was able to buy two sets of every item, one for Gabee and the other for my niece who was also going to celebrate her birthday. I also bought terno sleepwear for Gabee at only P75 per set. Yun lang, the colors faded after a few washings, and needed some stitching of ripped seams after being used a few times. So, I thought I’d rather again buy from Robinsons dept store which offers a set of three shirts at less than P300. The price is a lot higher, but, from experience, the shirts could be worn for around 1-1.5  years and, after being outgrown, are still in good enough condition to pass on. SM offers best-buy sets a little cheaper but  the ones at Robinsons are of better quality.

Back to my story about Japan Home. I was so thrilled with my purchases last week that I came back yesterday. This time, I really planned the trip, and again could not seem to get enough. Although after each of my two visits, I had to review my tape receipt as I would be surprised that I had to pay almost P2,000 each time. All items sell for either P66 or P88. I mostly bought kitchen items since I now spend a lot of time in my kitchen and I envy the array of kitchen gadgets used by Rachael Ray of Food Network. I didn't have the small but very useful kitchen gadgets, which I was so thrilled to find at Japan Home, like measuring spoons, spatula for baking (I now can bake, yay!!! Akalain mo, madali lang pala?), orange squeezer, fried egg mold, rubber tongs, etc.

The store is small, and items are crammed on the racks, but they have items that I have found only there, like the heart-shaped ice molder (which was out of stock when I came back), 'ceramic' teapot with stainless strainer, wash bag for delicate clothes, a portable clothes line with hooks at both ends, etc.

I am so pleased with the treasures I found at this little store. I took pictures with the intention of sharing them here, to share the shopping fun I had, and vouch that these items are worth your P66 or P88. I have posted some in my fb account and got a few positive comments. One very intelligent (if I may qualify that as it presupposes that his intelligence influences his buying behavior/product preference) fb friend swore about the nice and durable socks selling for P88 for 3 pairs! Another smart and very pretty fb friend shared that she could spend hours in that store. 

Banana bunch sling
Tray for eggs that won't all fit in the refrigerator egg tray

Measuring spoons, whisk, spatula and egg mold.

Nice pot holders

I am using this glass container for storing butter.
Clear glass jar with tight cover, perfect for oats container.
Sturdy chopping board with a hook, and stainless strainer.
I am not getting anything for this advertisement. Just say that I am amused, and want to spread some good vibes. Japan, as far I know, is a good trading partner of the Philippines. We export to them, so it might not hurt to support their products as well. I haven’t looked into the economics of how the items can be exported here and sold at such low prices. I am perplexed, but prefer to take it as it is, and just be a contented shopper.

I love my home more with these items:

A stable, non-slip tray with a dainty floral design serves me well while I write this and take my coffee and a little snack.

These little cuties (soap dispenser, soap dish, toothbrush holder, and toiletries tray) make for a nicer bath -- real value for money!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Teaching Values as We Walk

Garrett upon reaching home with his cup of taho, tired and sweaty from walking (and listening).

The weather has improved a bit but I still got the blues. I somehow find it hard to shake off this damper. The sun has been shy these days. I’d bet only Mr. Sun could lift this feeling of heaviness.

It’s Monday, so I thought it in order to start the week with good vibes, and beat the weather somehow. I put on my walking shoes and egged on Garrett to follow suit. We headed out, notwithstanding the overcast skies and drizzle, for a short walk to a nearby mini wet market (talipapa).

Garrett is the type of boy who is not much into physical activities. He easily tires and he doesn’t like being sweaty. It’s much harder now to encourage him to develop a liking for sports. So when I asked him to come with me for a walk, he did so to obey my wish. He’d rather go on with what he was doing – reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. The one thing that I appreciate about him is that he still (he’s almost eleven) follows my commands even if at times he would do so silently crying, tears streaming down his eyes. Yes, I’m tough like that especially when it is about doing his responsibilities and what we had agreed on.

So off we went, holding hands for the most part of our walk. At the market, he would mutter that he would not have gone with me had he known where we were actually going. He did not like the few times that I brought him with me to a wet market. He would attempt to shoo away the flies landing on the vegetables, and appeared distressed by the flies touching his legs.

On the way back home, I told him that it was not good at all that he would complain over little things, that he should think of the vendors who have no choice but to endure being at that place until night time to earn a living. I went on and on (yet again) with my litany of how fortunate he and his sister are. That he should always first think, before complaining, of the people, especially the children, who are deprived of even enjoying basic goods like food and water.

Knowing that Garrett’s able to process in his mind poverty as he has encountered it in his readings of even books published by the ADB, I shared with him some lessons I picked up from an article that I recently read in Time magazine, about rich children's tendency to be narcissistic (self-centered), feeling that they are entitled to the privileges they are enjoying. I, of course, qualified that our family is not rich, but he and his sister are enjoying some privileges of rich children, like being able to eat the foods they want, having a house, not having to take the jeepney or bus, being able to study in a good school, among other things. I said that there is a risk that, like other privileged children, he would grow up thinking and believing that life was easy.

Somehow, I feel that Garrett gets the lessons that I and my husband try hard to get across to him and his sister. Last night, he prayed for equality, that other people may also have enough food. My husband and I do not watch the evening news on TV as we do not want to expose our children to gory details of crimes and all the sensational news. But, last week, I intentionally allowed them to watch on a few occasions so they would see what was happening around us, how the floods severely affected people – to get them to realize that while we were safe at home, eating and watching TV to pass the time while school was out, many people were at evacuation centers or stuck at their houses wading in the floods. Garrett picked up also news about the pork barrel scam, and would explain to his sister what it was about.

Parenting now is a hundredfold tougher than it was back in the 70’s or 80’s (my era). I don’t recall conversations with my mother like the ones I mentioned. I grew up attuned to the hardships my family had to go through. There were times, still vivid in my mind, when I would be fed rice and lard, or calamansi with salt. But that was normal before. I did not feel any less. But it sure was enough motivation to persevere so I could live a far more comfortable life.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Praying for Sunshine

I was happy with the progress I was churning out posts for this blog, until the weather became bad. I had put out nine posts for the month by August 16th. Doing my crude Math tells me that I had been posting every other two days. No matter that only a handful are reading my corny posts. My intention is to write for myself mainly. This blog is just an online journal of sorts, something tangible I, my husband and children could read and re-read to remember times past – happy, sad, important and irrelevant events and whatever that I have written about. It’s great that I could share it to anybody who cared to read me. That sure is the highest flattery for me especially given my current status – full-time mom.

I was doing good until last Monday when typhoon Maring and Habagat (southwest monsoon) disrupted the nice trend. True, it’s very petty of me to be having these thoughts when as I write tens of thousands of people struggle to keep warm and safe; many lost their homes, properties and livelihood, and there were some who even lost loved ones.

The government estimates that at least 1 million people have been directly affected across three administrative regions, and at least eight people have died as of this writing. The area where I live has been placed under a state of calamity. Classes have been suspended for the entire week.

In the face of the tragedy that Maring and Habagat brought, it was difficult to write about irrelevant stuff that would have me thinking ME-ME-ME when around my safe haven, people were plunged into difficult circumstances that I and my family have been so fortunate to have been spared from. Natural disasters affect both poor and rich. I’m not rich by any measure of being rich is. But the blessings and provisions are such that I am awed and humbled, and VERY thankful.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people that this recent calamity has affected – especially to those who have been plunged into greater poverty and would have to struggle so much more to at least get back to where they were before.

May the sun shine tomorrow.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Finally Loving the Kitchen

I love that I have finally taken over my own kitchen. For the last 10 years or so, it was my able kasambahay who largely decided on and cooked my family’s meals, and on special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays, it was always somebody else taking charge of my own kitchen – either my in-laws or my mother. I would just be a happy observer, almost a guest in my own house. I was scared to cook dishes other than the simple ones I knew, and I was too lazy to learn . I was not fond of watching cooking shows nor did I take interest in the cookbooks I received as wedding gifts. It was enough that I knew how to fry, cook rice, and do basic Filipino dishes like tinola and sinigang.

I had no keen interest in renovating the kitchen and buying kitchen stuff. It was my husband who did all the job. In one trip to Singapore when kitchen wares were on sale at Tangs department store, with discounts as much as 70%, he spent hours window-shopping and then buying pots, pans, cooking utensils, cutleries, and even a pasta maker! I was somewhere else hunting for shoes and bags. We came home with huge boxes of WMF wares and other quality kitchen stuff he bought at bargain prices. He was very pleased with his purchases especially after checking that they cost him less than 2 times the price tag here in Manila.

But things have changed since July when, as you know, I have become a stay-at-home mom. The nice pots and pans that my husband bought, which had been kept away, are now out of the cabinets. The pressure cooker that he also bought years ago is finally being used. And the other kitchen gadgets have been taken out of their boxes as well and put to use. My kitchen is now fully functional.

I now also personally know what my refrigerator contains because I myself cleaned and organized it recently. I don’t have to ask for a grocery list. I know exactly what is lacking or running out of supply. And it feels so good to be in control for the first time.

My kitchen, although far from being complete, inspires me to make delicious dishes. I have mostly tried dishes I picked up from watching shows on Food Network channel and  from recipes shared by friends. I do not attempt to copy everything and buy all the proposed ingredients. There’s room for some creativity, and the trick is to taste the food as it cooks and add seasonings bit by bit. I surprise even myself! For instance, I thought lasagna required special cooking techniques. My first attempt was a big success, meaning everyone who tasted it really liked it. It was such a hit, I just might make another one to share with friends like you. :-)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Conversations with Garrett

Do you also at times find yourselves at a loss for words during casual exchanges with kids? I do. Such witty retorts can catch us off guard, dumbfounded at insights we can pick up from young minds.   

Here are a couple of incidents with my 10-year-old son:

Scene 1: In the car going home from school
Me: What did you have for snacks?
G: Cheese pimiento sandwich and French toast
Me: I want to also prepare French toast but I don’t know how.
G: You can check the carton of Alaska condensed milk, the recipe is there.
Thought bubble: He’s observant like that!

Scene 2: At a barber shop while waiting for his turn
G: What can I do?
Me: Read.
G: (shaking his head, frustrated there weren’t books and magazines like before) But there’s nothing to read. I should have taken the CRV manual with me.
Thought bubble: He’s a voracious reader like that!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Mind Museum Experience (PART 2)

The bookworm in his happy place - museum. He's at home here more than at any place except of course the bookstore. :-)

Here’s part two of my post about the Mind Museum. As I said in the first part, this one’s about what’s inside the museum as seen and narrated by Garrett.

Garrett took his mini review one notch up by integrating his recent lesson in school about different kinds of poems. Although he sold me away at the outset, revealing that I nagged him to write about the trip, I thought it was a great blog post! He shared his experience his own way, stamping his ownership on the piece – all Garrett’s.

Oh, you must understand how a mom would always cheer her child’s little successes. Hooray for my little man, already a poet/writer/blogger!

Garrett is a big fan of museums. Hear and feel him as he tells you about his awesome Mind Museum experience.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Intertwined by Fate

Before leaving for work, Let (my husband) asked me what date it is today. And like in the past years since 2001 (the year we got married), I fell into the trap. I paused to think and told him the date, not realizing why he asked in the first place. “Friday was August 9 so that makes today August 12,” I unwittingly replied. He nodded his head and winked. It hit me as before, it’s August 12! It was the most important date for us until 2001.

It was on the night of August 12 in 1996 at the soccer field in UP Los Banos that we confirmed our feelings for each other. Our lives have since been intertwined. We went steady for five years before we settled to start a family. Most of the time we were apart as he was working in Cagayan Valley. And so August 12 was a big day for us during those five years, as he would (if he could) drive 14 hours to Laguna just to celebrate our anniversary on the date itself. And if he could not, he would, without fail, arrange with a friend to buy and deliver me flowers.

Our common friends would happily attest to how crazy I was over Let. Now, I kind of wonder why. Really, it was like I was living out the song "Got to Believe in Magic." Let was not a looker. He looked generally okay, fair-skinned. Oh, but he was slim then! There was something about him – an aura that was ironically humble (playing the underdog) yet hinting of bravado and confidence. And I was an easy prey to his distinct kind of charm.

It has been 17 long years now. We bicker, argue, exchange hurting words sometimes. But our love is deeply rooted to how we began. No one forced us to be together. No one, but fate, I guess. It all came so naturally for us. There was not even a courtship to speak about. We met, we fell in love, and we remain.

How could I have forgotten? August is truly special! :-)