Friday, January 31, 2014

Book review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I know I've not been blogging, either here or on Topaz Mommy. Sorry, dear readers! That's because I've been reading fiction again. I haven't read fiction since... I don't remember! Before the kids came along, my nose was always buried in a book. Always always always. Reading was still possible with my first son but when the second one came along, it's become near impossible to put books before boys!

Then I read this article right before New Year's Eve: Brain function boosted for days after reading a novel. And my first thought was, "So that's why I'm becoming stupid! I don't read anymore!" Take note that the improvement in brain function came with reading novels, not non-fiction, not self-help, not news articles, not magazines, not blogs (hehe so, sorry, my blogs aren't helping you guys at all!). So for 2014, I resolved to read novels again. One novel a month. My first novel for the year is A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. It's the first book of her All Souls Trilogy.

I have had this book for a year now but the first few chapters are so slow that I kept giving up on it. The only reason I took it up again was because I remembered the reason I bought it: It was praised by critics. Plus, my friends loved it. So, dubious though I was, I plunged into it again. As with previous attempts, I fell asleep after a few pages haha! The heroine, a witch named Diana Bishop, is a scholar, you see, so a great chunk of the first act of the book is spent in—wait for it—a library. Now, I love libraries. Spent a lot of time in them when I was growing up actually. So I know that not much action happens in libraries. Well, except that in this library, Diana meets a vampire and all hell breaks lose... a hundred or so pages after!

I'm glad I plodded through those early chapters. Once the action starts (falling in love, dangers posed to the couple, traveling around the world, etc!), the pace picks up and I had a difficult time putting down the book.
Took me three weeks to finish this! I usually don't take that long to read one book!

1. I love how Diana and Matthew fell in love. It's in the space of a few weeks and I had no trouble falling in love with their love. It was completely believable to me, mostly because their love started with their lengthy conversations over tea and wine, talking about science, history, yoga, wine, architecture—all of their interests. They connected with their minds first. That's the best way to fall in love!

2. I like the intelligence of the book. I don't know if I mentioned this anywhere on this blog but I love history. Everyone thinks English was my favorite subject in school. It's actually History, and that was what I wanted to take in college. So anyway, I love how historical figures are woven into the stories of vampires and witches. It totally makes sense that magical creatures would occupy important positions in society.

1. The pace. Did I mention it was sooooo sloooow at the start? Yes, I think I did. It's the fault of all those aforementioned lengthy conversations over tea. So, while I dislike the pace, I see its necessity.

2. I am so over the story featuring a clumsy, not gorgeous girl meeting a spectacularly good-looking, powerful, rich man. He brings out all her insecurities because he's just so darn perfect, and confuses the girl because he's so hot for her simple, boring self. Then when they finally fall in love, we see the guy has a vulnerable side. It's the plot of so many books—Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, all the romance novels from Mills & Boon, et al. I also roll my eyes when the girl is always fainting, being carried around in the guy's strong arms, so weak and needing protection and rescue. That just really needs to go away!

I can't find a copy of Shadow of Night, the second book in the All Souls Trilogy. I was hoping that would be my novel assignment for February.

Anyway, have you read A Discovery of Witches? How'd you like it? Please tell me in the comments! I'm hoping to do a book club thing on this blog. If I find a copy of Shadow of Night by next week, let's make that our book for February!

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Topaz Fashion: Nicole Kidman in Jimmy Choo

I was planning to post some outfits from the last few months (I keep forgetting to do outfit posts!) but I got lazy to color correct and I got depressed at how skinny I was pre-pregnancy haha so how about we feature Jimmy Choo's Spring Summer 2014 campaign starring one of my favorite Hollywood stars Nicole Kidman!

Nicole, who is 10 years older than me, inspires me with her still hot body. I wish she hadn't messed with her face so much, though. When I was reading Lord of the Rings, I always imagined Galadriel to look like Nicole Kidman. The elfin features, the stature, the figure, the grace. I have loved her beauty forever (see my favorite magazine covers of her below) but, hey, it's her face not mine. I would love to have that body, though. 

Back to Jimmy Choo! The inspiration for Jimmy Choo's SS collection is "nature unleashed." Nicole is lounging in a neon jungle. 

"Appearing to float above the ground, she is captivating 
wearing the flame Damsen sandals (750 euros)." 

 "Reclining seductively, she clutches the Charlize in 
neon lime matt python (1395 euros) with the Keane rope sandals."

"Wearing the Tamber shoe (895 euros) with the python Anna bag (2450 euros), 
she is captured by Sølve Sundsbø’s lens like an exotic butterfly in flight."  

The ad campaign will be seen in the March issues of fashion magazines globally, but because you're lucky, you get to see the photos here first! You can also catch the exclusive behind-the-scenes film here. I like that in this video, Nicole still looks like Nicole. In the photos, her face looks kinda distorted.  

More fabulousness at Enjoy!

*ad campaign images courtesy of Visions & Expressions

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Friday, January 17, 2014

A loooong answer to the simple but complicated question: Should I have kids?

Mama is 36 here. I just turned 37 now so I'm looking at this picture with morbid fascination. We almost have the same life here, but hers didn't have a happy ending. And all my life, for as long as I could remember, Mama always told me, "Don't ever get married and don't ever have children."

Well, I disobeyed her. I tried to obey her but my Vince proved to be irresistible and the birth control pill failed me (okay, I failed to take the pill a few times so I won't blame the pill), so now I'm married with almost-three kids. And I'm ridiculously happy!

So now I always get asked, "You're so happy! Do you think I should have kids, too?" Then when these women see me hesitate—I guess they were expecting me to trill "Yes!" while glowing with happiness—they get all freaked out haha. "Is she really a happy mom?" I can see it on their faces haha. I get asked this because I've been so vocal about remaining single and child-free all my life (well, up until four years ago!).

Some people say, "So you changed your mind? Is that why you had a baby?"

Nope. I got pregnant unexpectedly. I was in denial and scared all throughout my pregnancy, and when my eldest was placed in my arms, I didn't hear the angels sing nor did tears well up in my eyes. I just went, "Oh, hey you."

Some people say, "So do you regret putting off kids now that you're so in love with motherhood?"

Nope. I don't regret it at all. Had I gotten pregnant in my 20s, I'd have made a terrible mother. I had issues to resolve (Mama's warning was one of them), things to do, places to go. Now that those are over and done with, I find that I can settle down quite happily. Career, ambition, nights out, travel—they don't excite me at all anymore. Been there, done that. With those out of the way, I can focus on adoring my kids. They are quite adorable (most of the time!) but I know I can love them the way I do because there's nothing there anymore to distract me.

Some people say, "So is your life better now with kids?"

Yes and no. No, because I miss my husband. I'm lucky we both work from home so I'm actually with him 24/7... with two kids between us. We can't have a decent conversation, we sneak off to have sex (in our own house, we have to sneak off to have sex like we're doing something wrong!), we hurry through meals, we hardly have time to read our beloved books, our lovely house has been altered to be kid-friendly, the house is almost always sticky, and every morning (and sometimes afternoons and evenings, too) is redolent of the smell of baby shit. It's the kind of smell that sticks around, never mind that you opened all the windows and lit all the scented candles. If that's your idea of a better life, then whoopeedoo, we're living it!

But it is a fabulous life we live now. I guess it's fabulous because, aside from the love we have, we don't have the concerns of a lot of parents of young kids. We own our home and our car. We have no debts. We have a little saved up in the bank and in the stock market. We're past that burning, blinding lust to be someone special. We have peace, our kids are enjoying that security, and we're happy we can give them that.

Peace, security. That's a life of luxury I just described there. So it's very easy for me to say life is better with kids, but things could change tomorrow. An earthquake, a fire, an accident, a disease, a tragedy. I always ask God to "keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings (Psalm 17:8)," but I also know that as long as we are alive, troubles are there. I hope I would always say that I love my life no matter what. At our Bible study this week, we were reminded to "put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. (Ephesians 6:13)" It's not "if", it's "when." I hope that when the day of evil comes, my faith in God will not be shaken.

Sometimes, you see, I'm haunted by what my mother went through—she was always in debt, she was always borrowing from the sari-sari store or from my aunt's grocery stall, she had to drop us off with different relatives often because she didn't have money to sustain our everyday needs—and I think that, if that happened to me, would I find myself saying what she said many times: "If I could live my life all over again, I'd never have married and I'd never have children."

She loved us but she's honest. I got her honesty. So when people ask me if they should have kids, I wish I could just say, "Yes! Children are so wonderful!", I just can't. I want to ask back, "Are you mature? Are you selfless? Are you done with your wandering? Are you financially ready? Are you married to a wonderful man? Are you over yourself? Are you ready to never sleep again?"

Of course, someone very young, not ready, totally selfish and ambitious, and unmarried and poor can find that she's pregnant or got someone pregnant and just transform. It happens. Not all the time, but it happens. It happened to me actually. I was so career-focused, I was so selfish, I was so not ready that I freaked out when I saw the positive pregnancy test, but I embraced motherhood and I'm amazed at how much I'm loving it. So if you're asking yourself, "Should I have kids?", then maybe you're ready. I really can't tell you if you are. Only you can know and sometimes you may not know until it happens.

All I know is my children have added to my life. Nope, they did not fill a hole, they did not complete me, they did not give meaning to my life. They added to it. They added joy to an already happy life, they added wonder and laughter and surprise and love to an already wondrous, laugh-filled, surprising, loved-up life. They did add chaos and mess and noise to my wonderfully organized and quiet life. But, hey, a perfect life is a boring life. So have kids if you want the chaos! It's actually not so bad. Nope, not so bad at all!

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Friday, January 10, 2014

My birthmark's strange powers

I have a birthmark on a part of me that I won't specify where because that will be really weird if strangers knew of its location (it's not on my vagina). Anyway, this birthmark has special powers: It has the ability to slow down any line I'm queued at. Any line, every line, every single time, all the time.

Some scenarios:

  • The person in front of me is a senior citizen who can't find her ID in her purse
  • The person in front of me is a short-sighted person who will ask the fast-food cashier what's on the menu
  • The cashier will turn over her register's money just as it's my turn
  • Someone will faint/get mad/realize he lost his wallet in the line before me

Vince is actually very impressed with my birthmark's power. When I told him about it when we met as fellows at a writing workshop, he didn't believe me... until we lined up at a Jollibee and I kept an entire bus of fellows and panelists waiting for 30 minutes. I guess I should be happy that instead of scaring him off, my birthmark's strange powers fascinated him. (That or maybe he just wanted to find out where the birthmark was!) At any rate, Vince always says, to this day, "Gumana na naman yang balat mo!" Thank goodness he never says this with exasperation or irritation, but always with wonder.

Today, as I rushed to the supermarket because we ran out of milk for the kids, my birthmark's power did not disappoint. There was no line actually, just a guy before me, when all credit card terminals conked out. The guy in front of me was paying with a credit card, of course. I offered to pay for his groceries (it was just P400) but he acted really insulted. Ten minutes.

I'm used to this happening so I'm incredibly patient. On my way home, I saw a Krispy Kreme with just one woman choosing doughnuts. I figured I could make a quick detour. Well, the woman happened to be a secretary/intern who was ordering specific doughnuts from a long list, with each doughnut individually wrapped. Of course, she had to ask for a written official receipt, too. Ten minutes.

Then I passed by National Bookstore and picked up a few journals. At the cashier, the woman in front of me insisted on paying with coins. Dear heaven, she counted them all out one by one. Then she came up three pesos short! So as I was fishing around my own wallet for the coins, she said, "Credit card na lang!" Ten minutes.

A supposedly quick errand next door turned to an hour-long trip.

I really should just send Vince next time.

Do you have any special powers?

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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Belle used to be my favorite Disney Princess

Till she went all ghetto!

Funny how the girls and trannies said Belle was a chocolate chaser, which apparently they looked down on. I wonder why! Love is love is love, right? Then I realized that in the Disney movie, Belle was in a relationship with a Beast. Er.

Hope you're enjoying your Wednesday, y'all!

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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A fond farewell

The babies are asleep. I've put polish on my nails (OPI Glitzerland on my fingers, Dazzle Dry Evening Song on my toesies) and now I'm rushing this post because in an hour the fireworks will begin in earnest and the kids will wake up.

I'm happy. I want the kids to wake up because though they tire me out all day, I miss them when they're asleep. That's why I can't find the time to blog anymore. Blogging requires sitting down. I don't sit down. I lie down hehe. It's the pregnancy. I've been rendered useless. I'm so grateful that Vince is really doing everything (thanks, babe!). I know he has other more important things to do than cleaning the house—that's why we desperately need a kasambahay—but as of now, he's the main man of the house, doing absolutely everything except cook. I enter my second trimester this week so I am hoping I'd feel better. I'm oh so ready for 2014!

So the year in review:
1. We got to travel a lot! We went to Tagaytay often. We went to Batangas. We went to Hong Kong, and we're flying to Cebu this week. When I was working, I was so busy, I never went anywhere!

2. We lost our household help but this has resulted to so many wonders. I knew my husband has always been in love with his kids, but when the maids left, he's sooo good with kids pala! He's an expert diaper changer, babysitter, teacher, playmate.

Many moms tell me their husbands are useless when it comes to childcare. Well, let your husbands be fathers, too! Let them wipe the poop, mop up the pee, feed the kids, read to the kids, discipline the kids as well as play with them. Let your husband spend more than a few minutes with his kids! Don't allow him to give you the baby once the baby poops or cries. Most of us wives don't let our husbands get involved because we think our hubbies are already tired from work and should be spared from the less fun aspects of fatherhood. I say you're cheating them out of fatherhood when you do that!

3. We made our second investment. Financially, we're really okay, which strikes people as so strange since technically, both Vince and I are unemployed. Sound money decisions in the past years have led to our early retirement. Now, we're not rich at all. In fact, I know our families are worried for us (hehe) but we're working very hard on writing projects, which help with the daily expenses. Then we'll (maybe) look for jobs when the kids go to school because education can be expensive. But, for now, we're happy with what we have.

4. Because of the yaya/maid-less situation, I've had to put work in the back burner. I really thought I'd only rest for six months then look for work again by June. I've had many amazing job offers, too. But the lack of domestic help made a new career impossible.

Well, not really. My mommy blogging career took off. I was asked to be digital brand ambassador for Sangobion, Lotte Xylitol, Vicks, Pampers and Smart. I never thought that would happen, seriously. I'm, like, old and flabby. And I'm not a celebrity! So I'm grateful that I was asked to be a brand ambassador because I'm a mom that people trust, not because I'm gorgeous or hot or famous. I'm just me!

5. Our family is getting bigger! I got pregnant again! We're so thrilled really. I want four kids but Vince said three is good. He's hoping for a girl, I'm hoping for another boy, but we're both praying for a healthy kid who's as cute and as smart and as affectionate as Vito and Iñigo.

Our sons are really our source of joy, Vince and I. Our marriage has been immensely blessed by our two boys. Their wonder at life, the way they laugh and play, their funniness and playfulness, even drama sometimes, make every single day a joy to live. Today, the boys kept running to our arms to kiss and huggle. They loved it. We loved it. Vince said, "When my life flashes before my eyes, I want this to be one of the memories."

I'm so blessed. Some people say I shouldn't say I'm so blessed. In fact, on my birthday a few weeks ago, someone actually said he wished me less happiness because too much happiness makes people forget the important things in life. I was really upset with that "wish." I'm happy because my life is focused on what truly matters: my husband, my children, my relationships. My career isn't even important anymore, neither is my looks (I'm fat now!!!) nor my material possessions. I'm just happy to spend the days with my boys. Why would anyone wish me less of my boys? I immediately prayed that God will block the curse this person placed on me!

If there's anything this year has taught me, it's that letting go of many urgent things allows more of the important things to come in. In many ways, my life was emptied out this year, but my life has never been so full! My word for 2013 was "simplify" and when I simplified my life, it became more great. How amazing is that!

My God, I am in awe of Your goodness and grace! I deserve none of this goodness because I've been so evil for so long, and yet, because I asked You to be in my life, You have truly fulfilled Your promise to give me life and for me to live life abundantly!

"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." 
- Jesus Christ (John 10:10)

This 2014, I resolved to let God use my writing to bless my readers with His Word as I have been blessed. Don't worry! My blogs will still be super fun. But I realize that I've been keeping my source of joy, comfort and strength from you all by not talking to you about my God. So all you see is the product (the happiness) but you don't see the fountain and the foundation (my Lord and Savior).

For 2014, my word will be "family." This year showed me that I am still so far away from being the wife and mother God wants me to be. I mean, I'm okay. I think I'm doing a good job. In fact, I've always thought I've been doing a good job, until I started studying "Power of a Praying Wife" and "Power of a Praying Parent," then my eyes were opened to all that I still need to do and be so that I can be a true servant to my family. So this 2014, I want to be a better wife and a better mother, a woman who is happy to be of service, to give all the love I could give every day of my life for as long as I live. And it starts today, January 1, 2014.

Happy New Year! God bless you all with abundance in love, friendship, laughter, good health and wealth!

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