Viewing: baby bump

Maternity style: Tropical edition

By the time I flew home for the holidays, I was tired of piling on ten million layers before going out. So I was looking forward to wearing my “real” clothes (which is how I think of my summer clothes) and feeling like myself again for three weeks.

What I loved about dressing for pregnancy in the tropics:

  • Getting to wear sandals. Pretty toes, yay.
  • Packing only two pairs of shoes, because staying with my mom and sister means a bottomless shoe and accessory closet—and a trip to Landmark means shopping for cheap flats!
  • Putting away my thick, woolly maternity tights and seeing my legs again

What I didn’t love:

  • THE HEAT. OMG. Being pregnant, your body temperature is already higher because of increased blood circulation and being plunged into tropical heat does not help. At all. On my last few nights, I couldn’t sleep unless I had both the aircon (set to 21 degrees) and the electric fan on. December showed no mercy to this pregnant mama.
  • Bloating and expanding because of said heat. I didn’t go up a shoe size, thank goodness, but I gained FIVE POUNDS of water—which I lost the day I returned to wintry Amsterdam.
  • Humidity-triggered frizzies. Good thing there’s The Twist!
  • Sweating your way to that dewy (read: oily), no-makeup look. I found myself quite startled to see how much makeup women pile on in Manila (some women really need to lay off the foundation!) until I remembered that it melts off in minutes.
  • Being forcibly reminded of how everyone dresses in the same preppy/simple girl uniform. I lost count of the number of neat ponytails, Longchamp Le Pliage bags and round pearl earrings I saw in my two weeks back home!

All that aside, what I loved most about dressing for the heat was getting to dig out some of my favorite outfits from storage—like the printed vintage shirtdress I hadn’t seen since August…

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and being able to wear my normal, non-maternity clothes… even in my third trimester.

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My maternity photo shoot

I knew from the start of my pregnancy that I wanted to do a maternity photo session. I thought I’d wait until I was ready to pop to capture my body in its full pregnant glory, but I changed my mind during a Skype date with a friend who was then in her eighth month of pregnancy.

When I asked if she was going to have maternity photos taken, the ferocity of her response surprised me. “Oh my God! No! Ayoko! Feeling ko ang laki-laki ko! Wala ako sa mood mag-posing posing!” Basically, she felt ugly and huge, and the last thing she wanted was to get her glam on in front of a camera. I thought she had some kind of hormonal goggles on, because to me she looked great.

But her response also made me think. If my gorgeous, tiny, delicate friend felt like a grossly ugly blimp in her last month, then there was no hope for me! So, my maternity photos had to be taken when my baby bump was a respectable size, but while I could still feel… cute.

I got in touch with our wedding godmother Dada, whose doctor/photographer husband Raul took some great portraits for the Ateneo Chamber Singers’ most recent album. Raul was game, and booked some studio time for our first weekend back home, two weeks into my final trimester. And this is what came out of those two hours in the studio.

Ever wondered what couples mean when they say “we’re pregnant?” Wonder no more. Sympathetic pregnancy is not a myth!

Can you tell Marlon and I had a blast with this photo shoot?

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2012 in Instagram

I don’t know if I’ll still be using Instagram in 2013, but I sure used the heck out of it in 2012! Here’s a look back at the year that was via the 10 most liked photos on my Instagram feed.

I don’t blog as much about daily life in Amsterdam as I should. I think that means I’ve finally started to settle in and take the ordinary things as, well, ordinary (as opposed to when I first moved here and everything was new). But I do post glimpses of everyday life in the ‘Dam on Instagram.

This year, 4 out of my 10 most liked photos were of Amsterdam–one for each of the four seasons, actually!

Spring: Blue skies over canal houses

Summer: Villas beside Vondelpark

Fall: Our soon-to-be street

Winter: Early sunset on the canals

Instagram was also where I chronicled my wanderlust. These on-the-fly snapshots of some of the places I’ve been this year got quite a few likes.

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Maternity style: Welcome to the third trimester

What better way to start one’s third trimester with a 12-hour transcontinental flight? That’s what I always say.

Thankfully, the flight from Amsterdam to Singapore was surprisingly comfortable, for someone in her 28th week of pregnancy. Booking Singapore Airlines and having a prenatal shiatsu massage the night before (my neighbors are yoga and shiatsu therapists) definitely made a difference. I also walked around, did a lot of hip circles in the toilet, and packed a Ziploc bag with chocolate chip cookies and bananas, and checked my ankles every five minutes to see if they were still there (I’ve heard one too many cankles horror stories from pregnant flyers).

I’m happy to report that I made it to Singapore in one piece, with minimum discomfort and intact ankles. Hurray!

Asymmetrical dress by from Uniqlo’s Designers Invitation Project: Costello Tagliapetra, H&M copper headband, Ona leather camera satchel, Vincci patent leather wedges, and five-spike necklace from WeAreLabels.  

Heavy, clinging humidity swallowed me up the moment I stepped out of Changi Airport (a forceful reminder of why mentholated facial wash was created), but right now I’m happy to be dressing like myself again, minus all the winter layers. I’m glad to still be wearing my pre-pregnancy clothes, too. And sandals, oh sandals… what a glorious feeling.

I give myself two days before I start complaining about curly bangs and oily skin, and generally cursing this climate. But for now, the tropical heat and I are cool—no pun intended.

Friday night fog

Spending Friday night in a fog was something you did a lot in your 20s. (Not that I was ever super wild. I was in the choir, remember?) But in my 30s and in Amsterdam, that Friday night fog gets pretty literal.

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This was the scene last Friday, when the streets of Amsterdam were covered in a heavy, misty fog. It reminded me of weekend drives to the beach when I was a kid, and stopping by the Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay for lunch. Tagaytay was the only place remotely near Manila where you could see heavy fog, and it was the biggest thrill.

We’d be driving, the car would suddenly be enveloped in fog, Mom would turn on the headlights and wipers, and we were instantly transported somewhere gray, foreign and cold! (Note: it couldn’t have been more than 26℃ or 27℃, a hot summer day in Amsterdam. Haha.)

Marlon and I practically leapt out of the tram into the fog, instantly kids again. I swear I don’t know how we’re going to be parents in three months. While Daddy played Assassin’s Creed

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Mommy played dress-up with her new wool cape (a.k.a. the anti-maternity winter coat) and self-made knitted cowl (based on this pattern).

Cape and cowl

If you’re ever going to go swirling about in a fog, I highly recommend a cape and cowl. (Note that my recommendation is purely based on the fun factor.) Something like a superhero costume or Sherlock Holmes-type outfit seems fitting when you find yourself living on Jack the Ripper’s street.

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Mist and mystery aside, one thing I love at this time of year is walking with the glow from people’s windows lighting my way home. Even if I’m freezing, this sight makes me smile—although depending on the temperature, the smile could look like a grimace.

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How are you spending your Friday night? Whether it’s in a fog (literal or otherwise) or totally in the clear, hope you have a good one. Happy weekend, folks!

The Alhambra: Colors and patterns

From yesterday’s post, you would think the Alhambra is all pale stone and gleaming serenity. But in reality, it’s full of two of my favorite things: color and pattern!

The most eye-catching surfaces are tiled with rich colors, and the Nasrid Palaces are full of them.

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Alhambra tiles and leather chair

I’m loving these many-pointed stars; I’ve been obsessed with stars lately and this is an unusual way to do them.

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Color and pattern are everywhere: on the walls, ceiling, floors, doors, windows. I can’t be sure, but it almost seems like no two patterned surfaces are alike.

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Even without much color, the carved surfaces compete for attention. Including inscriptions in praise of Allah, repeated over and over, the level of detail is just mind-boggling.

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To think that these were carved by hand, before there was a way to light spaces sufficiently—more than one master carver must have gone blind creating these works of art.

Alhambra niche carvings

Of course, why do just tiles or patterns when you can combine both?

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I mean, if you have an empire, more is certainly more.

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And heck, if that that’s not enough, just throw in a few kickass doors with an awesome nail-head pattern. Just because you can.

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Graceful serenity on the one hand, an explosion of color and pattern on the other. Can you see why the Alhambra is one of my favorite places in the whole world?

Granada: Carrera del Darro

Right on the doorstep of our hotel in the Albayzin, a UNESCO World Heritage district with a medieval Moorish past, was the Carrera del Darro—a narrow, scenic path that runs along the Rio del Darro.

Granada Rio del Darro

Lined with centuries-old buildings, punctuated by picturesque stone bridges and paved with cobblestones, the Carrera del Darro is a lovely place for a stroll—especially in that magic hour before sunset, when the sun bathes everything with a sheer golden coat. As you can see, quite a few people seem to agree.

Granada Carrera del Darro

Remember this dress from my first trimester? Something about the colors and print just made it seem like something I should wear in Spain. Thankfully, it still fits and the peplum falls right over the bump.

Maternity style Week 23 Spain

So, come walk along the Carrera del Darro with me! And let’s see what we can find along the way.

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Hola from Marbella!

A warm hola! from Spain’s Costa del Sol, where I am playing the tag-along wife. Marlon had a work conference to attend in Marbella, and I was dying to escape the cold. I also didn’t want to be alone for a week, so here I am.

In the ’60s and ’70s, this was the summer destination for Europe’s wealthy and glamorous. As a kid in the ’80s, I remember going to a Batangas beach resort called Marbella, obviously modeled after this town. My mom caught the tail end of its heyday, but I never thought I’d get to see the real Marbella.

We arrived on Monday with just enough time for a stroll around the center before Marlon had to work. My impression of Marbella, at least from its old town, is more charming than glamorous, and I like that. Tourist season is over (though it’s still a good 8-10℃ warmer than Amsterdam), so the town is practically deserted. I like that, too.

I’m not really here to see the sights. If all I do is hole up in a nice hotel room, occasionally take some nice pictures, and spend time with my husband after his long conference days, I will be happy. Getting to eat churros con chocolate and wear sandals in November would be huge pluses, obviously.

They say the second trimester is the best time to travel, and so far I’m inclined to agree!

By the way, I’m trying two new things in this post. First is this Photoshop tutorial for vivid color photos from A Beautiful Mess. My photos sometimes turn out much darker than I’d like (especially in gray Amsterdam), so I like this quick fix. Do you like the results or do you find the images too bright?

Another one is a tip from The House That Lars Built. In her column called 15 Minutes to a Better Blog, contributor Tori Bowman suggests making all images the width of the post for a good flow. I like taking tall/portrait photos (vs the usual wide/landscape orientation) so I struggle with this a bit. I’m trying it out here, so let me know what you think: is the last image way too big or just right? If you have a good fix for these pesky tall photos, I’d love to know!

Brooklyn leather camera satchel

The best gifts come from people who know you best. Don’t you agree?

Take my husband, for example. He knows I’m always carrying around a DSLR with at least one spare lens. He knows I have a terrible habit of using my nice, “grown-up lady” bags as camera bags, which is great for me but not for the bags. (I once horrified a friend by taking my DSLR with the clunky wide-angle lens out of a buttery soft Bottega Veneta handbag.) He knows that I’ve been in the market for a sturdy brown leather bag for a few months now. Most importantly, he knows that I pin pictures of all my bag crushes on Pinterest.

This is how he completely bowled me over with his birthday gift: the Brooklyn leather satchel from Ona.

I absolutely love the vintage style of this bag, as well as the chestnut leather that’s just begging to get all nicely worn and beat-up. The cross-body strap makes it easy to carry… and it looks great with everything! I can totally see this becoming my go-to travel bag.

Not only is this a good-looking satchel on the outside, but it’s also a camera bag on the inside. Removable inserts (attached with Velcro) allow it to store a DSLR and up to three lenses. Generous padding cushions the whole kit.

As if this wasn’t awesome enough, tucked into the padded interior was another birthday surprise… a Canon 60mm Macro lens!

I discovered this lens at The Hive Berlin, when Yvonne of Fraulein Klein (who takes beautiful photos) used it during her photography workshop. Like my 50mm lens, it’s a fixed-focus lens with shallow depth of field. However, it’s a lot sturdier, more light-sensitive, and easier to use for macro photography.

I will post test photos when I’ve gotten to play around with it a little more. This definitely completes my photography wish list and I think I’ll be very happy with my current set of lenses—all four of them!—for a long, long while.

Maternity style: Fall colors

I really regretted not taking more pictures outdoors last fall. So this year, I’ve made more of an effort. Amsterdam doesn’t have a whole kaleidoscope of autumn colors, but what it does have is this glorious yellow that’s everywhere at this time of year. I wish I knew what these trees were called!

I love looking out the window—or down at my feet, if I’m out—and seeing these rich shades of yellow. They’re a much-needed burst of happy brightness against Amsterdam’s persistent gray.

Fall colors are also seeping into my wardrobe—like this burgundy, tan and blue-gray outfit I wore to take visiting friends out to lunch last Sunday. I’m happy to say that all this stuff is still non-maternity! The striped t-shirt is from Uniqlo, the mullet skirt is from Forever 21, and the gold flats are from Jonak, a French shoe brand that I fell in love with on a trip to Paris last year. The burgundy tights are from American Apparel; one of the surprising advantages of being a short girl who wears a large size is that all of my regular tights are so long on me that they go up and over the baby bump. Yay.

And the knit turban… well, I made that myself! I saw a similar knotted headband being sold at the Westerpark Sunday Market for a whopping €42. It came with this whole song and dance about being handmade from 100% alpaca by grannies from Belgium. Okaaayyyy.

Using this super easy tutorial from Craft Snob, I made my own version for just €3.25 (the cost of half a ball of yarn). And it’s got its own exotic song and dance too. After all, it’s handmade from 100% Icelandic sheep’s wool by an expecting mother from the Third World. Beat that!