Spring flowers in Lago Maggiore

It was still chilly when I left Amsterdam for Lago Maggiore, so arriving to find bright sunshine, brilliant blue skies and spring in full bloom was just the best thing ever. Bursting from trees, growing out of cracks in stone walls, shouting from rooftops… it was flowers, flowers everywhere!

Lago Maggiore Orta spring trees in bloom

Lago Maggiore Orta flowers in stone wall

Lago Maggiore Orta purple wisteria

Mostly, though, Lago Maggiore in the springtime is wisteria heaven. My memories of this weekend getaway with friends will always be perfumed with the scent of wisteria.

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Autumn in Westerpark

Temperatures in the low single digits, days that aren’t just gray but also dark and gloomy, and sunsets that come all too soon at 4:30 in the afternoon. Winter is coming? Nope, it looks like winter is here.

And just when I started running, too. I started a couch to 10k running program with the hope that it would be kinder to my body than the HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts I loved before I got pregnant. I only managed it twice a week, and my current level of fitness requires a lot more walking and jogging than actual running, but I was really starting to get into it.

I found pushing my body into motion in the crisp autumn air to be calming and therapeutic. Clearing my mind with exercise became even more important last week, to break the cycle of frustration, outrage, helplessness and sorrow that arose from being glued to the news of Typhoon Yolanda’s aftermath.

Whenever I would reach a saturation point, I would unplug, get moving, recharge. And one unusually sunny morning, I took the camera with me to document the last of these fleeting autumn colors.

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn sunshine

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn leaves turning

These gorgeous yellows won’t last for long, and I want to hug them to myself for just a little while longer. The elm tree outside our window is already bare.

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn red and yellow leaves

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn yellow leaves

I just need to hang on for a few more weeks until we go home for our annual dose of sunshine.

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn trees

Till then, I need to find things to embrace about winter, and say my farewells to fall. Goodbye, autumn! You were short, but you tried your best to blaze bright and beautiful when you could. See you next year.

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Mrs. Purple Hair

Three months after I gave birth to Tala, it struck: the dreaded post-partum hair loss. The thick, glorious, shiny hair I had accumulated during nine months of pregnancy decided to flee the scene all at once. My hair’s mass exodus lasted for three months; mercifully, it showed signs of slowing down a few weeks ago. But to my horror, the new hair around my face started growing back white. Yikes!

I had grown out my hair to its natural black after a year without coloring. My last color job (just the usual reddish brown) was during my first trimester, which always shocks folks back home; meanwhile, people here laugh when I tell them that in the Philippines, dyeing your hair during pregnancy is strictly forbidden.

Black had gotten boring. It was time for a change.

Dark hair with purple tint

We girls with black hair don’t have many options, do we? Much as I needed color in my life, I didn’t want to bleach my hair to get streaks put in. Tala has black hair, and I still want to look like her mom. My brief to my fabulous kapper Iris, who gave me my first Amsterdam haircut two years ago, and has been doing my hair ever since: black with a shot of color.

“What about purple?” she suggested. Bingo!

Black hair purple tint

I love how she did my crown and bangs in a natural black, then the rest of my hair in a rich, plummy purple shine that really comes out in the light. It’s subtle, but interesting. I am totally loving this wine-meets-amethyst color for fall. Iris also gave me shorter layers that make my waves (the loyal ones who decided to stay behind!) look fuller.

Also, the color reminds me of Kodachi Kuno (the Black Rose of Furinkan High!) from my all-time favorite anime series, Ranma 1/2. All I need is a black rose, a leotard, a hot brother, some rhythmic gymnastics slash martial arts talent, and I’d be a dead ringer.

Kodachi Kuno Ranma 1/2

The funniest thing is, my best friend Justine and I used to call Marlon Mr. Purple Hair. We used to sit in the back of our English class and make random observations about everyone. Marlon’s hair is black with bluish-purple highlights, so one day Justine nicknamed him Mr. Purple Hair, and it stuck. When we got married, she addressed her wedding wishes to me as Mrs. Purple Hair. And now I guess I am Mrs. Purple Hair!

How do you like the new ‘do? And have you ever dyed your hair a really funky color? Inspire me with your bravery, please!

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Greece: a few last things

Whenever I come back from a trip, it takes me ages to unpack. For me, the magic of travel doesn’t end when the plane touches down, or when I step inside our home—it’s when all my things are packed away and my suitcase is empty. Reluctant to end the spell, I often leave my suitcase on the floor for days, picking things up and putting them away one at a time.

I feel that way about my photos from Greece. I take a ridiculous amount of photos when I travel, and only post a fraction of them on the blog. I was feeling a little sad about relegating all those images to my hard drive, so I thought I’d choose a last few details to share as a sort of farewell to Greece.

There isn’t really much of a story to tie them all together. But these are the little things that made me smile:

Waking up in, and coming home to, our lovely room at the Kavos Hotel in Naxos.

Naxos Hotel Kavos

Aromatics—dried lavender and garlic—hung over doors in Naxos’s old town.

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Oia: postcard perfect Santorini

Santorini was supposed to be the relaxing, pampering leg of our Greece trip, but things turned out differently. Not only did Marlon and I get sick, but Tala came down with her first flu on our last three days in Santorini—not a first any new parents want to have while on holiday. Heavily medicated and confined to our hotel room in Imerovigli, we could see Oia winking at us from a distance. So near, yet so far.

“Oia is the postcard Santorini,” I croaked weakly, after sucking out gobs of snot from Tala’s nose while Marlon coughed his way through three boxes of tissues. “We can’t have come all this way and not see it. We have to make it there. We just have to!”

It almost seemed we would never make it to Oia. That we’d have to come back for it when Tala reaches a more manageable age (when she’s 15 and just wants to party in Mykonos, not hang out with her parents in Santorini). But on our last day in Santorini, we finally felt well enough to venture out to Oia.

Did we push it a little? Probably. Was it worth it? Definitely.

Oia Santorini white houses

Oia is probably the most photographed village in the Cyclades, if not in all of Greece—and for good reason. It is just unbelievably photogenic.

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