Viewing: color

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.

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!

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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Exploring the port of Naxos

During our recent trip to Greece, we had a three-hour wait between our flight and ferry times. The idea of being forced to wait at the port with Tala really stressed me out. This is probably because the only vivid image of a port in my mind is the port of Manila… and believe me, it’s not somewhere you want to be stuck for three hours with a six month-old baby.

You can’t imagine how delighted and relieved I was to arrive in Naxos town (or Hora as it said on the Greek road signs) and discover this.

Naxos Greece

Sparkling aquamarine waters, crashing waves, beautiful white buildings… well, there are worse places to be stuck waiting for a ferry.

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Nhow Hotel Berlin

I first saw the Nhow Hotel Berlin last year while sunbathing at the Badeschiff, looking across the river Spree to Friedrichshain. You can’t miss it: it’s a distinctive piece of architecture, a giant glass box perched atop a sprawling brick building.

Nhow Hotel Berlin exterior2

Back then, I didn’t know it was a hotel. And I didn’t know that I’d find myself staying in it a year later! When my husband’s company put us up at the Nhow Hotel for a work event, I finally got to see its quirky and interesting interior, designed by no less than Karim Rashid.

Want to know what I found inside?

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DIY mobile with paper ornaments

Tala’s nursery is a work in progress, and it’s finally starting to come together. When I have a bit of spare time and energy I work on little touches here and there. And I’m having fun!

I’ve been looking for ways to help Tala develop her visual acuity, so one of my recent projects was a DIY mobile to hang over her changing mat, for her to look at during nappy changes. After window shopping for baby mobiles online, I realized that many of them are made for adults to look at—that is, pretty from the side but not from below, which is the baby’s perspective.

Luckily, one of my baby shower gifts was a pack of pop-out paper ornaments by Dutch designer Jurianne Matter. Putting together a DIY mobile with these was super easy. I simply popped out the ornaments, folded them as per instructions on the package, and strung them with varying lengths of embroidery thread from a wooden embroidery hoop, which I then wrapped with washi tape.

Paper mobile for nursery

Not only are the ornaments cute, colorful (love the touches of neon!) and graphic, but they also fold out into 3D shapes, making them interesting to look at from the underside—not just for mommy, but for baby too.

Paper ornaments Jurianne Matter

The ornaments are still pretty thin and low-contrast for Tala at this stage, but she’s started looking at them more and more. I blow gently at the top of the mobile to get the circles moving and draw her interest. I love seeing her try to focus on the shapes, knowing that they are getting clearer as her vision develops.

Tala and mobile

I have a few other projects in the works, so more nursery details to come!

Before & after: Living room

Though I had hoped Little Mango would come early, I have to admit there are quite a few pluses to her taking her sweet time. One of them is having the luxury of easing into our new home—figuring out storage, shifting furniture around, and putting some essentials into place. For a while, it seemed the configuration of our home was changing every day, but Marlon and I have finally settled into a layout that we like.

So here’s a little before-and-after to show you how we’ve traded the pristine emptiness of a new apartment…

Living room1-before

for something a little more lived in… a little more “us.”

Living room1-after

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Baby room basics

In a blogger’s ideal world, by this time I would be posting pictures of my beautifully styled, meticulously arranged nursery. It would have everything my baby could possibly need, plus a few (dozen) things that she actually doesn’t. It would be perfectly color-coordinated with a carefully curated selection of quirky little touches and charming little toys.

Well, this is reality. And in reality, there is no nursery… yet. That’s because Little Mango isn’t the first occupant of this space… Grandma is! My mom arrived this week and will stay until Easter, so our second bedroom first needs to be a guest room before it can become a nursery.

That hasn’t stopped us from laying the basic foundations for our future nursery. The first step: tearing down the huge built-in closets that took up nearly half the room.

Baby room-before

Marlon and I agonized for weeks over whether or not to keep these closets. It just seems funny to me now! And when I remember how these closets became the subject of a hormonal meltdown (“That room is practically a closet! I don’t want our baby to grow up in a closet! Sob sob sob”), it’s even funnier.

Baby room-before2

In the end, we chose space for our daughter over storage for our things. Because our daughter is our daughter, and things are just, well, things. So out went half these closets, as well as the recycled train tracks that the previous owners used as shelves.

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