2014: First quarter goals

I’ve never been the type to make New Year’s resolutions. I tend to associate them with forgetting and failing, which is probably not the best way to start the year.

Goals are different. I don’t think I set goals as often as I should. When I do, I end up pleasantly surprised for having achieved them somehow, even when I haven’t been all gung-ho and determined.

In setting my goals for 2014, I’ve divided the year into quarters. I find this helps to keep me from feeling overwhelmed. It also gives me the flexibility to change my plans and be open to opportunities.

I have three things I want to accomplish in the first three months of the year. I wrote them on my window in pink window marker, so I’ll always have my goals in front of me!

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New year, new pages

Last fall, I enrolled in Blogging Your Way, a blogging e-course by Holly Becker of Decor8 and Leslie Shewring of A Creative Mint. The four-week course was packed with information and inspiration; months later I’m still digesting everything! It sparked ideas for new projects, new directions and even a new blog (stay tuned!), but also made me think about this old blog in a new way.

When I started blogging seven years ago, the blogosphere was very different. A blog was an online journal, a diary. If you had a lot to rant about in real life, your blog would be full of rants. If you had nothing going on in your life, your blog would be full of meaningless blather. The average blogger didn’t give much thought to presentation and promotion back then. It was always about what you had to say.

Things have changed. Today, blogs are carefully curated, prepared, promoted—ironically enough, whether or not you even create your own original content. There are simply things you need to do, that I hadn’t been doing. Some things make perfect sense to me; other things, like reblogging and reposting, just… don’t (yet).

So consider this a bit of housekeeping that’s been long overdue. I’ve put some new things in place, first of which is the About page. Even if you’ve been reading my blog for a long time and feel you know me pretty well, read it anyway! You just might find out a few things you don’t already know about me. Like what the heck a Currystrumpet is, for example.

It was hard to write an About page for myself! To describe myself as a “lifestyle” blog or a “travel” blog would have been very neat and handy, but I don’t think I quite fit into either of those categories. Still, I’ve written something I’m happy with, and that I think sums up me and my blog pretty well. Holler if you agree!

It was fun choosing a picture. This was taken shortly after my 30th birthday, in Istanbul. Our host Suzan had this gorgeous traditional Maltese balcony with a leather wing chair that just screamed to be posed in.

The second new addition is the Welcome note on the right-hand column, essentially a shorter version of the About page. Below it, you’ll now find links to my Twitter and Pinterest accounts. Follow away!

Finally, I’ve organized my Blogroll and moved it to a separate page. I’ve realized that I have a) so many fun and interesting friends who blog, and b) great blogs that I’ve discovered but kept to myself. So starting this January, I will feature one blog per month from my Blogroll as my “blog of the month.” Just sharing the love, y’all.

Do you like the new About page and the “blog of the month” idea? What kind of things do you want to see more of on this blog in the New Year? Hit the comments and let me know.

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What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

LIVED IN EUROPE. (This is the big one!)
Traveled in Europe without having to apply for a visa.
Painted my own walls (in the bedroom and living room).

Picked up furniture off the sidewalk.
Celebrated Queen’s Day in Amsterdam.
Used a bicycle to get around.

Learned Dutch. 
Found myself in Paris twice in one year.

Joined a running group and worked up to running for 20 minutes straight.
Grew my own herbs.
Had fresh flowers at home every week.

Wore a bathing suit at a park.

Started writing my very own blog column!
Volunteered for TEDxAmsterdam.
Went on a hot-air balloon ride!
Witnessed the changing of all four seasons. 

Sang at a wedding in the south of France.
Went swimming in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Went swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.
Did my grocery shopping at a market (not a supermarket).

Learned how to sew (so far, a dress and cushion covers).

Learned how to knit (made a scarf).
Learned how to dance the salsa.
Learned how to bake (my favorite dessert: lemon tart!). 

Hosted a dinner party for 10.
Hosted five house guests, the most I’ve ever had at one time.
Bought serious rain gear (and wore rain boots).

Edited videos for money. 

Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. But this year I set goals (something that always works for me when I remember to do it) and achieved many of them. That’s something I will do again this year.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Susie and Tinus, our dearest friends from Singapore, became the parents of a gorgeous baby boy named Max, the day before we moved to Amsterdam. We were his first visitors at the hospital!

Later in the year, another Max was born—this time to my friend Leslie in Amsterdam.

Did anyone close to you die?

Tito Rolly Cailles, one of our wedding godfathers, succumbed to leukemia.

What countries did you visit?

Switzerland, Portugal, Norway, Italy, Germany, Belgium, France, Turkey and the Philippines.

What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

A steady paycheck. Haha!

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 

Taking a leap of faith and ending up with a home and a life that I love. Runner-up: losing 8 pounds in two months.

What was your biggest failure?

Succumbing to inertia for a significant chunk of the year.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

I was hospitalized for severe asthma shortly after our arrival in the Netherlands.

What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

January 10, 2011: the day we arrived in Amsterdam.

What was the best thing you bought?

Hard to choose in a year filled with great furniture purchases. But I have would say it’s a toss-up between Final Cut Pro 7—the only purchase that’s paid for itself!—and my large purple leather satchel from Su-Shi.

Whose behavior merited celebration? 

My husband, for sure! From big things (like making the choices that got us where we are this year) to small things (like getting out of bed late at night to adjust the heating), he has done so much to make me feel like the luckiest wife in the world.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? MOVING TO EUROPE!

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Appalled and depressed are strong words; I wouldn’t use them. But the Philippine government always manages to make me go aaaaargh

Where did most of your money go? 

Fewer things, more experiences: travel and creative classes. I’m very happy about that.

What song will always remind you of 2011? 

Turning Tables by Adele: it was playing while we were painting the living room. Firework by Katy Perry was on practically every two minutes on the radio in Portugal and was the soundtrack to many a drive. And Kanye’s All of the Lights.

Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier. Maybe “just as happy” would be more accurate. 
ii. thinner or fatter? For the first time… THINNER, thank God!
iii. richer or poorer? Poorer in pocket, richer in experience.

What do you wish you’d done more of? Find work/generate income.

What do you wish you’d done less of? Stay in bed all day. 

What was your favorite TV program?

Breaking Bad! Also: Game of Thrones, Fringe, Master Chef Australia, Homeland

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don’t hate anyone. Hating is more toxic for the hater than for the hated.

What was the best book you read? A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

Florence and the Machine (sorry, I know I’m late to the party), Calle 13 (reggaeton a.k.a. Latino hip-hop), Joshua Radin (folk), Wende (amazing Dutch chanteuse specializing in the French chanson).

What did you want and got?

Living in Europe has been a lifelong dream that was fulfilled this year. I also wanted to make girl friends, learn Dutch, take creative classes and travel, travel, travel. Check na check!

In terms of material possessions, I wanted a new lens and a sewing machine. Thanks to my thoughtful hubby who knows me so well and always gives me great gifts, I got both!

What was your favorite film of this year? Midnight in Paris!

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 30 in Turkey! I woke up at the crack of dawn to go on my first-ever hot air balloon ride over the stunning landscape of Cappadocia.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A real summer with sunshine, blue skies and warm weather.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

“Embracing Europe.” I experimented more, and gave more thought to putting together an overall look. I also loved being able to layer out of necessity and not pretense… and to be able to do it without wilting! 

What kept you sane? Thank God for the Internet. And new friends.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?  Alexander Skarsgard! Hotness.

What political issue stirred you the most?

The NAIA airport renovation and cancellation of KLM’s direct flights to Manila. Yes, I’m selfish that way.

Who did you miss? My family and choir friends.

Who was the best new person you met? 

My new girlfriends, the “ladies who lunch.” I’m so lucky to have found a group of women who are not only genuinely kind, but also smart, creative, easy to be with, and funny.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:

This quote by James Frey sums it up quite nicely: “If you care about what other people think, you will always be their prisoner.” I’ve begun to truly grasp that I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

“Today is where your book begins/The rest is still unwritten.” – Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield

The most touching experience you’ve had this year?

Being on the receiving end of the Glee Club’s farewell serenade in Paris. Sniff.

What did you like most about yourself this year?

My creativity. I’ve both gone back to what I love to do and discovered new ways to express myself. My challenge for 2012 will be to focus my efforts and ideas in a way that will create value for myself and others.

What did you hate most about yourself this year?

I put off way too many things.

Was 2011 a good year for you?

The best I’ve had in a while. I like the lifestyle changes that have come about as a result of our big move. And it’s not every year that a dream gets fulfilled. I can’t wait to find out what 2012 has in store!

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Patience, my pwet

Happy new year!

I normally do a year-end recap, but right now I am so focused on, so manically juiced about 2011 that I can barely recall what happened to me in 2010 except in single-word snatches: resigning, freelancing, Beijing, Sonoma, San Francisco, and dreaming about, going for, and finally getting Europe. (Hmm, I just realized that half of these words are action verbs and half of them are places I’ve never been before. That can only be a good thing.)

Anyway, Amsterdam is just 12 days away, but it feels like the longest 12 days ever!

I don’t know how you felt about the first day of school, but when I was a kid, my excitement about the start of classes drove me bonkers every single year. Going to National Bookstore to buy all my school supplies, covering my books and notebooks with ads torn out of Vogue, Bazaar and Elle (Claudia Schiffer’s classic Guess print ads were my favorites), then with plastic, choosing and polishing my new black school shoes–all of the preparations for the start of the new school year used to just whip me into a frenzy of anticipation, like doing each of these little little things somehow brought you that much closer to the day you were so inexplicably excited for. 

That’s the closest way to describe how I feel right now.

Except sometimes, all the preparations, every little errand from picking up the visas to seeing friends for goodbye lunches and dinners, seem to be just ways of filling time until we get on that plane and get this shebang started.

Let’s go, 2011!

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Just the two of us

When I was a little brat, the only thing I hated about the holidays was the inevitable deluge of visitors. What seemed like an endless parade of vans would disgorge relations or family friends from out of town, who descended upon our family as their holiday treat.

I especially hated when this happened on Christmas Day because it meant we couldn’t open the gifts until every last visitor went away. Seeing that giant pile of unopened gifts winking at you until five or six in the evening on Christmas Day was just pure torture. Then of course there was all the noise (which we Pinoys find necessary to make holidays “masaya“) and fawning and pinching that comes with all those people. My mom still has pictures of little bratty me clinging to her and refusing to talk to people. One look at my squelched-up tampo face and you can practically hear me begging her to just send all these people away.

Eventually either I got used to it or the number of holiday crashers dwindled (Christmas visitors, of course, being directly proportional to size of house and family income), but soon enough I got old enough to not want quiet holidays so badly.

Twenty-odd years later I finally, surprisingly get my wish.

Marlon and I had been thinking of heading down to Marina Bay for the New Year’s Eve countdown, the only place where fireworks are legal in this country. But I hadn’t been feeling well and the thought of massive crowds, an epic trek home by bus, or squabbling with half of Singapore to get a taxi afterwards struck me dumb with fear. So I stayed at home and rested. Which was… really, really nice.

Marlon and I cooked dinner together, which is something that always relaxes me and cheers me up. Our first Media Noche was simple — we broiled salmon steaks in wine and butter, then baked them with a glaze of mustard and brown sugar.

While the fish was in the oven, I slipped into a nice long dress that I normally don’t wear out, and spritzed on some perfume. Marlon put on a red t-shirt with a Chinese character on it that he hoped meant something like good fortune.

With ten minutes till midnight, the part of me that is secretly waiting to transform into my mother kicked in. I went into a table-setting frenzy, faint parental admonitions about making everything clean and shiny and fancy to welcome the new year echoing in my subconscious.

We cleared the dining table of the junk it manages to accumulate every so often to make space for some cream-colored hybrid carnations that Marlon had bought for me the day before. I set out strawberries in a bowl, lit a handful of tealights from Ikea, and turned off all the lights except for the Christmas tree and a paper floor lamp. Et voila!

We filled our glasses with sparkling wine (do you know you can’t call it champagne unless it’s from Champagne, France?) and clinked them at midnight, toasting to more adventures in the coming year. We said grace before dinner, thanking God for our blessings and asking him to make the new year kinder to those burned and scarred by the year that was. We dug into our salmon steaks in the candlelight, marveling at the fact that we had never had a candlelit dinner at home before.
And I realized it was the first time that I was welcoming new year without my family — and as much as I missed them, that it was okay. Because this is also my family now.
Just the two of us (oh alright — and the cat)… until further notice.
Have a blessed and fulfilling New Year, everyone!
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