Viewing: Rogue


I found this photo of Rogue that captures one of my favorite expressions of hers. I would say it was crying out to be translated into watercolor, but that wouldn’t be completely accurate. 
It was more like it was looking at me, head cocked to one side, with a quizzical look in its big green eyes. “Why don’t you paint me?” it seemed to be saying. So I did. 

You know what they say about cats and curiosity. What they don’t say is that curiosity can be irresistibly adorable. 

Paint it black

Spring is finally here, and my own personal travel “season” is about to start. Since I’m going to be away often over the next two months, I didn’t want to start a new watercolor project (which normally takes a few weeks). So the objective of my last class was to finish something fast. 
My subject of choice: a certain black cat named Rogue. 

Her proportions are a bit wonky, but you’ll have to forgive me as I didn’t even do a sketch for this one. I pretty much started splashing around with a big brush, as my teacher wishes I would do more often. But I think this captures her cranky/evil look pretty well; it’s the one she pulls when she’s sleepy and I’m trying to play with her.

It’s an interesting exercise to paint black without actually having black in my palette: I used indigo, brown, and a touch of red. I plan to use it as a study for a bigger, more carefully considered portrait of my pet (cat-rait? Pet-rait?). But in the meantime, I have some traveling to do! #excited

Who wore it better?

After knitting a very long scarf that I didn’t like very much, I finally completed a knitting project that I actually like. I found a pattern for this knit headband/neck warmer on Pinterest and thought it would be a nice way to learn new techniques, like increasing and decreasing stitches. It’s not perfect, but it’s been getting a lot of use, and I’m happy with the color.

Now, my question is: who wore it better? Me or Rogue?

P.S. I’m frowning because I attempted to take this in a narrow cobblestoned alley that suddenly turned into a wind tunnel. Narrow alleys here have a way of doing that in the winter.

Farewell to spring

Surprise! Spring is over, and in its place is some kind of… weird autumnal hybrid. Did I miss something? Did we just skip summer altogether?
The weather for the past two weeks has been positively dismal: bleak, gray and rainy for days on end. While Holland is spared from the thundering torrents that we’re used to in our tropical corner of the world, this light rain just seems so… endless. So I guess this is the famous Dutch weather they all complain about. I’m straining my neck looking ahead, and there is not a single sunny day in sight. Here’s hoping July and August will be better.
I didn’t even notice that spring ended. When the flowers started popping up in April, I thought they’d be around for at least a few months. Silly me. I guess I’ve gotten used to things being around pretty much all year, as they are in Manila or Singapore. Now the rampant blooming has ceased, and though the surroundings are still alive and green, I wish I took more notice of the flowers. Still, I rounded up enough photos to mount a decent farewell to spring.
Practically everywhere in the Jordaan
I never had to go far to get my fill of flowers. Sometimes I just had to look out my window.
Just across the street, my neighbors grow the most gorgeous roses over their front doors. My mom became a huge fan of those while she was here in May.
I miss the easy abundance of spring flowers. I even picked some on my afternoon walks and runs around the neighborhood. (I never picked any of the neighbors’ flowers, of course!)
Free flowers!

 Picked along the river and at the Beatrixpark
I was horrified at the prices of fresh flowers in Paris: €30, €40, even as much as €60 for blooms that would cost €8-10 at the most here in Amsterdam. Thankfully, this is Holland and we can bring in a little bit of spring practically all-year round.  Sunflowers arrived on the scene a week or two ago…
… while my new favorite, peonies, made their first appearance in the market in late April. I’m glad that peonies are still in season. And it appears I’m not the only one.

Product photography = FAIL.

As you can tell, Rogue likes peonies too! Luckily for her, there will always be a little corner of spring to nibble on here at home.

Gone sledding

Did I mention that we have a sled at home?

On our very first furniture hunting trip to Spoor 38, Marlon saw this battered old sled outside in the cold and mist. His Superman complex immediately kicked in and he just had to rescue it. Or maybe it was a third world/tropical aspirational thing, I don’t know. Anyway, we threw an Ikea cheapskin sheepskin over it, and it magically went from odd purchase to cute seating for the living room. 
The ultimate sign that the sled was truly meant for our home was the Rogue stamp of approval.
It’s perfectly Rogue-sized, furry, soft, and right next to the radiator, which makes it perfect for catnaps.

On a particularly cold evening, Marlon draped a hand towel over her during one of her catnaps. She just looked like she needed to be tucked in.

Of course that meant waking her up accidentally, which she was none too happy about. But in general I think she’s very happy about the sled, which means crazy cat lady and crazy cat man-in-training are happy about it too.
So what if we’re too close to the ocean for actual snow and live in the most slope-less, hill-less country in Europe. Who says you can’t enjoy a sled? 

Arrival in Amsterdam

The 13-hour direct flight on KLM was a breeze. I slept through most of it, and because the movie selection was crappy (I’ll miss you, SQ!) I decided to re-watch Mr. & Mrs. Smith, back in the days when Angelina Jolie was still hot and not the plasticized twig she is today. I also saw a few episodes of The Office, and watched the new Woody Allen, You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger.
In between all of this, I drifted in and out of a mixed haze of moods.  I felt overdressed and frumpy, seeing the Europeans in their slim jeans and sleek knits. I had mini-panics: I have no friends! I have no job! What if I hate it? Then I realized I had just leapt into the unknown, and instantly felt better. I also felt better about the number of bags we had when I saw a knot of backpackers in front of us who had the same number of bags, except they were trash bags. And I kept thinking about Rogue all alone in the cargo hold every time we went through turbulence.
The plane landed at quarter to eight in the morning. It was pitch black outside. I assured Marlon that the sun would rise at around nine, but it never did. 
At Schipol Airport: no questions at Immigration. Nada. Not a single one. They just stamped my passport and let me into Europe. You’re never getting me out, suckaaasss!
Naturally, our massive bulks of luggage attracted the attention of Customs. When the female Customs official asked us where we lived, Marlon replied that he was starting a new job in Amsterdam. Her stern expression gave way to a warm smile. “Ah, that explains why you have so many bags,” she said. “Go on then.” And go on we did.

We took a taxi (43€! Josme!) to a residential area south of Amsterdam, called Buitenveldert, where our serviced apartment is. The relocation agency had offered Marlon a choice of a hotel in Dam Square, smack in the center of town, and a more out-of-the way serviced apartment. Since we planned to stay the full three weeks that it was going to be available to us, we chose the serviced apartment so we could self-cater (and not go crazy with cabin fever).

Boy, was that a good choice.

By far the best thing about this place is the kitchen. It’s got a Miele induction cooktop and combination microwave/oven, Nespresso machine, even a barely used rice cooker. Cookware and china-wise, it’s a lot better equipped than my own kitchen. I’ll be sad to leave it.

There’s also a smaller bedroom which we use for storage.

A bathtub! Yay!

And a decently-sized master bedroom with plump and cozy bedding.

After unpacking and a bit of rest, we headed out to the nearest shopping center, Gelderlandplein, which is about a 10-15 minute walk away, for lunch and groceries. By the time we got there,  I had figured out that whatever the Dutch say is walking time needs to be doubled for people with short legs like yours truly.

We stocked up on some basics at the big grocery chain, Albert Hein, which had two wide center aisles devoted entirely to wine, with some bottles being as cheap as 6€ (roughly the price of a Starbucks grande frap in Singapore). Alcoholics Anonymous, make room for two please. They also had an entire wall dedicated to bread, and two walls to cheese. At a passing glance I counted at least eight different kinds of Gouda.

Marlon and I goggled over the beauty and freshness of the produce, and over the fact that we now get cilantro from Kenya, tomatoes from Spain and salami from Hungary. Not being local, the produce was probably a little pricier than normal. I’m sure once we settle in, Marlon will want to hit the markets and that will bring our food expenses down considerably. Still, coming from Singapore, you can’t beat olive oil from Greece for 4€.

I didn’t see anyone using plastic bags. Good on you, Europe! Of course, having just arrived, we had to be the bad guys and fork over money for plastic bags. We also had to cart home more than 5 kilos of groceries (including cat litter!) over a 10-15 minute walk in the cold. On the way home, Marlon and I formulated a new rule of thumb that ought to curtail spending: only buy what you can physically cart home with the least amount of difficulty.

Then Rogue arrived!

Looking like the sorriest cat in the world, Rogue stumbled out of her carrier with a wet tail and wobbled around the apartment, yowling, for about two whole hours. She was so out of it she didn’t even sniff at her reward meal of Fancy Feast, which normally she would’ve tried to rip out of Marlon’s hand as soon as he cracked open the can.

By some miracle Marlon and I managed to nap amidst the maelstrom of circling, purring, yowling and rubbing, and woke to fix a very… European dinner of fish and potatoes. And by yet another miracle we managed to keep ourselves awake until 10:30. With a tight hug under the covers and a prayer of thanks, it was lights out on Day One in Amsterdam.

Goodbye Singapore

Our last two-and-a-half days in Singapore, after returning from Christmas and New Year in Manila, were absolute mayhem.

We spent them at a breakneck pace running errands: bequeathing excess alcohol to friends, cashing in a voucher at Sephora, getting a haircut and pedi, and shopping for a few last-minute essentials…

saying goodbye to old friends…

and “hello” to new ones.

Along the way we managed to have a last few bites of some cherished Singapore favorites: xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung, curry puffs on Killiney Road (my breakfast on the way to work at the old BDA office), and of course, black pepper crab at Jumbo.

The most heartbreaking task by far was saying goodbye to Rogue.

She had just normalized (read: stopped being clingy, vocal and needy) after our three-week absence, and had absolutely no clue what was in store for her on Wednesday night. In hindsight, we could have handled her relocation better by doing things like familiarizing her with the new and larger cat carrier, providing her with a warm blanket, and putting in a piece of my or Marlon’s clothing so she can smell our scents and not feel abandoned.

But there was just so much on both our minds before leaving. So it was really hard to hear her low, mournful yowls when Mitchville Kennels, who handled the relocation at the Singapore end, came to take her away. I had to remind myself that we were entrusting her to professionals and would be seeing her again in less than 24 hours.

The most maddening task, on the other hand, was squeezing all our remaining possessions into the weight limits: 2 x 23kg for checked luggage, and 60kg for unaccompanied air freight. You’d think that over 100kg would be more than enough for our clothes and stuff right?

Hah. Try being 48kg overweight. PANIC!!!

In hindsight (again), I should have left all the clothes I used in Manila/Bohol/Boracay with Mom. And not bought so many books in Manila. (But, but… Alexandra Trese!) And not so many winter clothes either—they’re damn heavy. But somehow, with a few hours of panicked reshuffling and a last-minute trip to the Salvation Army, Marlon and I managed to magically squelch everything into three large suitcases, three small wheelies, two laptop bags, a coat carrier and a handbag.

Which seems to be about the time that things took off at warp speed. The turnover of the keys to our landlord, dragging our tired asses and 48,000 pieces of luggage into a Maxicab to go the airport, more frantic reshuffling at the check-in counter…

Were we thrilled, excited, brimming with joy? Yes. Was it all-consuming? Not really. Wrestling with all the hand-carried luggage took the edge off a bit. So by the time we collapsed into our seats in the plane, wide-eyed wonder had given way to this.

The minutes started blurring together and before I knew it, the plane had taken off. Outside my window, white-hot streams of jet fuel rushed past, pushing Singapore firmly into my past, and propelling me, mile by mile and minute by minute, into the Europe that was to be my future.

Come home and cuddle

… say my lazy-ass cat and my husband, who is working from home today. i use the term “working” loosely, since obviously he has nothing better to do but take pictures of rogue.

Rogue, day 2

so yesterday was our second day with the kitten formerly known as charcoal. we spent most of the day out, leaving our little rogue to mew mournfully after us as we left. me to rogue: loka ka! kagabi dinededma-deadma mo kami, ngayong paalis kami saka mo kami iiyakan? i jest, of course, in my usual babaeng bakla fashion, but i was getting a bit worried by the time we left because she still hadn’t eaten or done any business.

the morning was spent attending mass and a lunch for ateneo alumni at the parish of st. ignatius because our beloved fr. ben (dumbledore!) was visiting, along with the OAA director and my philo 104 teacher fr. nemy, and marlon’s favorite math teacher ma’am jo. i can’t tell you what a beautiful, beautiful feeling it was to sing filipino jesuit church music.

i was also completely moved by the opportunity extended to ateneo alumni in singapore to help with funding for scholars. that’s pretty much because i was a scholar too. i was stunned to learn that 14% of ateneo college students are on scholarship — not because it’s a small number (it’s actually more than decent), but it really hit me how lucky i was to have been that 14% in my time. also how lucky i was to be among the 250 scholars a year who are given scholarships out of the 850 who apply. so marlon and i agreed to set aside a little amount each month to contribute to the scholarship fund, because i know just how much difference a little bit can make to a scholar who really needs the money.

afterwards, we went all the way down to harbourfront to shop at charcoal/rogue’s foster parents (FPs) pet store of choice. as the cashier rang up our cat food, cat-away spray, feeding dishes, scratch pad, cat carrier, catnip, cat collar and various other cat paraphernalia, he murmured: “first-time cat owner, huh?” you’d better believe it.

maryosep tantanan n’yo na kami

actually, walang tatalo sa pagka-first time cat owners ng mga FP ni charcoal/rogue. after we got out from our afternoon screening of WALL-E, nagpumilit lang naman silang dalawin ang pusa, ostensibly para i-turn over ang mga natitira nilang mga kagamitang pang-pusa… kahit tumanggi ako (politely of course) at sinabi kong nakapamili na kami. but no nagpumilit pa rin sila. k fine. baka nami-miss lang nila. pagbigyan.

ang mga kasangkapang dinala: litter tray and litter sand (kahit sinabi kong meron na kaming binili), cat-away spray (ditto), pagkain, flea spray para sa carpet, flea powder para sa pusa, mga samu’t saring laruan, at… dito ako muling tumambling. shampoo. dahil araw-araw daw nila itong pinapaliguan.

diyoskoday. naloka ako. unang-una, naiimbyerna po ang mga pusa kapag sila’y nababasa. ikalawa, ang mga pusa po ay may katangi-tanging abilidad na paliguan ang kanilang mga sarili.

bigla kong na-realize kung bakit ang dialogue ng mga FP ay panay ganito: “gusto sana namin ng pusa, pero wala kaming oras eh.” e gaga pala sila. kung pinapahirapan nila ang mga sarili nila sa araw-araw na pagpapaligo at pagpupulbos at 2x kada araw na paglilinis con johnson’s baby wipes ng isang hayop na napakalinis sa sarili nitong katawan, e mawawalan talaga sila ng oras!

eto pa ang maganda. ayaw daw nilang makaistorbo, pero bibisita raw sila every two weeks para tingnan kung inaalagaan namin ng mabuti ang pusa. talagang nagkatinginan kami ni marlon sa napakandang non sequitur na ito. buti na lang ay kaagad kong sinabi na mas mabuti kung kada buwan na lang, kung hindi baka napagulong pa ang aming mga eyeballs. haha sorry naubusan ako ng tagalog. siguro dahil ganun na lang ang kabuwisitang naramdaman ko sa taong nais magpulis sa aming pet-rearing skills.

all’s well that ends well

…because at the end of the day, we have our rogue and she’s worth it. TV time has turned to kitty time, as we discovered the singular pleasure she takes in being cuddled by two simpering humans at one time. in the midst of some heavy-duty double cuddling, she fell asleep in the cozy hollow created by our bodies as we watched TV on our tiny two-seater couch. really, marlon and i completely melted.

that TV cuddle seems to have finally impressed upon her that marlon and i are good humans to have around, because this morning she actually came out of her favorite sub-coffee-table hideaway when we came out of our bedroom for breakfast. plus, she actually came to me when i called her! marlon hasn’t quite succeeded yet, as he has yet to undo 26 years of dog training and stop saying “here, boy!” hahaha! but not bad for just two days eh?

A Rogue in our home

there’s a new member of the paul-plazo household. she’s five months old, covered in sleek black fur with lovely white streaks from each of her eyes up to her ears, and a long hooked tail. her name is rogue, and she is a beauty. 

the cat idea had been floating around since late last year, when i realized that moving out of our askal-populated home in mandaluyong meant that i could have a cat again. though marlon has always been a dog person, he warmed to the idea of a cat when he took into account our busy schedules (cats are way more low-maintenance) and living space (70 sqm is not enough for an active pooch). so we both agreed to get a cat at some undefined point in time, but never really put any work into getting it done. 
then i got really bored at work. with my two big pitches and a couple of promo projects all finished last friday, monday was the first day ever that i actually spent a full day at work without actually doing anything related to work. after making the rounds of my usual online haunts (chuvaness, pep, facebook, et al) there was nothing left for me to do except… google “singapore cat adoption.” patay!
the days that followed were completely cat-crazy. i looked at the spca and cat welfare society, learned about the horrifying tale of the cat hoarder,  sent links to marlon and discussed many a prospective pet over yahoo messenger with him. i must have emailed and texted over 10 cat rescuers and “fosters”, mostly asking about pure black kittens aged 3 months to over a year old. 
hello charcoal
i got a couple of encouraging responses, but the one i really wanted to hear from was davis, foster daddy to a beautiful pure black cat named charcoal. to see the adorable-ness that sucked me in big time, check out the last cat posted on august 12 here.
and when i finally heard from charcoal’s foster, boy was it a whopper of a reply. for a brief moment, i knew what it was like to be angelina jolie, or even madonna. because the adoption requirements and screening process was just… 
basta. as my boss james would say: “have a look.”
Name : Charcoal
Age : 3 months
Sex : Female
Type : Mixed black tabby

Note : Needs patience & time to get her warmed up to you as she was a stray kitten and has no contact with human before at very young age. Near missed by a vehicle & rescued. Traumatized due to siblings knocked down by a vehicle. Probably weeks or months to get her warmed up. Once warmed up, she will be very friendly and will stick to you very closely and follow you where ever you go. Very nosy (kay po) & curious, and would like to follow you & see what you do everyday.

1. Enjoys running around & playing with you or toys.
2. Loves to be cleaned on her head and face with your wet fingers.
3. Loves to be bottle-fed with milk before going to bed at about mid-nite.
4. Loves to sleep on a hammock.

Dos (Her Routine)
1. Litterbox / toilet trained but need to guide her initially before each meals to familiarize your place.
2. Litterbox : A tray with newspaper and sand (preferred brand : Fussie Cat – Lemon @$7.00 per 10litres pack).
3. Clumps to be removed from the sand (otherwise she will play with the clumps).
4. Clean her feets & bottom with wet serviettes after using the litterbox.
5. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner & Supper with dry food & water.
6. Dry Food (Science Diet or Eagle – Chicken Flavour) or whichever you can introduce.
7. Play with her after each meals as a reward.
8. After supper, clean her with your wet hands (with very little cat shampoo and anti-flea spray on your hands).
9. Feed her with milk in bottle max: 15ml at least once a day (Preferred Milk : Animalac Milk Powder)

1. Open windows and open doors that she will jump out as she’s very nosy and curious.
2. Toilet bowls and plug holes to covered as she’s very curious to jump in.

cue tumbling! may brand preference ang hitad. saan ka pa? pero siyempre feeling ko hindi na yan routine nung pusa kundi ng taong umampon sa kanya. 
at kung tumumbling ako sa listahan na yan, nag-nastia liukin floor routine ako sa listahan na sumunod.
I would like to know a little more about you as the caregiver to check if you’re suitable to love & care for Charcoal. 1. Do you want the kitten for yourself or is it for a gift?
2. Do you have any experience with cat / kitten?
3. Are you above 21 year old? Are your working or studying?
5. Do you live with your parents, landlords or do you own or rent your apartment?
6. What’s your working hours? Do you spend most of your time at home and how long?
7. How many adults & children live in your apartment?
8. Who will be responsible for the kitten & how long you or whoever will responsible will look after the kitten?
9. Do you have any pets now or in the past?
10. What are they and how long did you have your pets?
11. Will this kitten be an indoor or outdoor pet?
12. Do you plan on having the kitten de-clawed?
13. If you moved, what would you do with the kitten?
14. Does everybody in your family want an adopted cat / kitten?
15. Is anyone in your household allergic to cat / kitten?
16. Do you have carrier, harness & leash, enclosed yard, cat-proof fencing or enclosure?
17. Do you have the financial resources to pay for the kitten – food, litter, medical fees, incidentals & etc?
18. Do you plan to sponsor the kitten for vaccination (asap) & sterilization (6 month old) and regular vet checkups?
19. May I visit your home to see how and where the kitten would be living?
20. Will we or CWS members to visit the kitten / cat from time to time within reasonable limits to see if it is well-taken care of?

suddenly makes you wonder what the adoption process for children is like in the philippines and if it’s even half this stringent. 
the next level
mejo nabuwisit ako sa simula, especially since hindi naman talaga kanila yung pusa. pero go lang, kasi ang cuuuuuuute cuuuuuuute cuuuuuuute niya talaga. so sumagot naman ako. and i realized marlon and i have lived with enough pets to open a small zoo. our combined pet history covers: one poodle, six spitzes, five german shepherds, one husky, ten mongrels, three rabbits, four hamsters, god knows how many fish, five turtles, four turkeys, four maya birds, a cage of parakeets, an indian cockatoo, a duck, a chicken, fourteen chicks and generations upon generations of rescued stray cats. 
so this super jologs version of the twelve days of christmas must have impressed charcoal’s foster parent, because he replied quite speedily, revealing the next stage of the adoption process: a house inspection. sa tumbling na ginawa ko, i swear puwedeng-puwede na akong isali sa chinese olympic gymnastics team.
marlon and i hosted a lunch for his officemates today, so it was perfect timing — the house was clean and we were in a rare social mood. at quarter to six (well over an hour after our agreed time of 4.30pm), davis and his wife jennifer brought over our little charcoal. at dahil mukhang pumasa naman kami sa mag-asawang umampon sa kanya, naging “our” little charcoal talaga siya in less than one hour.

in fairness hindi naman sila super lukaret, which i kind of expected after reading their lists. na-attach lang talaga sa pusa, at super concerned. they gave us a “starter kit” of packed kitty litter, food, toys and even lent us their cat carrier with the cutest DIY hammock inside. they even offered to accompany us on the kitty’s visits to the vet. which was nice but a bit strange because i think if marlon and i can relocate, establish careers abroad, furnish our own place and manage our household siguro naman kaya naming magdala ng pusa sa vet diba

ewan. inisip ko na lang na super attached sila. after all, they did rescue the poor kitty at 5 weeks old from the middle of a major intersection… after its sibling had been splattered all over the street. they loved her and took care of her until she got over her skittishness and trauma. so i figured a little weirdness is justified. kahit pinapirma pa kami ng adoption contract. sige na.
kitten, thy name is rogue
as our new kitty quickly staked out its favorite spot under our two low, circular coffee tables, marlon and i lay on the living room floor thinking of a new name — charcoal wasn’t quite doing it for us. we went through a couple of names — ash (after aishwarya rai, since the kitty was all eyes), pepper, even the completely silly beyonce, bulbol and kili-kili. then i saw the spine of one of the magazines on our coffee table, and knew we had the perfect name: rogue.
and so the evening has been a quiet one at home, as we let rogue get used to her new digs and to having the two of us around. she’s warmed up quicker than i thought — we had a great time lying on our stomachs on the floor, stroking her back and her jaw as she purred like a motorboat gone mad. she even let marlon carry her into the TV room for a little bit of cuddly while he watched wrestling. now she’s back under the coffee table — kind of an odd spot for a cat, but hey, who are we to complain now that we have her?
later i decided to tack on blair to make a full name — blair after blair waldorf, my favorite character on gossip girl (pretty, snooty, naughty) and after the blair witch project, because this kitty can look absolutely creepy when she stares out at you from under the shadows of the coffee table. 
so her full name is blair rogue paul-plazo (ang landi!), but mostly she’s just rogue. and just perfect. :)
oh and please excuse the crappy photo — i can’t find my digicam cable and we just have our camera phones, and this kitty wriggles like crazy!