See y'all in the Year of the Rat!
Posting will be sporadic for the next two weeks, if I can even find internet time.
"Merry Christmas, Darling" by The Carpenters
The elaborately beaded amethyst confection is from Acra's jewel box collection. I would be that happy, too, if I were posing next to such a gorgeous gown. I would be even happier if I were wearing the gown.
I COVET THIS GOWN. It would be a breath of fresh plum air in a crowd of black formal wear at the Metropolitan Opera. It would get me on the Best Dressed List at the Oscars. It would go perfectly with a tiara. And Ewan McGregor.
Oh, sigh. I want to be a movie star when I grow up.
It has been 15 years since my whole family has been back to the Philippines for Christmas. We all miss spending time with all of our relatives and loved ones during this most important holiday for Filipino Catholics. When the cousins were little, our family would gather at my Lola's compound in Makati for Christmas Eve. Sometimes we would all go to Simbang Gabi [Midnight Mass] together, but no matter what, we all came back for Noche Buena [Christmas Eve dinner] and opened our presents together.
One of the things I miss most about the tradition of going to Simbang Gabi is fresh bibingka and puto bumbong. I remember being hurried up the church steps after I stopped to smell the yumminess wafting from the street vendors' carts just outside church. I remember fidgeting more than usual during Mass, knowing that these treats were waiting just beyond the heavy gilded doors. I can almost taste that heavenly first bite of piping hot bibingka. It was the best reward for living through a nearly two-hour Mass.
Christmas 1984 was particularly difficult for my parents. It was our first Christmas in the United States, far away from our relatives, loved ones, and sacred traditions. We were still navigating the social waters of our new country and we didn't know anyone very well. Our downstairs neighbors were kind enough to invite us over for Christmas dinner, but we felt like outsiders in their family celebration. We felt a little stranded; we were most certainly not home for Christmas.
After the party, we all went back upstairs and my mother turned on the Carpenters Christmas album. During this song, my mother suddenly got up and went to the bathroom. I crept up to find that she had left the door ajar, so I peeked in. She was crying into a towel.
This Christmas, my parents will be surrounded by our growing family and counting many blessings. My brother has just bought a new house and is in a healthy new relationship with a woman my mother actually likes. My sister and her husband are expecting a baby girl in February; their combined brood will number five kids. And of course, Dusty and I are bellying up to the festivities with our own wee-beastie-in-the-making. My brother has predicted that my sister and I will be fighting over turkey portions at Noche Buena. I think we should have a turkey just for the almost-four of us.
Although this song still conjures up sad memories for me, it no longer makes me weep openly. Much. Our family is making new memories and traditions, and redefining what it means to be home for Christmas.
Today marks 14 weeks of gestation for our wee beastie and everything so far has checked out just dandy. We are ecstatic about our healthy lil' wiggler. So, um, does this officially make me a mommy blogger?
"Sweet Surrender" by Sarah McLachlan
I like to call this official start to the holiday season Hell on Earth.
Every year I resolve to buy Christmas gifts piecemeal when I see them on sale or something and stash them away for Christmas. If executed properly, my plan would pluck me from the depths of Hell on Earth, and save me from dealing with holiday crowds and relentless holiday marketing. This plan never works, for two reasons.
1) My hate for shopping burns brighter than the twin suns of Tatooine. Therefore, I don't go to stores or to the mall unless I absolutely MUST. And when I go, I take a list and buy only what is on it. Stick and move, man. Stick and move. I don't really window-shop except at the antique or thrift store and there are only a handful of people in my life who share my penchant for previously loved items.
2) If I do manage to buy gifts throughout the year that would be great for Christmas, I tend to give those gifts away to the people I bought them for almost as soon as I buy them. I like instant gratification [who doesn't?] and I usually can't wait to see the looks on people's faces when they get their unexpected treat on a random Tuesday.
So I end up in the same damn place I swore I wouldn't be in the year before: shopping at the last minute. Goddess bless online retail. It's the only thing that makes holiday shopping bearable.
In recent years, a Great Evil has risen like a bloated leviathan from the murky depths of consumerism to haunt the already nightmarish landscape of shopping for your loved ones. It is the small, hard plastic abomination called a Gift Card. I have looked it dead in the eye and seen that IT HAS NO SOUL. AAAAAAAGGGHHH!!!
A section of my family [who shall remain nameless for their protection] LOVE gift cards. They claim that gift cards make life easier, both for the giver and the receiver. The giver no longer has to agonize over "What should I get for my cousin who likes grilling food and building things with his hands?!" Answer? A gift card to Home Depot, apparently. Receivers of the Great Evil gift card can then simply go to Home Depot and buy whatever they want or need, as long as it's done before the card's expiration date.
On the surface, gift cards are convenient, but mostly for the giver. I can't count the number of times I have forgotten about gift cards given to me until about a week before the expiration date. Then I'm forced to go to the specific store and spend the money on things I didn't necessarily want or need, but as long as I'm here and I have to spend this money... anyone need a wooden fruit buggerer-- um, I mean citrus fucker-- dangit, I mean lemon reamer? Only slightly *ehem* used.
Also? Can we talk about the inherent silliness of exchanging gift cards? Here's what happens:
Receiver 1: [unwraps thin, tiny package] Oh, it's a $50 gift card to Best Buy. Thanks!
Receiver 2/Giver 1: You're welcome. Merry Christmas! [unwraps similar thin, tiny package] Ah, it's a $50 gift card to IKEA. Thanks!
Receiver 1/Giver 2: You're welcome. Merry Christmas!
IT'S THE SAME FUCKING FIFTY DOLLARS! Givers are just limiting the places where the receivers could spend that money. They could save each other the time and effort and agree to get each other nothing but the joy and relief of not having to buy one more damn gift. Or soulless gift card.
And another thing: there's no mystery, no surprise, no allure in a gift card. If you're handed a thin, tiny package wrapped with giftwrap nibs from the end of the roll, you KNOW it's a bloody gift card! Half the fun of getting Christmas presents is trying to guess what you got by shaking the box or assessing the shape or using x-ray glasses that you won with Cracker Jack boxtop-- you get my point.
GIFT CARDS ARE THE DEVIL'S HANDIWORK!
If I had my way--and I hardly ever do--I would get my family to institute a $200 limit on all gifts. Not each gift, but ALL gifts. I think that would bring some imagination and inspiration back to Christmas gift-giving. It might lead to some very creative gifts like handcrafted photo collages and homemade jams. Laurel's homemade jams and sauces are among my favorite gifts every year. Mmm... jalapeño jam... Funny that out of all the gifts I have given in the last three years, my Prairie Wife Jammy Jam also seems to come out on top as the one that people remember most.
I wish we could have grown-up Christmas craft bazaars like the ones from elementary school, where I would pool my allowance for weeks to get gifts for both my parents and both my siblings. Since I usually only had $30 or $40 to spend, it made me really think about what to get for each of them, something small but well-thought-out. Anyone can spend money on gifts, but do you remember what it was like to spend time?
If you don't know who sang this song, then you're not old enough to read this blog.
Run along now. Go on.
I am a GIANT fan of LACs on The Pasdar, Sendhil Ramamurthy [Sendhil plays Mohandsome a.k.a. Mohinder on Heroes. Goddamn they have a fine collection of cheekbones on that show! Even the Haitian - shit, that dude could probably cut through your mind with just his cheekbones!], John Taylor from Duran Duran, Johnny Depp, and my beautiful and angular husband:
SIIIIIIIIIIIGH... Where was I? Oh, yes! Kaidan. Yeah, he's hot, too.
So what are people's issues? I've heard various complaints about how Kaidan is "boring" and "straight-laced" and even "whiny". I played as a female Shepard and romanced Kaidan and I didn't find him boring or whiny at all. Yes, he's wound up a little tight, but as a fellow butt-puckerer, I can respect that. Besides, Kai-Kai being wound up means I can be the one to wind him down. Meowr!
What I don't get is that some people call Kaidan "too sensitive". Erm, if I just spent 15 hours trying to save the galaxy by shooting aliens in the face and throwing robots in the air, the last person I want to come home to is an insensitive jerk. After tramping through all those planets and completing vital missions, what I really need is a back rub. And who's going to give me that? A sensitive man, that's who!
Here's where my editorial bias might come in. I was there when the romance plots were being written; I edited them. In a rare opportunity for BioWare's writers, the boys could bounce ideas off AN ACTUAL GIRL in the room, to see if they won their wives and girlfriends by accident or if they really can write this stuff convincingly. I remember one of the boys once asked, "So if I were Kaidan and I said [insert romantic cheese here] to you, what would you say?" Answer? I would giggle. Most of the time, the giggling gave way to outright guffawing, but sometimes, the giggling was girly giggling i.e. the response they were hoping for.
I know that a lot of guys like to play female characters in RPGs. After all, if you're going to spend 40+ hours in a game where the camera will be trained on your character, you will probably want to look at an attractive female avatar. However, this means that Kaidan will be a romance option for you. And here is my point, friends: Kaidan was girl-tested, girl-approved. By the end of the game, I had a special fondness for Kai-Kai. So much so that after the final grueling battle, I was looking forward to some shore leave with the boy.
So next week, while you're playing through Mass Effect [T-minus five days!] as a female Shepard, listen to some of the things Kaidan says and note how he says them. Observe how he interacts with Shepard, the way he comforts her during times of crisis, yet still respects that she is a strong, badass woman out to save the galaxy. This game just might get you laid.
"Sometimes When We Touch" by Dan Hill
What in all of Fugly Hell is that? It looks like a gray sack worn over a black sports bra. No wonder you're trying to hide your face, and with white plastic sunglasses, no less. [Oh, honey. NO.] I would hide, too, if it was my job to be photographed in public looking cute and I wore my beach cover-up to lunch with my hot older man. Maybe if you didn't match it with a gigantic purple tote big enough to carry your beach items, it might be better. Wait... no, no. It would still be a shapeless gray sack.
Listen, I am proud of you for milking this "Are they or aren't they?" thang. It's like something right out of Old Hollywood, when there was REAL glamour and superstar scandals. Innocuous little intrigues like this got ratings then and it gets ratings now. I love that you and Milo are denying everything, even as you are clearly cuddling within sight of cameras. I love that he plays your uncle on Heroes. I love that your new boyfriend on Heroes is also a dark-haired flying cutieboy, like your father and your uncle. West could be related to you, girl! Eew! Now THAT is compelling television.
It's just... Please, for the love of Aphrodite, don't go out in public looking like this again. I loves me a sundress as much as the next girly girl, and I appreciate that you were trying to go all matchy with Milo in his all-black outfit [sooo broody and delicious], and you are probably wearing cute, sturdy panties beneath that tent [good girl], but you are WAY MORE ADORABLE than this! You seriously look like you were running out to the Whole Foods real quick for some organic raspberry yogurt. You don't look like you're going out to lunch amongst a camera-heavy public with your new man. Your HOT NEW OLDER MAN. Cute it up, girl. Enjoy your youth while you still can.
I'm glad we had this talk. Love you on the show. Keep on keepin' on, Claire Bennet.Hugs,
"Games" by New Kids on the Block [Shut up.]
I imagine that in 20 years, one of you will write me a heartfelt, grammatically perfect letter saying, "I understand now. I'm so sorry." There will be hugs and tears and "I love you"s, then we will retire to the veranda for almond tea and all will be well.
"Who can it be knocking at my door? / Go away; don't come 'round here no more"
I totally copped out for Hallowe'en this year and wore my hula kahiko recital costume from five years ago. I know it doesn't stand a chance in our annual Hallowe'en costume contest at work, but it's a lovely costume and I spent a lot of time making it, so I trot it out once in a while. The bonus is that I can eat all the Hallowe'en treats I want and nobody will be the wiser. I just hope that Laka, goddess of hula, will forgive me for wearing this for non-hula purposes.
Tonight, I will be doling out candy to the handful of trick-or-treaters that come to our door every year. Last year, we got about nine or ten kids total. I'm hoping that the absence of snow on the ground will mean a bigger turnout. Having a white Hallowe'en is always a bit off-putting: "Oh, you're Spiderman! In a snowsuit! And you're a princess! In a snowsuit!" But at least those kids are actually wearing costumes.
One of my biggest pet peeves on Hallowe'en: teenagers who just can't be bothered. They shuffle up to my door, wearing whatever they wore to the mall that afternoon. They thrust dirty pillowcases in my direction and mumble something that only vaguely resembles "Trick or Treat!" The sullen looks on their faces say they are entitled to this candy simply because they made the Herculean effort to ring my doorbell. Seriously, kids, if I'm more dressed up than you are when we meet at my doorstep, the only reason I'm giving you candy is to keep you from egging my house.
After my candy-doling duties, I also hope to set aside a few minutes to celebrate the new year. My Sisters and I gathered early for Circle this month, so we will be celebrating Samhain separately. When I celebrate alone, the ritual is as simple as lighting the candles on my altar, sending thanks out to the Universe for the many blessings I received this year, and calling upon my ancestors and recently-departed loved ones. As the veil between the worlds is thinnest at this time, I strongly feel their presence in my life. I like to give them all spirit high-fives for helping to make me the person I am today, warts and all.
Friends, I wish you a blessed Samhain and All Hallows Eve! May you wake to a happy new year and a house free of eggs and toilet paper.
"Who Can It Be Now?" by Men at Work
We saw SPAMALOT at the new Wynn Hotel on our second night. The show was uproarious fun! As a sign in the lobby proclaimed, they had "Knights! Girls! Killer Rabbits! Girls! French People!" and a diva-licious Lady of the Lake whose wardrobe I coveted. Also in the lobby:
That Wednesday, we saw Zumanity, which bills itself "the sensual side of Cirque du Soleil". It is supposed to be part circus, part bawdy burlesque. I don't know if I'm getting jaded in my old age, but I found the show neither amazing as a circus nor titillating as a burlesque. There was entirely too much audience interaction for Dusty's comfort. He couldn't relax and enjoy the show for fear that he would be called up next. I found most of the audience interaction to be tedious; I paid good money to see professional circus performers, not Roger and Linda from Des Moines. So what if it is their 47th wedding anniversary? I will only give two flying fucks when I see two actual flying fucks, suspended from the ceiling on silk cloth. Now this is the kind of audience interaction I like:
Our last day in Vegas was mostly spent walking around, with designated pit stops for everyone. We stopped at the Mirage for Drew, so he and Dusty could take one last run at craps. Jen hit the Shops at Caesar's Forum to buy her gorgeous dress at Nanette Lepore. [That stop was a bonus for me. Oh, Victoria's Secret, how I've missed you.] I got to enjoy a taro bubble tea and pan de ube at the ticky-tacky Hawaiian Marketplace. We had a monorail adventure to the Luxor so Dusty could see if the arcade, last vestige of the old theme-park Vegas, was still there in the middle of the pyramid. [It was.]
As we were leaving the Luxor, we saw a giant ad touting Nicky Hilton's birthday party at the LAX lounge the following week. It was placed under a giant banner advertising Absolut Vodka. Oh Vegas, I have faith that one day you shall once again be deliciously tacky. Until then, darling... adieu.
That's Jennifer Berry, Miss America 2006. Mira! Look how her diamond[elle] tiara is as shiny as her smile. I covet her tiara. Not her life, just her tiara. Priscila, unstrap that abomination from your pretty little head and go tiara-shopping with this bitch. Ahora mismo, miha.
Dusty, my beloved Binkypoots, if you are reading this, remember that Thirty-three Is [Also] A Radiant Age. I'm just sayin'. You gots a couple months. Lovvve youuu.