Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Serendipity House

So we've moved to the house and have invited friends and relatives over on the occasion of Yoshi's 6th birthday. Some like the house, a few gush about it, others couldn't care less (hahaha).

The latter are notably Ches' youngish office friends whose immediate plans do not yet include settling down. (They're that young.) My friends from MWC on the other hand who have been to our old, small house several times before could hardly contain their surprise at how the place has been transformed into something livable (hahaha). Dex and Allan, for example, went to the extent of examining everything from the cove lights to the window grills to stuff like structural safety or whatever it's called. (Crazy guys.) I was bragging to them about how I would take at least one whole day every month to obsessively clean every nook and cranny (the ones the maids conveniently forget all about), and they said they'd do the same too if their house was also as nice (hahaha).

It was heartening to hear comments like how the house looks warm and cozy and not like a museum or something out of a magazine. But Yoshi sums up how our family feels when he announced on our second day that he was just happy that all his toys are out of the boxes and he can play with them again. That' exactly it. I feel happy for Boots that he now has a bigger playground to run around and play basketball in. (The boys have also become quite the experts on climbing stairs notwithstanding their lack of experience in this field.) And I'm happy for myself that all my stuff are in their own especially designated places and not all smushed in some dark and dingy corner of the closet. My plates, my teapot collection, my Ashton Drake dolls, my hurricane lamps, my shoes (which found a new home in the small cabinet under the window seat), my Hello Kitty suitcases (all three of which fit perfectly in this space above my corporate wardrobe – happy!), and my Readers' Digests and coffee table books.

And all our books! My gosh! They're all out in the bookshelf now under the attic stairs, but they fit only bcoz I gave away easily a hundred of them before we moved out, and again another hundred before I fixed the bookshelf (which discarded books Randy dressed up and magically transformed into faux platforms for my Barbies and Kittys). Even Randy who is himself a book lover was shocked at the sheer number of books my family had. I told him, if we didn't own that many books, we also wouldn't owe the bank that much money. Groan. (There's just no way to explain my passionate love affair with books. If I read one I truly like, I want to buy it everytime I see it in the bookstore, never mind if I already have my own copy which I've read only for 5 times or so. Which explains why I have both hardbound and paperback copies of stuff like Midwives and I Know This Much is True and all the Judy Blume classics. Gosh. I will so regret all this craziness when I can no longer pay my monthly dues with the bank, I just know it.)

I'm also happy that the house turned out to be so us. At the start all the bidding contractors we're suggesting Mediterranean, Zen, modern Asian and same such stuff which are all the rage now in home design, but somehow these things didn't fit us and felt forced and phony if we had them just to join the faddist bandwagon. We're not the type, for example, to post our credentials on the wall, hence we don't have framed diplomas or heavily re-touched graduation pix making up an ego wall. (Gosh, I don't even know where our diplomas are. I found my oh-so-formal-looking certificate of admission to the bar with the golden Supreme Court seal and everything all crumpled up and barely recognizable in one of my old bags when I was unpacking. Dang. There goes my lone proof of lawyerhood.)

We'd also rather decorate the house with Yoshi's drawings of superheroes and monsters and other creepy crawly boy stuff in lieu of fancy schmanzy paintings or other obscenely priced artwork. We're also not the kind of people who covet the latest gadgets and techie stuff. (My celphone is whatever Globe or the office gives me for free. As long as it texts and calls, it's good enough for me. My camera is this cutie pink point and shoot Cybershot from Ate that I keep in a Hello Kitty suede case. Beat that.) No kick-ass plasmas or anything for us. I was telling Ches, if we got robbed, they would be so disappointed bcoz all we have that might be worth carting away for them would be our five-year-old appliances - small TV, small ref, small CD player, small DVD player. That's it. Emphasis on small.

So country style it is for us. I've always been a consistent country girl, anyway. Even in high school I would splurge what meager savings I had from my allowance in stores that sold country stuff like Papemelroti and Traditions and The Crafts Store. And I enjoyed watching the shabby chic shows in Lifestyle Network. (I'd like to think our house is the chic end of shabby hahaha.) For his part, Ches gave me free rein on all the design aspect and cared only about boring safety and security stuff like making sure there are fire exits and rainwater will not leak and robbers won't be able to climb the fence, the whole works. (There, it's out - the secret to our blissful marriage: he's practical and I'm shallow. We are so MFEO. Hahaha.)

Randy calls it The Serendipity House. He defines serendipity as finding the usual pleasure in an unexpected place. He says this bcoz you wouldn't expect to find a country-style house in our small, quiet corner of Diliman, but there it is. I thought he was just being generous as he naturally is, but then we also heard similar comments from other people, like Don and Mon, who said they loved the whole Tagaytay and Baguio log cabin feel of our house.

Randy says he loves being in our home, how it's so like us, warm and unpretentious but still managing to be kick-ass. (Hahaha.) He said even our yayas are nice. He has this interesting theory that if a project falls apart, maybe it's also bcoz the owners are assholes, bcoz maybe they're not happy in their sex lives or something. And I told him, I agree, but it's not necessarily true in my case, coz I could be perfectly happy in the sex department, but I still wake up maldita as ever every morning anyway. Hahaha. TMI.

Randy also said something that made me cry and cry. He said, when our house was finally turned over to us by the group of Melody, that it makes him believe there's still good in the world, when good things happen to good people. It's cheesy, but Randy always manages to break my heart big time, all the time. It was exactly what Rhoel also said when I found out I was pregnant after Ches and I have been trying a couple of months: that it makes him believe there's still good in this world. (Aww, you guys...)

It was Randy who found the perfect place for everything. My Georgia O'Keefe drawing (a gift from Greg from Chicago, payback for all his environmental law work that he dumped on me when he went on a long vacation) is on the wall going up the second floor. My big Eheads reunion concert poster is on the 2nd floor landing. (Randy was just happy that this poster turned out to be 'unobtrusive'. Hahaha. I lined up for hours and hours just to get the darned thing and that's the best adjective he can come up with.) My Anne Geddes pix make up a gallery of sorts in the attic. (When we were putting them up I worried that it might look a bit like an abortion clinic with all these wrinkled newborn babies. Randy laughs and observes that I have a dark side to me. Ches comments, that is the understatement of the year. Hahaha.)

It was also Randy who patiently discussed with Manong Elpy the total look and exact sizes of the pine furniture we needed; who decorated our oddly shaped cabinet in the living room as well as the long credenza by the dining table; who figured out a magical way to fix my dolls in the cabinet so they don't look like they're trapped in some glass case (which was exactly how they ended up looking after I fixed them); who came up with our brick wall and back splash for the kitchen and grooves for the bedroom closet and the two-toned paint colors and chocolate stripes for the gate that everybody digs coz it's so unique; who spiced up the oh-so-serious long study table with a little teddy bear corner; who found a place for my old narra console and mirror from Lola and who insisted that I recycle stuff I was raring to dispose of. My gosh, only Randy could have done all these. Our home would never have ended up looking the way it did if not for Randy. I have two words for all of you who think you don't need an interior designer because you already have good taste or are stylish or whatever: think again.

For my part, I was happy to figure out where I could put my collection of small picture books: on a long ledge in the powder room, with a complicated trellis thing that Randy designed and Manong Elpy almost declined to do. Hahaha. (Vada smartly figured out we have a lot of books in that room so our guests can read while going in the toilet.) Randy is also happy that on the wall in the living room where traditionally you would put a painting, I assembled our wedding pictures in this lovely big frame from Dimensione. I also derive joy out of the little things I've put together: the sign on our bathroom mirror that reads 'Happiness is being married to your best friend' (to remind Ches every morning in case he forgets hahaha), the little Dora and Boots water toys (gifts from Tito Regie) in the boys' bathroom, the red butterfly chimes to go with our red room, the cross-stitched Welcome sign with sunflowers from Jen that fit perfectly above the main door, the old Williams Sonoma chocolate jar from Didoy that blends with my teapots, Jack's drawing of prehistoric creatures that I framed and put up on the bookshelf.

Yoshi also had a major contribution to the house. We asked him what color he wanted for his room. He likes both green and blue violet and will not make a choice between the two. He's pretty consistent about this. So one of the boys' rooms was painted green, and the other blue violet. (Poor Boots is too young to literally have his say on the color scheme.) He also wanted these stripes on the walls that he saw in one of my magazines, and Alex ably pulled off the stripes for the boys. It's one of the things guests like on the second floor. Even the eminent stylist Randy just let the pastels and stripes be and did not put up a fight even if they hardly go with the whole country concept. Hence, I like to joke that our house is country, and the boys' rooms are another country. (Hahaha.)

Most everyone also notice and like the flowers on the attic floor. We chose the tiles even before the whole project started, and I so fell in love with it I threatened not to pay our contractors unless they used the exact, same tiles. Hahaha. That's another thing Ches and I are truly grateful for – that our contractors did turn out to be a good choice in terms of the quality of their work, their flexibility about our demands (or when our bank loans were coming in late, for that matter), and over-all how they did not rip us off. Randy is pleased that Buddy had good taste and used HCG for the bathroom fixtures when he could have gotten something low-end and pocketed more money. I also saw the packages of the door locks they used, and one cost close to P5,000, and I was like, why does a stupid, boring lock cost more than a kick-ass pair of shoes on sale? Duh.

When we started brainstorming with Phoebe in January and the construction began in March and even when I was already unpacking the 60 million boxes of our stuff after we moved in, I had this overwhelming feeling that the whole project would never, ever end. And finally, finally, it's all over and we've settled down to our new home. Sigh. Thank you, Lord.

So now we move on to the challenging part: paying off our bank loans. Hmmm.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

What's New in MoA

1.Chicago Popcorn Shops. I'm a big popcorn fan. At any given day you will see me munching out of a huge Popperoo tub while malling. I'm also perfectly happy with Cousin Willie's microwavable version (much tastier than Act II or the others). When Holy Kettle Corn first came out, we so loved it we even started a mini-business selling it in MWC. (Well, Thom and Didoy bought and re-sold it and did all the work; us girls just shared in the profits haha.) So it was such happiness for me to discover Chicago Popcorn Shops near Team Manila. Their specialty is Chicago Mix, a mix of cheese and caramel flavored popcorn, but I prefer just the caramel or just the cheese. This is a perfect example of a principle I've discovered, that I'm willing to shell out a little bit more for something that truly works, as opposed to paying a low price for something that's just so-so and will not really make me a happier person over-all.

2.Dimsum promo in China Palace. Highlands China Palace is one of those uber formal and pricey restos that I normally go to only if I'm with my boss and he or she is paying. (Hahaha.) But lately I've been frequenting the place with my usual SM gang bcoz they have this anniversary promo where dimsum goes for only P50, apparently the price 15 years ago. So you can eat as much as you want and the tab will come up to only around the price of one regular dish in the place. The siomai is the best, but I also like the dimsum made of spinach, radish cake, and this ground pork dish wrapped in something that tastes like tikoy. Siopao is also included in the promo, but siopao is one of the few things I don't eat (I don't know why). Offer good till the end of the year, I think, so enough time for everyone to go and grab some. Me, I keep going back with anyone and stuff myself and everytime I go in I imagine the thought balloons of the waiters to be: here she comes again, the cheapskate who orders nothing but the P50 dimsum. Hahaha.

3.Filipiniana dance number. I thought I've seen it all, but then one lunch time I saw the sales girls and boys of Kultura Filipino lined up all around the store and enthusiastically dancing to Mamang Sorbetero and Saranggola ni Pepe. (I happen to like these kinds of songs, the way they take us back to a gentler, more innocent time.) Balikbayan types watched with glee, but me I was thinking: first, the “happy to serve!” claps in the grocery, now the dancing couples in Kultura. Could maybe moonwalking/Thriller-choreographed guards be far behind? Hahaha.

4.Second chance. Team Manila came up with a second batch of the Eheads shirts sometime in July. It's one of those things that would convince you, if there was ever any doubt in your mind, that there is a God. I've been hoping to get another Team Manila Eheads shirt after they came up with the first set in March, since I got only one for myself plus one each for five or so guy friends. And it's not even something one can pray for bcoz, hello, it's just so silly in the grand scheme of things. But then one day you wake up and it's just there for the taking, all the Eheads shirt your little heart could ever want. Thank you, Lord.

5.Photo Ops. One of the best free mall shows Ches and I have seen this year is the World Press Photo 09, right in the center lobby of Mall of Asia. We got to see side by side photos of Olympians in such unflattering grimaces you can practically hear them grunt, victims of the Sichuan quake floating around in water, Kenyan tribes at war with bows and arrows (in this time and age!) You even learn a lot if you take the time to read the captions. I learned, for example, that Romanians spend on colorfol, lavish houses in preparation for marrying their children off, and that there's an albino minority in some African country. I think the most famous of the pix was the one of Michelle sleeping on Barack's shoulders while he pores over some important-looking papers, and I have to admit it looks so sweet. The most affecting pix for me however is the one from Rio de Janeiro with a bunch of kids in a school bus looking out of the window at a dead body on the road, their classmate's mom who was killed in a drug-related shooting. How tragic is that.

6.Like a comfy old pair of shoes. Working beside a big mall has given me the chance to try all the latest restos and shops. But then after a while I found I have to go back to the old stuff that I've tried and proven and have never let me down. There's UFO and Milkyway in Breadtalk that I can eat everyday (or even three times a day hahaha), the Mary Grace lemon bars, the Delifrance macaroons, the Matahari version of our cornick (Ches got me hooked on this), and Lapid's chicaron with laman dipped in spicy vinegar. So yum.

7.Coming soon. There's another photo exhibit coming up, the one of Cory Aquino, by local and international photographers. Something to look forward to, and another freebie to boot. I'm also counting down the days to the opening of this new dessert store called Cold Comfort and with pictures of ice cream cakes and same such goodie stuff. Whenever we pass by the place, my SM friends would say, this store is so you, Jewel. Hahaha. They know me already.