Have yourself a merry little Christmas

One of my guilty pleasures is listening to Christmas songs. A specific one is the song “Have yourself a merry little Christmas”, on repeat, in so many versions.

Before Spotify, I had six different versions of that same song in my playlist, although I can’t remember exactly which ones anymore. I had them on repeat so many times.

This time with Spotify, I created a playlist with almost 50 different versions from different artists, and no two are the same. Each one, albeit the same song, will have a different feel to it. It is a different experience each time.

I do have a few favourites, by:

Kenny G

Michael Buble

Frank Sinatra

Kermit the Frog

The Pretenders

James Taylor

The Carpenters

Feel free to listen to the playlist I have created on Spotify here.

Merry Christmas!

A tale of (two weddings in) two cities

It was my own (un)doing. Somehow I ended up attending two weddings in two far-away cities on the same weekend. I could’ve chosen one or the other, and it would’ve been alright.

“Did you really need to attend both?”, I’ve heard a few times said in different ways from different people. To be honest, I did not need to. I did not really want to do both 100%, but since I’ve gotten myself into the situation already, I decided to just go through with it just for the heck of it.

It began when a good friend of mine from college told me she was getting married, and was inviting me to her wedding. This is someone whose love life I have somehow tuned in to since college. I left the country a year ago and had no idea how her love life would turn out a year after. She finally found the love of her life, and she’s getting married. I truly wanted to show her I am happy for her and I support her. And since the flights were on sale that time, I bought plane tickets to come home to attend her wedding.

Two weeks after booking, I realised that I had a friends here in Sydney who were getting married the day after my friend’s wedding back home. A wedding in Manila on a Saturday and a wedding in Sydney on a Sunday. I really wanted to attend this wedding too, because since I have moved here, these are friends that have happily welcomed me with open arms into the group. This was my present and my future. And yet the one in Manila is also a big part of my past.

It was very tough to decide, to go to one or the other. Another consideration was the flights I have already booked, I couldn’t really cancel them because they were on promo. And I wanted the chance to go home too. But I had to decide, because I can’t really cut myself in two.

By some stroke of genius or stupidity, it dawned on my that Cebu Pacific flights from Manila to Sydney departed at midnight and arrived at noon. Both weddings were scheduled in the afternoon until the evening. If I took the flight, I could just make it in time for both. I just had an eight-hour flight in-between.


Side story. Since I decided to do the very short Manila trip, I also figured I could use the time to do some errands and see some people. One friend who has been very hard to track was a professional makeup artist. What a great chance to multitask. I was lucky that she was still free that time so I booked her to do my makeup for the wedding. Although my true intention is really to have a good chat with her after a long time. I also warned her ahead that I was planning to make my makeup last more than 24 hours. She said it could be possible with airbrush.

I did my own hair, thanks to my sister’s robotic curling iron (highly recommended!), and used my old fancy headband (which I have recently realised are actually fascinators). Turned out quite better than I expected.

It is honestly the first time, and maybe I’d also have it a last time, that I would ever do something like this. For all its worth, I documented how my makeup did through it all.

img_2354 fresh makeup at the first wedding in Manila

img_2368 on board my flight

img_2373 when I arrived home in Sydney, before retouching

img_2374 after retouch

img_2379 at the second wedding in Sydney

And yes, makeup and hair survived. I am actually quite surprised, especially with the hair. I reused almost everything, dress, shoes and bag and all.


Truly, it’s an epic story that I can recount to friends over and over again, and maybe even to my children and grandchildren in the future. I attended two weddings in two cities within less than 48 hours. If I have chosen one or the other, the story would’ve been just like any other. I am happy to be there for both my friends. And I also am fortunate to be able to do the things I was able to do during my short Manila trip and be able to see the people I saw. My heart overflows, I am recharged again.

On the downside, I really don’t think I’ll be doing anything even close to something like that ever again. That (mis)adventure revealed my limits. I’ve been a zombie and needed a week of catching up on sleep before I could really recover. That’s why it took me a week before I could write this.

I probably won’t be going home to Manila to attend weddings of my friends, unless they coincide with my other longer trips (e.g. Christmas holidays). I may need to reserve my energy for my best friends (two of whom are already married, hehe) or my closest family. I hope my other friends will understand.

Congratulations Ana and Robby!

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Congratulations Nau and Dali!

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2015 – The Year That Was

With just a day left for the year 2015, I could truly say that this year has been one of the most memorable year of my life, and no year as significant since 2007. Here are five highlights of my life in 2015:

1. It has been such a blessed year, and far too blessed because I was able to see the Pope with my own two eyes not just once or twice, but (more than) three times! During his visit in Manila this January, I was fortunate to be residing pretty near where he stayed, and most of his routes were a short walk from where I lived. Of course I seized every opportunity to catch a glimpse of him. I believe that the graces overflowed and I received it somehow. It was a great start to the year.

2. The start of the year also led to one of the biggest blessings of my life so far. It was on the last few days of January that I received a “reminder” on email, and I completed and lodged my Expression of Interest (EOI) to be a Skilled Immigrant to Australia. Just less than a week after I lodged the EOI, I got my invitation to apply for a visa. Three months after, in May, I got my visa grant as a Permanent Resident for Australia. In August, I moved here to Sydney and began a new chapter in my life.

3. I am truly happy to have spent more than half of this year working for USAID. It was an amazing opportunity, and I am thankful that I was able to work with them for an entire year (starting mid-2014). It was a great learning experience and have met a lot of interesting people, and hopefully was able to contribute something significant to the team. I would have loved to stay with the team and the organisation, but my new life in Australia was calling.

4. The year also had its challenges and sorrows, especially when my beloved grandmother got very sick and was hospitalized for a few months, and passed away later this year. I miss her terribly, and I still feel bad that I was not able to go to her funeral because she died two weeks after I left the country. But I am still thankful that I was able to spend a lot of time with her while she was still alive, and was able to tell her and show her that I loved her very much. I know that she knows that I will always be Lola’s girl, and she will always be one of my biggest inspiration. I continually seek comfort in the thought that she is now with Jesus Christ resurrected, the one thing that we’ve always believed in.

5. I have found a beautiful new chapter of my life here in Australia. I have been granted small and big blessings: I arrived with a vacant bed waiting for me; I’ve met new friends (mostly through my brother) and rediscovered old friends; I’ve been very warmly welcomed by (extended) family; I found a job 1.5 months after I arrived, and it was somehow related to the type of job I was aiming for; and I’ve had tons of opportunities to explore many different things and adventures that this new land has in store. After just five months, I am happy to be almost completely settled in. My family (mom, dad, and sister) all came over to spend Christmas and New Year.

With so much blessings in 2015, how can I ask for more?

And as always, no New Year’s resolution for me this time. Long ago, my New Year’s resolution was to never make any New Year’s resolution in the future, and that is probably the only one I was able to keep.

The year 2015 is already written and today concludes this year, but tomorrow begins a new 2016. And in 2016, I continue to pray, to hope, to dream, and to wish. Isa na lang ang kulang. Ikaw na lang ang kulang.

The long road that leads to Oz

I’m set to move to Australia in a few weeks time. Somehow, I find it amazing to look back and realise how slowly things fell into place, and how the timing was on spot. I’m guessing that the long road started in 2012…

I worked for The Mind Museum for 4.5 years, and it was finally created and opened to the public in early 2012. I left the team in 2012, and while in between jobs, went on a vacation for a month with my family in Australia to visit my brother who was working there. We were able to visit Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, and Gold Coast, and meet up with our other relatives.

There was something about Australia that captured me during that very first trip. Something that somehow felt like home, and I truly felt that it was a place I would love to settle in. Perhaps there’s a lot of things and factors, not just one reason, why the place seemed more welcoming than most other places I have been to.

When I went back to Manila, I still had two pending tasks to work on – find a new job, and prepare for an application for scholarship for a Masters Program in Europe which I have been planning for the longest time. I took my IELTS for the scholarship application in November 2012, and got good scores. I put together my application for the scholarship and submitted it in December 2012, and again in December 2013, but I was out of luck. There were only 12 slots while there were hundreds of applicants. I was not offered the scholarship both times.

In December 2012, I was accepted by an Australian company operating in Manila to work under a project of AusAid (now DFAT). I started with them January 2013 and had an initial one year contract, but I decided not to complete one year and left in June 2013. I moved to a retail company and worked as a business systems analyst, a work which was much more closer to my qualification as Industrial Engineer. I stayed with the company for an entire year, until I found an irresistible opportunity and was offered a position under USAID.

During this entire time with these three different companies, I was already researching and preparing documents for my application to Australia. The plan was to apply as a skilled independent immigrant, as an Industrial Engineer. I was finally able to put together all the requirements for the competency demonstration report and submitted it to Engineers Australia in September 2014. The IELTS I took in November 2012 was the same IELTS results I used for this.

While waiting for my Engineers Australia (EA) certification, I already created an account on SkillSelect. The only remaining requirement to complete an Expression of Interest (EOI) was the certification.

My passport was expiring in mid-2015, so I decided to renew it around middle of January 2015. I was still waiting for my EA certification, and was expecting that it will take a few weeks to a few months upon lodging my EOI before I get an invitation to apply for a visa. Before the end of the month, I received an email from SkillSelect:

“You currently have an EOI in draft status in SkillSelect. If you complete and submit the information in your EOI, you may be eligible to be invited to apply for a visa in the next invitation round.”

Immediately after receiving this, I emailed Engineers Australia to follow-up on the certification, since I was expecting their response by late December or early January. The next day, I receive a response from them saying that my certification is actually already in the (snail) mail, but they also sent me in the same email a scanned copy of the same. Since they already gave me the scanned copy, I uploaded it on SkillSelect and finally completed and submitted my EOI.

Two days after, I get an invitation from Western Australia to apply for state nomination. On day three, I get an invitation to apply for a skilled independent visa 189.

Things were like on steroids since then. Can you imagine, I get an invitation to apply for a visa just days, not even half a week, from the time I lodged my EOI? The timing was indeed perfect. The I realised, I was still waiting for my new passport to be shipped to me, and I can’t submit my visa application until I have it.

Two weeks after, I receive my new passport. I prepare all the documents required, have them certified as true copies again, scanned and uploaded them, and lodged my visa application. That was the first week of February 2015. They say it takes around 3 months processing for these types of visas.

I receive a request for more information by the end of March 2015. I quickly worked on getting the additional document requirements that was needed, I was given only 28 days to provide a response to their request. I was able to complete everything and have them certified as true copies exactly on the 28th day, and submitted them immediately. That was the end of April 2015.

Just a little over a week after, I got my visa grant notice. It was finally time to start planning and working on the big move.

I’ll just be completing my original one year contract with USAID. Just in time, I’ll have just one week to pack before I fly out. Also, I’ll be leaving my room in the condo just right before the start of the next school year for my cousin, and just a good time for someone else to replace me when I vacate the condo.

It may have been a relatively long road to get here, but it was a rollercoaster towards the end of the ride.

Of Weddings and Wedding Singers

My dream wedding singer is Basil Valdez. If you know his songs and you know how beautiful his voice is, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. And when I once met his manager through a friend, I knew this wasn’t impossible. But then again, if ever I end up marrying someone who does not understand Tagalog / Filipino, his songs may end up too foreign.

I also once wished to have The Bloomfields as my wedding band. That was once when I was still with my then-boyfriend (now ex-) and we regularly watched Bloomfields’ gigs. They had nice and sweet songs too. But perhaps they’re no longer a good option for me, eh? 

Then there is my good friend Michael (who I fondly call “Bear”). He’s my mega-talented friend (and this is still an understatement). Way back in college I already asked him to sing at my wedding, and he agreed. I will eventually hold him to that promise. I’ve seen him and his girlfriend perform at our friends’ weddings, and they simply sound heavenly. 

I’ve thought of wedding songs too. I’ve previously had some friends ask for advice on what songs would be good to use at their weddings. Sometimes they do take my advice and the songs turn out nice. I do take care, of course, to never give away a few specific songs I dream to use for my own. 

My own wedding is still not in the horizon though. I have yet to find my groom-to-be, but no rush. So I’ll just decide on the details when it finally comes around. 

I had great opportunity last night to sing at a friend’s wedding reception, my first time ever. Since the bride and groom are non-traditional and planned to have mostly alternative music in their lineup, I opted to choose a song that fit somehow. I originally planned to sing “Lovesong” by the Cure / Adele, and was already practicing it. However, I was drawn so much to “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran, tried it out, and singing it felt great. The bride and groom agreed to the change, and I started to practice the new song. I think I pulled it off somehow, although I did forget a line. Hehe. Oh well. What is important is they enjoyed it. 

Congrats to Erick and Jona, and thanks so much for allowing me to be part of your wedding! 

Starbucks 2015 Planner (?)

starbucks 2015 planner promo cardEighteen stickers, nine of which are for Christmas Beverages (e.g. toffee nut latte, peppermint mocha, and christmans cookie latte) and the other nine for any other core beverages (e.g. espresso-based drinks, brewed coffee, frappuchino, teas, and other cream-based drinks) – those are what you need to complete this year’s Starbucks Christmas Tradition promo (in the Philippines) which would eventually lead you to the much-awaited and much-coveted Starbucks 2015 Planner. I’m still contemplating, though, if I should even go for it.

I am a true-blue coffee drinker, so this should actually be no feat. I consume two mugs of brewed coffee a day, and can easily replace that with espresso. I also like Starbucks, but not exclusively – I also like those other coffee shops, but Starbucks is the standard. I swore-off buying my coffee from coffeeshops every day though, since this burns a terrible hole in the wallet (imagine spending approximately 120 pesos for each cup). I brew my own coffee everyday, and am able to have it just the way I want it. I do go and grab my coffee from coffeeshops now and then, on special occasions, when on travel, when I need to work or study at a coffee shop, when waiting for someone or something, or when I am not in the mood to brew my own.

In the past years, I have spent successive days in November and December consuming Starbucks beverages to complete the purchase requirements to get planner. Perhaps, getting a Starbucks planner felt like an achievement, a bragging right. There was even one time some years ago when I was able to redeem three planners, although I did not consume all those drinks (the stickers were from friends during our Christmas season meet-ups). I have one from last year.

Unfortunately, for all those Starbucks Planners I have had in the past few years, I don’t think I was able to use even 20% of each planner. I start writing during the start of the year, but I somehow taper off and stop altogether. I am not the daily journal type of person. Also, I have moved from writing my schedules in a tiny planner to putting everything in my Google Calendar (accessible through my mobile devices and computers!).

To be honest, last Nov 3 when they started the Christmas Tradition promo, I was at the Starbucks in front of our office first thing in the morning to get a Peppermint Mocha drink (which is actually a personal favorite), and get a hold of the promo card and find out what the mechanics are for this year. I just wanted to know, aside from the fact that I was in the mood for some yummy coffee.

But actually, I’m asking myself if I should even go for the coming year’s Starbucks Planner. Should I spend time, money, and effort on something that I know I will barely use again, and which will just eventually gather dust on my shelf? Maybe not. Perhaps I’ll just “passively” participate in the promo, collect stickers for instances when I go for my occasional Starbucks coffee. If I do complete the promo card, I can redeem it and then perhaps give it away? Bid it out? Sell it online? I’ll just figure it out when it comes. Or maybe if I’m not able to complete the promo card before the end of the promo, I can give it away for someone else to complete it. What I know is I won’t be going to Starbucks every day just to complete this card (although this only actually takes about three weeks to complete if one consumes a beverage every day).

How about you? What’s your plan?

The Hangover of KenXy’s Forever

ZeeJester

May hang-over pa ako!

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PHOTO BY: Marlon Advincula

Not the kind that Paul and Duna had… Pleas refer to Exhibit A and B below… Hahahaha!

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Yung hang-over na, paano nga ba i-explain? Yung gusto mo na ulit-ulitin? Or ayaw ,mo na matapos? Hahaha!

Pero ano nga bang meron?

The answer?

Love!

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PHOTO BY: Marlon Advincula

The kind of love that drove us, batch by batch, to head to Davao and celebrate with Ken and Xy..

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The kind of love that most if not all of us who came witnessed… Yung magka-Skype na si ken and xy tapos magkausap pa sa phone.. Yes I was there.. Hahaha!

I looked at their pre-nup pics: walang costume, walang venue na inayos, just them..

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PHOTOS BY: Marlon Advincula

What got me was this moment..

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PHOTO BY: Marlon Advincula

Hayop ka Kenneth! Hahaha! Naiyak kami dito ha!

I recalled something I wrote along time ago…

http://zeejester.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/to-someone-i-wish-i-could-meet/

Part of it…

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The lessons of 2012

The year 2012 is another landmark in my 28-year life, because of achievements and travels, but most of all as a significant transition stage in my life. So many great life lessons were learned, and not the easy way.

I finished one of the most challenging goals of my recent life – to finish and open The Mind Museum to the public. But somehow, I had to move away and move on, because I am still meant for something else, possibly something grander than the world I moved in while still with The Mind Museum. My career was to take a big leap forward, towards where I ought to be.

However, I had to go through a rollercoaster, just to find the guts to keep on moving. At first I resisted the change. I was personally committed to the project until we finished. Everything after that was already a bonus. Then, something really made me decide to leave. Whatever that something was, it turned out to be one of the biggest blessings in disguise for me.

I had about four months of “soul searching” after my resignation. Those four months involved a lot of staying at home, freelance work, travel, and job-hunting. The most challenging was the job-hunting, because there was so much possibilities, and I had to narrow down the choices and “sell” myself properly. At the end of it, I found what I wanted, and a company who seemed to want me for who I was and what I am capable of. Big career leap, I may say. We’ll see how it works this new year.

I got to travel around in 2012 too. Twice to Boracay for vacation, to Bacolod for a wedding, to Singapore for a conference, to Malaysia for a personal adventure, and to Australia for a vacation with the family. The Malaysia and Australia trips were after I resigned, and in a way it was good because I got to spend three weeks in Australia and go around a bit. We mainly visited my brother in Sydney, met up with a lot of extended relatives, and went sight-seeing. We also got to experience Canberra, Gold Coast, and visit other relatives in Melbourne.

That’s a gist of what happened in 2012. Some important realizations and lessons:

  • I am lucky to have a wonderful family who I can always rely on, and I am quite sure they will always have my back no matter what. And I also now fully appreciate when they say “mother knows best”.
  • Introspection is very important. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks about you. You can never please everyone. Just focus on the things that are important to you, and just be the best version of yourself. I am who I am. I cannot be someone else. There are parts of me that I cannot change, and I would like to be accepted the way that I am, fluff and stuff.
  • We should be careful who we trust, even with the “good friends”. Be careful how much you share with them. I’ve been burned twice before, by two people who I thought will have my back no matter what. Seems like they were the ones who judged me the most, perhaps because they knew too much. They thought they knew who and what I really was, but they were already blinded by their prejudice and their own biases.
  • Boys will be boys. I can never understand how some of them are so willing to cheat on their wives or girlfriends, but I have no plans of getting involved in such. I can’t stand to be someone’s number two or someone’s mistress, and I do not want to be the cause of hurt to spouses, partners, and children.
  • I’ve completely closed and abandoned my “hope” for my first love. Finally, first love “dies”, after 15 long years. I now understand why it was never meant to be. It never was, never is, and never will be. The book is closed.
  • I’m bankrupt. I’m almost done paying-off my liabilities though. I’m now learning a better way of managing my finances, saving on basic expenses, and eventually putting something away for the rainy days. The credit card is taking the backseat from now on.
  • I’ve found myself into Twitter. It is indeed one useful tool of communication.
  • Home is where the heart is. It is not a single place, but rather, wherever love (and family) resides.
  • Simplicity and calmness. Two wonderful things I’ve learned from yoga and meditation.
  • I know now where I want to be, and what I want to be. I’m going after that now.

Maybe the greatest lesson of the year is learning to let go. Let go of things that you don’t need anymore. Let go of things that do not work anymore. Let go of the negative emotions. Let go of expectations. When you learn how to let go of the right things, you’ll learn to travel lighter, with less baggage. Then, you’ll have more space for new things, and possibly for the best things that have yet to come.

I have all the space now for everything that 2013 will give me. I’m ready.

Tonight’s Dress / Happy 25th / My life, profound

Let me start with an anecdote. There is this story about two dresses…

Dress one, a wonderful floral dress I bought last February. I got it the same time I bought a cocktail dress for my uncle’s wedding. I had no urgent use for it but it was so beautiful and it fit me so well that I just had to buy it. However, there was no other formal event to go to during the first half of 2012, so the dress just waited in the closet for its time.

Dress two was bought in Singapore, during my trip there last March. I wouldn’t let a Singapore trip pass without going to Bugis, and there I was able to buy this simple teal dress, among other clothes. I’ve always wanted to wear the dress, but every time I attempted to, it always seemed too formal for the instance. I even brought it with me to Australia during my trip, hoping that there would be some kind of a dressy affair to go to, but still it never got used. Sensing no urgent need for it, I left it together with a few stuff to save on baggage weight for my flight back. It was sent back via box shipment.

I attended a formal event tonight and I needed a good dress to wear. I was keen on wearing the floral dress. With much excitement  I tried it on a few days ago, but it would not fit! Though I hate to admit it, I gained weight these past few months and couldn’t fit into the dress it anymore. I could just wear my other dresses, although most of them have already been worn to previous events. Then, I remembered the teal dress. I tried looking for it but couldn’t find it anywhere in my closet. I eventually remembered that it was still en route in a box, which we haven’t received yet after more than one and a half months. Oh well, I had to find something else to wear, maybe re-use one of the dresses I’ve worn before.

Wonderful news when the box arrived just yesterday! The dress was there, I tried it on, and it still fit well! Pretty interesting for a dress bought from Singapore to come to Manila, travel all the way to Sydney, and come back to Manila just in time to be worn for the very first time.


The event I attended was the 25th wedding anniversary of my uncle and aunt who lives in Sydney. My uncle is actually my dad’s first cousin, and their entire family was so wonderful and gracious when we visited them in Sydney, how I wish I met them a long time ago! They are also so caring for my brother who was living on his own in Sydney. They welcomed him and treated him like family.

Happy 25th wedding anniversary and re-wedding to Tito Bong and Tita Isa! It’s so beautiful to see a family like yours. Health and happiness to you, and your children Jomar and Steph.


Things are coming together for me in odd ways. The universe works its unexplainable magic. When it wants to give you lessons, it sometimes does in whispers. Sometimes the universe talks to you in Latin, or hieroglyphics. It’s a bit difficult for me to find a way to communicate it properly so that it can be understood. What’s there about this dress, the wedding, and the universe?

I’m guessing that the two dresses are two views of myself. One is a really wonderful view, which does not fit me anymore, and the other, a view that couldn’t find its place before, that it had to travel around first before coming back and finding its right place and time.

Indeed the right place and time. I write in metaphors again, like my post about reflections or my post about train rides. I was somewhere I belonged from 2008 to earlier this year, but I was not meant to simply remain a certain way, or in a certain place, or with the same people. I had almost half a year of trying to find myself, and trying to find where I am meant to be. I am not yet there, but I feel that I’m getting closer and closer. I’ve already realized where I want to be. I’m hoping to soon find who I would want to be with. Everything will fall into place eventually. Now I simply let myself be carried away by the waves of this mighty river that is my life.

‘Tis the season (to be jolly)

This past weekend officially marks the start of the Christmas season of 2012 for me. For some, Christmas season starts as early as the -ber months come in (yes, as early as Christmas in September). In the Catholic church, preparation for Christmas starts with Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas days, and that comes next weekend. For our family, it usually starts when December comes in, but this time around it’s just a week earlier. There’s some gathering tonight, I guess, and the house had to be ready with its Christmas vibe.

Ergo, we decorated the house the past two days. Dad bought some nice parols (fancy local Christmas lanterns) from Pampanga and hung them outside the house. The belen (miniature nativity scene) is already set on top of the piano in the living room. Two Christmas trees are now up and fully decorated inside the house, one of them I decorated myself. And, in keeping up with my personal “tradition”, I set the Christmas music up loud while I was working on the Christmas tree, to properly set the mood.

Christmas season also brings with it some of my favorite things, including the super-special family secret recipe fruit salad, which we traditionally only prepare and eat during this season. I finally had the reason to prepare a batch of it again. The first batch of fruit salad for this year’s Christmas season! Yum. The guests will have the pleasure of eating it later. I’ll have the license to make a few more batches of it from now until New Year.

And, the chilly evening and early morning breeze is back. Sets the mood pretty well for the season.

Come to think of it, there’s just 30 days before Christmas Day. This year is perhaps my poorest Christmas in terms of actual personal finances (I’m already financially challenged even before the season started). After years, I still have no love-life this Christmas. But no matter what, I know that Christmases would always be beautiful, and I am always blessed to have loving family and friends.