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December 25, 2014

Just wanted to pop in a quick post at the end of Christmas Day.

I'm here to say that I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas and even if you don't celebrate the holiday I hope you have a good day anyway! I hope you enjoy time with family and friends and enjoy the love that should be in the air around this time of year, regardless of your personal beliefs or religion (because that's really what this season is all about: love). 
Lilah and her "My 1st Christmas" hat--find this photo on Instagram

That said, I wanted to share a few of my favorite Christmas traditions with you: 

  • Family dinners: casseroles on Christmas Eve and turkey/fish on Christmas Day
  • Opening presents in order Christmas morning: eldest opens first down to the youngest 
  • Family breakfast after opening presents on Christmas morning (pancakes and waffles and fresh fruit and eggs....oh my)
  • Opening stockings first before anything else on Christmas morning 
  • Gathering together for more than just a day, nearly a whole week actually, and spending time together: going out to dinner, cooking in, watching movies etc. 
  • The "Secret Santa" system; the family "adults" draw names out of a digital hat (that I am in charge of) and they only buy presents for that person
  • .....and then ignoring the Secret Santa system by purchasing/making at least one present for someone who isn't your Secret Santa
  • **Spending all of Christmas Day (practically) in a car
I feel like the last one needs some explanation. Having divorced parents means my time is split down the middle during the holiday season. Typically, and especially since we've moved to Manila, I'll spend my time with Dad and family until Christmas at noon when the switch-off occurs. Then I hop over to Mom's side and we have Christmas #2, usually on the 26th of December instead of the 25th. Because Mom & co. have our Christmas at the OBX with my grandparents, this usually means a substantial amount of time spent in the car shuttling between one parent and the other on Christmas Day. 
#holidayselfie--find this photo on Instagram

Now, having divorced parents is something that will pretty much guarantee you pity from others, regardless of your personal feelings towards the split couple. Personally, I've never seen my parents together and, frankly, I think they work better apart so their divorce hasn't affected me in the pent-up teenage-angst ways you see on television. I do, however, have to admit that it is tradition for me to be in one of the only cars traveling the roads on Christmas Day from one parent to the other but this tradition is one that means I have 2 entire Christmases just full of people who love me and that makes the long days' journey more than worthwhile. (Even when squished in a car with 2 adults, 3 kids, and 2 over-sized, smelly dogs aka what happened today) 
Find this photo on Instagram

I guess that's really the point of this post: if your Christmas isn't living up to your expectations, whether it's because your parents are divorced/divorcing, you have family problems, you can't be with the people you love on Christmas etc. try and look at the good side of things rather than the bad. It's simple, and rather cliche, advice but it's true: this is the season of love and forgiveness, try and find the silver lining in every cloud and remember to look at every situation from the other person's perspective. It just might save you an argument. 

(Also: Christmas comedies/romcoms are highly recommended for anyone, not just those having a mediocre holiday) 

Joyeux Noel, Buon Natale, Maligayang Pasko, Feliz Navidad

and Merry Christmas

xx
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December 24, 2014

Favorite Holiday Movies

Home Alone
A complete classic, this movie has perfect comedic (and holiday) timing--a lot of heart and a lot of funnies is found throughout.

Love Actually
A movie I actually just experienced on the plane ride here to the States, there's a definite reason this is a classic and is the perfect Christmas romcom without being overly cheesy.

A Diva's Christmas Carol
Another TV-movie classic Dickens' novel this is not; I've always liked this movie and Vanessa William's portrayal of Diva Scrooge

A Christmas Carol
Along with the Diva version above, the classic version is just as yummy and works perfectly with the tradition of curling up with the actual Dickens' book in front of a roaring fire

The Nightmare Before Christmas
An animated Tim Burton fiesta, this is a classic (especially for my brother) and deserves to be: don't pass up an opportunity to catch this one

Elf
A Will Ferrel comedy, Will is goofy as Buddy the Elf, a confused human masquerading as one of Santa's elves and pulls off a funny, and heartwarming, holiday performance 

The Santa Clause
A movie I first experienced with my grandmother when I was little, this is truly time well spent--watching Tim Allen denying he's the new Santa Clause

Honorable Mentions

A Christmas Story
"You're going to shoot your eye out!" You could make a drinking game out of this movie and for that, it earns its spot on this list

The Polar Express
Wonderfully animated, this movie reaffirms your belief in Santa Clause as it reaffirms the main characters' (who is nameless)
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December 21, 2014

As anyone who has ever flown for a steady day without breaks can tell you....without a plan you're lost and your 'day' will not end up with a smile. After 26 hours, 3 flights, 2 layovers and 2 continents....I'm finally home! Being a seasoned veteran at these type of flights, I'm here to help you.
#planeselfies (Find this photo on Instagram)
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December 18, 2014

The book that had 1000 WASPs gasping behind closed doors. 
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December 16, 2014


As much as I love the feeling after a workout where you've accomplished a nice sweat sheen, I generally loathe the gym. Every time I walk into a gym, I always get very nervous and self-conscience and actually pretty narcissistic thinking "Oh my gosh they must be judging me....they have to be thinking something about me.....are they looking at me?" etc. 

Honestly people probably couldn't be bothered to look at me twice but there's something that has been negatively ingrained in my brain surrounding the gym. I much prefer to utilize YouTube and do workouts in my living room but obviously this has its limitations and also doesn't help me with getting over my social anxiety. 

However, I forced myself to the gym last Thursday simply because I'd been snacking on the leftover fudge pieces all day and hadn't been swimming since the weekend because A) no school Monday or Tuesday due to Typhoon Ruby and B) no more swimming after school anyway due to exams next week.

Now it wasn't like I actually had to leave my building to go to the gym, I just and went downstairs to the gym here. Every time I go, also every time I get in the elevator, I always send a little prayer going "Please no one be in here, please no one be in here" however my wish was not granted--there were already two people working out with their trainer, a boxing workout that looks so cool. 

I did my best to respectfully ignore them and started my workout on the treadmill with my iPod. I was expecting a slog at my normal 8.2 pace until I eventually caved and left disappointed and embarrassed. I actually surprised myself by running two high-intensity 7-minute intervals with a two minute water break in between (a feat I never could have accomplished without slowing down/stopping a couple of months ago). I felt really good after this so I decided to stay in the gym and tacked on a little weight lifting, squats, and weighted crunches. I had a little mantra running through my mind: 
I'm so PROUD of you!
This little encouragement doesn't seem like a lot, but it's actually a powerful motivator and I challenge you to try it next time you're doing something difficult. My lungs were burning, my mind told me asthma was seconds away from clogging my throat, and my sides were pinching in cramps but "I'm so proud of you!" kept me going. Well that and keeping a running countdown of the time in my head (little tip: don't go by seconds until it's the last minute, it'll drive you crazy! Always say "two minutes left" even if it's really 1 minute 20 seconds)

Everyone needs a little encouragement when we're doing something tough, but sometimes the only person that can give us that motivation is us. This little motivating factor also gave me a more positive outlook on the gym in total. Everyone there is there for the same purpose: to work up a sweat & to tone, train, stretch their muscles. There should be no judgement anywhere but especially in a place such as this where people are experiencing some of their most vulnerable moments and everyone carries a different motive with them when they're there. 

Next time you're working out, either in a gym, running through a park, or on the football field, try to keep a little mantra running through your brain when you start to feel hopeless and the need to stop--push yourself to your limit. (Oh, that's another thing: I try not to say "okay I'm going to run for 10 minutes" because if you don't reach it you feel really guilty and upset--the gym should be a place to feel uplifted)

It's important to realize when it's really really necessary to stop whatever you're doing: if you feel real pain or if you honestly feel you cannot go on. Recognize your own limits and once you reach them, stop. Never continue doing something if it's causing you physical harm. 

What are a few of your little tips and tricks to getting through something tough? 

xx
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December 13, 2014

I hate math. I hate it because I'm not good at it and despite it being forced upon me for a good portion of the 16 (nearly 17-yay!) years I've spent on this Earth I've just never grasped the concepts--especially this year. While last year I was floating on air with a 106% in math (it was a cake class) this year I'm drowning and it's an awful, twisted, dark feeling.

My Mom likes to tell my math teachers that math is usually my worst subject because I'm not "naturally gifted" at it so I have to "work at it" more than my other subjects and that makes it frustrating to me. And it's true, Literature class isn't without its challenges but I'm certainly more gifted at writing a paper or crafting a presentation with a speech (#confidence) than solving for x or multiplying by logbase10 of y.

It's difficult for me this year, being in a math class where I'm getting the lowest grade in the class and everyone knows it. And it's not that they're laughing at me or anything, I actually love everyone in my math class (I mean there's only 7 of us so not much to love really) and they're quite supportive but I still struggle and I still get embarrassed and I still feel really really stupid.

Now objectively, I know I'm not stupid and am, in fact, quite bright. In fact I find myself a lot smarter than some people give me credit for, yet a lot dumber than I give myself credit for sometimes. The point of this is: I'm not stupid and I know this even though math class makes me feel this way.

There's a real value in recognizing your own shortfalls: it helps you to work on them, you can seek the help you need, you can place yourself where you belong in terms of society, classes whatever, and, if nothing else, it helps to hear the hard truth from yourself rather than from one of your "friends". Whether your faults include math class, writing an essay, completing a mile run without stopping, making toast without burning it etc., there are tips I can share on how to improve upon these faults. But first, a creed:

Now, this is the very very important part of this post.

Just because you aren't good at that thing....doesn't mean you aren't good at other things.

Par example....

Running is really not my thing and you will probably out-pace me (unless we're running towards Johnny Depp or something) but I will kick ass in the pool

If you can solve this: 
that's great for you but I can still write a pretty fantastic commentary on gender representation in Shakespeare's works.

And so on....

  • It's important to recognize that just because you're not good at _____, doesn't mean you're worthless or stupid. You have value! We cannot hear that enough. It's important to recognize your talents along with your faults, and don't feel bad about having pride in your talents that you know you're good at (but don't be cocky) 

  • It's also pretty important to own up to your faults, own them don't let them own you. Ask for help when you need it, try not to feel embarrassed if it seems like everyone around you gets it but you don't--I promise at least one of them is faking it and as soon as you ask for help, they'll drop the facade and ask too.

  • Make sure you put in the time necessary to work on improving your fault as well--if it's something you find worthwhile. I, sadly, don't have a choice in math class and find myself studying in my "off" hours, going for tutorials during my study hall period, reviewing the problems I got wrong, and I'm getting better about asking questions in class. Take small steps and gradually get bigger if you want to work on your fault. 

  • Lastly, make sure the fault that you're recognizing is one that you actually have and one that you recognized. If someone tells you something rude or makes an unsolicited comment--ignore them, tell them off, and don't try to change for them! If you find yourself agreeing with them, on your own terms, then you can work on the fault. But make sure it's coming directly from your desire and not from anyone else's. (Like this math class analogy again: I say people are forcing me to do it but my mom isn't standing over me forcing me to study, my teacher certainly isn't chasing after me, it's my own motivation to work on improving my grade because I know the colleges I'm looking at and the future I want to have and it needs a higher grade in math.)
You can overcome these faults, with a lot of hard work and no excuses, and at the very least you will improve--I promise.

Do you have any tips on how to recognize and overcome faults or setbacks? Feel free to share them below! 

xx
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December 12, 2014

Find a version of this photo on Instagram

Something that is rapidly becoming a new family tradition (at least for Mom and myself) is making fudge during the holidays to include in my teacher gifts as well as a little extra for ourselves to nibble on. 

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December 10, 2014


Holiday Tunes
"Baby It's Cold Outside" by the Glee Cast (aka Kurt and Blaine)
The two guys give a great update to the classic hit and the way their two voices fit together will have you swooning.

"All I Want for Christmas is You" by Bowling for Soup
The band brings punk to Christmas, not to mention some great guitar feat. bells background action.

"Let It Snow" by Aly & AJ
The acoustic take the twins give to the song, not to mention their slightly-raspy voices, add a whole 'nother element to the song.

"The Christmas Song" by Martina McBride
Martina's slight, barely-there country twang + her soulful rendition and silk voice make this a true classic.

"Auld Lang Syne" by Colbie Caillat
The quintessential New Years' Eve song, Colbie's peaceful version and personal message at the end makes it a must-have.

"Winter Wonderland" by Faith Hill
Not only am I jealous of Faith's pink dress on the album cover, I wish I lived in the winter wonderland she sings about.

"Santa Baby" by Taylor Swift
A release early in T's career, her country roots still show in the twang of this song--and it's a perfect compliment to the lyrics.

"I'll Be Home" by Meghan Trainor
The newest song on my playlist, I fell absolutely in love with her voice and this song through Spotify's 'Christmas Pop' playlist.

"All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey
A repeat, I know, but the Diva brings the ultimate of her range to the song and delivers a sound, if not more traditional, performance.

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee
The vintage vibe emanating from this song is too good to miss, plus it's just a fun song to sing! 

"Auld Lang Syne" by Lea Michele
Another repeat, sorry. Lea's voice is the definite forerunner of this song, a perfect capture of the movie in which it premiered.

Honorable Mentions: 
"Mistletoe" by Justin Bieber
While the world loves to hate on the Biebs, this song is a cute pop-y Christmas love story that is a guilty pleasure.

"Baby It's Cold Outside" by Michael Buble and Idina Menzel
The award for Greatest Broadway Voices on a Holiday song and the Cutest Video Ever go to this song.

Favorite Holiday Song: 
"I'll Be Home" by Meghan Trainor

*click on the artists' name to get more information on the album/song/movie etc.*
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December 7, 2014

You may have noticed a few changes to my blog lately, specifically to my pages. I've added two new ones: My Recipe Box and MyTunes.

My Recipe Box
Food has always been an integral part of my life, my family's unspoken motto being: there is no better way to share love than with food.
Esther and Lucy last Christmas

Naturally I don't spend my days reminiscing about the food we ate/prepared, I relive the wonderful memories! Thinking about what made us laugh all together (a most beautiful sound), what made my grandmother go "tsk tsk" in her mock-disapproving way, what made my aunt spill her wine glass on the dog she was laughing so hard.

And that's really what the food-symbolizing-love part is all about to me: the love of a family (and the love of good food). 
Last Christmas Dinner

I'll be sharing some old time family recipes, as well as some recipes that we've tried passed on from one family to our through the magic of allrecipes.com so keep your eye out for yummy posts coming your way! 

MyTunes

Music is a gift that deserves to be shared and, being the person that makes a playlist for literally every occasion (even the ones that haven't happened yet) I thought I'd share the magic with you through a playlist page.

As always please comment your thoughts below on the new pages, on any individual recipes, or on the playlists I post. Hope you enjoy the new pages! 

xx
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December 6, 2014


It's been a while since I last had pancakes for breakfast, I mean normally I grab a small protein bar or something on my way to the bus stop, so I decided to try out a new recipe this morning. (Plus my friend was bragging about his family's tradition of having "pancake morning" which is every Thursday morning or something they have pancakes before school so I had pancakes on the brain)

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