Articles, DIY Projects, Organizing

DIY Leather Bookmarks

DIY projects

Leather bookmarks

Creating beautiful things out of (almost) junk

Admittedly—and unashamedly—I’m a frugal artist and crafter. I seldom buy new materials.

Of course, it’s totally okay to buy crafting materials and supplies—and there’s a whole lot of them, either locally and internationally. 

But I like to make do with what I presently have on hand. I also have this nasty habit of storing and putting aside things that I think can still be used in the future, if and when creativity strikes and the need for them arises. 

It’s a fun way of getting rid of a lot of junk, don’t you think? It’s also gratifying to recycle and reuse objects that are seemingly useless and convert them into pretty, functional things.

For this DIY project, I made use of leather strips that were given to me a long, long time ago, plus some stickers, strings, buttons, acrylic paint, and whatever else I happen to have on hand.

I tried to use contact cement as adhesive, thinking of how they are used in leather shoes. But it didn’t work. It didn’t adhere. (I don’t know why.) So I made use of tapes instead: a two-sided tape and a foam tape. They worked like a charm!

It was fun pairing materials to come up with colorful, inspirational, and functional bookmarks. 

And guess what? 

Each of these pretty creations will go with each purchase of my romcom book, It’s Not Just Semantics, at Gantala Press’ Gandang Ganda sa Sariling Gawa! Book/Zine/Art Fair for Women which will be held on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Manila.

This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with it.

Articles, Travel

Kasa Luntian: Homey but Classy

Travel

Kasa Luntian : Homey but Classy

Tagaytay had always been our go-to place whenever our family needs a quick getaway. Lately, many condominiums and hotels have sprung there to offer temporary overnight (or a few nights) accommodation for visitors. We have tried a number of them. But Kasa Luntian was, well, something else.

Highly Recommended

Last December, I asked my youngest sister for a recommendation about a place where our family can stay to spend New Year’s Eve. She told me about Kasa Luntian but it was already fully booked at the time. We ended up renting a condo unit and while we had a great time, it was too small for our family of five, consisting of my two sons who were both six-footers, almost a head taller than their dad, and our rambunctious, chubby grade schooler.  

As March started to roll in with the birthdays of our two sons—the eldest and the youngest—at hand, my hubby and I decided a weekend staycation as a birthday treat to them, sans the usual gifts and Jollibee party in school. We started to search for hotels (again), although I was apprehensive because we wanted a room where we can all fit comfortably. Then I remembered Kasa Luntian. And boy, I’m glad I did.

Indoor Amenities

We found the cheapest rate at Agoda for a Junior Suite at almost the price of the condo unit we rented last December. But Kasa Luntian’s accommodations were so different in many ways. 

First: the suite was HUGE! You can jog around or even play bowling in there. It was not cramped. There was one king-sized bed and one twin-sized bed. A mini-dining area with a beautiful overhead lamp, aside from functional track lighting fixtures provided a tasteful yet minimalist decor.

There was an LCD TV, too—with cable TV, not just local channels. (We didn’t check for NetFlix.) Beside it, there was a cabinet with ample space for clothes. Inside, there’s a safe deposit box to lock in your precious belongings, and a hair blower/dryer, too. And did I tell you they have free WiFi? It was fast, not painfully slow and intermittent like in other hotels.

But what I really loved was the kitchen. It was fully-equipped with a gas stove with a range hood, a mini-ref, a sink, a microwave, an electric kettle with complimentary coffee, sugar and creamer. And see all those cabinets? They contained a rice cooker, cookware, plates, spoons and forks, utensils, wine glasses. And yes, there was air-conditioning which you can personally control.

The bathroom was as homey, but classy, as the rest of the suite. It had a bidet! The shower head was the square rainfall type. And get this: there was hot water, not only in the shower, but also from the faucet. I really loved the scent of their free toiletries. There was a cabinet along the hall beside the bathroom which I wasn’t able to take a picture of. It provided more space for clothes, plus an iron and even an ironing board.

Behind the sliding doors covered with stylish blinds for privacy, we were in for a treat. Every unit in Kasa Luntian came with a balcony with a wicker lounge chair and matching round table. I gushed at its flooring which was covered in soft, artificial grass carpet. You can walk barefoot, giving one a garden feel. Truly relaxing!

Everything was spick-and-span and we did not want for provisions. Heck, I even loved being inside the elevator! It smelled refreshingly aromatic. The security and staff were courteous and were always ready to answer questions with a genuine smile.

The Pools Outdoor

Outside our building, we easily found the pools which my sister had also told me about. Wicker pool lounge chairs, matching outdoor furnitures, roofed areas, pocket parks, and lush greenery abound. There was a shower beside the pool and an indoor one in a nearby separate facility which also doubled as a dressing room and bathroom. 

The pools weren’t very deep, which was a good thing, because who needs an Olympic-sized pool here, anyway? They were pocket pools, all six of them, in different shapes and elevation, with waterfalls effect cascading down to another pool until the last one. They told us there were two heated pools, but we really can’t tell which was which. The temperature was cold in Tagaytay even in the late afternoon when we first dipped into the waters. We had to call it a day after just an hour because the air was chilly and we were already shivering. 

Oh, and there was an outdoor playground, too, for children. A bit small, it can only fit two to three children at a time but in a way, that’s fine. No crowding here. 

Breakfast was a delicious treat of the usual silog meals, pasta and American breakfast. We ate at Taza Mia, a quaint, cozy coffee shop atop a viewing pavilion which also housed a few food establishments and spas. There were not many, sad to say, but I’m pretty sure it will fill up in no time. 

The Best Part of It All

But you know the best part of being in Kasa Luntian other than its clean, stylish amenities and facilities, accommodating staff, and relaxing atmosphere? It was the feeling of being safe and sheltered in an enclosed community where you can walk hand-in-hand, jog or run comfortably on winding pathways amid pocket gardens. 

It was the provincial feel, with birds chirping, leaves dancing with the wind, sunlight peeking through the trees, air free from pollution—without being deprived of all the comforts and necessities of modern day living. 

It was the overall ambiance of the place, where even by merely sitting in the balcony, you can feel yourself being recharged, reenergized, your inner balance restored. 

Either temporarily or permanently (since there are units for sale here, too), AyalaLand’s Kasa Luntian is an affordable getaway place where one can happily and peacefully settle and forget about life’s worries.

And where you can tell yourself... it's still a wonderful world
and everything can be all right again.

The Serviced Residences at Kasa Luntian
Tagaytay-Calamba Road, Barangay San Jose, Tagaytay City 046.412.1323 / 046.412.1324 / +63 917 807 0445
www.kasaluntianservicedresidences.com
Facebook: @kasaluntianhii/ | Instagram: @kasaluntianhii/

This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Agoda Affiliate Program and Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, both affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to agoda.com, amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with them.

Articles, Book Reviews, Reading, Reviews

Review: CIRCE

Review: CIRCE

I have been fascinated by Greek mythology ever since I was introduced to the Iliad and the Odyssey during high school. The world of the gods, goddesses, heroes and monsters vividly came to life in my teenage mind as I read retellings and versions of it. I think that was the time I felt the first stirrings of my passion for writing.

Reading Circe by Madeline Miller is like going back to the halls of my high school, circa 80’s. The prose is excellent, reminiscent of Homer’s style and dramatic similes and metaphors. The reader is transported to varied worlds with each detailed description of various settings, persons, and objects. 

What makes Circe more compelling and impactive is the way the author intricately wove the events in the Iliad and the Odyssey—and the more recent, loved stories—within its context. In this book, Circe takes prominent place among the gods, even a crucial role, in many of the well-known Greek characters’s lives. At the same time, Miller injected a few modern tales, namely The Ugly Duckling and Cinderella. The result is a powerful, indelible rendering of the life of an otherwise lesser entity in Greek mythology.

But I think the best thing about this book is the portrayal of Circe’s character development. One can’t help but be lured into the web that was Circe’s life, and relate with her throughout her journey. In the beginning, she was considered ugly, without any power except for her immortality. She was called stupid, smirked upon and bullied by her kind. In her naivete (and it is significant to say here, in the absence of well-meaning parents who should’ve genuinely cared for and guided her), she did terrible things out of pure impulse, things which burdened her for life. She made mistakes, she trusted the wrong people, she was used, abused and mistreated. But through all these, she remained her own person, with her values and principles intact, unchanged by cruelty and malice. She may have performed some black magic (turned men to pigs) but it was an act that can only be accepted as rational by a goddess wronged by mortals, a retaliation to their crime against her. Through all these, her concern and consideration of mortals remained, even as she sought approval and affection from her own kind. In the end, it was this tenderness of heart toward those inferior, perishable beings that gave her the ultimate peace she had long wished for.

It is to be noted that except for Circe, Miller chose to depict her gods and goddesses as selfish, self-entitled beings with absolutely no genuine fondness for mortals (and even their own kin) except when they are useful to their whims. The gods caused bad things to happen to mortals, leading them to turn to the deities for help and worship, for their own egocentric, manipulative games. But of course, maybe it’s because this is Circe’s story. She took center stage as the only good one among rotten tomatoes, making others pale in the background. Zeus didn’t even make an appearance.  

There were one or two instances, too, when the author (unknowingly, I presume) slipped into modern tone and language which were totally out of place (and curiously, all involving the “f” word): “That he fucks them, of course.” “I fucked the sacred bull, all right?”

Her evolution, from plain nymph to a powerful witch whom even the mighty gods were afraid of; from an immature, insecure girl to a seasoned woman of substance; from a damsel who saw the world with rose-colored glasses to a wisened mother who will sacrifice herself for her son’s sake, were remarkably well-written, suffused with the joys and pains accompanying each life phase and inciting appropriate emotions from the reader. You can feel Circe’s frustrations, disappointments, sadness, anger and, in rare, scant moments, her happiness. What a journey!

If I were to describe Circe in simple words, I’d say it’s the story of a goddess who lived a colorful mortal’s life. And that is what makes it a great book, being inherently human in its depths—and therefore, identifiable. I love the prose, the tone, and the writer’s style. Truly an excellent piece of literature.

Available on Amazon and Apple Books.

Rating:
4.5/5

This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Apple Affiliate Program and Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, both affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to apple.com, amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with them.

Articles, Movie Reviews, Reviews

Movie Review: Isn’t It Romantic

review

isn't it romantic

Rebel Wilson proves she can hold her own as she lands a starring role in this feel good, hilariously funny romcom.

You definitely need to watch Isn’t It Romantic! It’s a fun, laugh-out-loud romantic musical comedy about loving oneself, appreciating others, and finding your true love living right under your nose.
 
I didn’t like Rebel Wilson’s characters in her other films. She was either too crass, too quirky, or too mean. I remember thinking, what a waste of pretty face and comic talent. But Isn’t It Romantic fits her to a T. The plot is just the right one for her.

Synopsis

Rebel Wilson is Natalie, a plus-size architect in New York. A low-esteemed cynic, courtesy of her equally cynic mother, she is unnoticed, unappreciated, and basically a doormat in their office. When she knocks herself out in the subway after foiling a mugging attempt, she finds herself in an alternate universe and the leading lady in her suddenly perfect, flowery romantic comedy life–complete with background music and overhead narrations! After a series of self-denials and mishaps, she learns to love herself first before needing anyone else, as well as realizing what she really wanted in a man. When she wakes up, she transforms herself to a strong woman, confident of herself and her architectural skills, and going after the man she really loves.

Get Ready to Laugh...and Wisen Up

I had a great time watching this movie. While it made a parody out of Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman scenes, it wasn’t being offensive–to me, at least. It showed a heroine reliving the 1990 top-grosser movie with a touch of straightforward reality, effectively mixing the ideal with the real. Along the way, it teaches a few lessons. That while the world and some people in it may turn up cruel and harsh, we can always find some things and some persons that are still beautiful and kind. That for all the world’s ugliness, there is always something to be thankful for. And the most important lesson of all: if we want to be loved the way we expect to, we should learn to love ourselves first. Not just to accept ourselves: strengths, flaws, and all, but to change what can be changed for the better; to assert our rights and refuse to be doormats of bullies. All these not to please anyone or everyone, but first and foremost, our self. 

Joining Rebel in this not-your-usual romcom movie is hunk Liam Hemsworth, the sultry Priyanka Chopra and Mr. Nice Guy Adam DeVine. Brandon Scott Jones and Betty Gilpin played Natalie’s friends, with Brandon providing the pivotal “Eureka!” moment for Natalie. These characters provided invaluable support which further made the film more worthy of my time compared to Sierra Burgess is a Loser. 

Sweet, funny but empowering. Oh, and if you love beta heroes more than alpha ones, this movie is definitely for you!

“Isn’t It Romantic” is now streaming internationally on Netflix.

Rating:
4/5

If you’re a movie buff like me and don’t have Netflix, you may want to check out Amazon Prime Video. It has a treasure trove of movies to buy or rent.

Better yet, here’s a direct link to the movie through Apple Movies.

This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Apple Affiliate Program and Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, both affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Apple.com, Amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with them.

Articles, Book Reviews, Reviews, Short Stories

Review: Premium Harmony

review

premium harmony

A short story by Stephen King published in The New Yorker.

Stephen King is not the King for nothing. Although his style in this story is a bit different from his other works, it just proves he’s a versatile writer who can spin words and emotions in many different ways.

This tale also requires a concentrated effort in reading between the lines. Underneath the simple language, funny parts and seemingly disordered mess, there’s depth and meaning. I have come upon quite a number of discontented reviews on this, and, quite frankly, I almost became one myself. But I believe Mr. Stephen to be a very talented writer who will not write anything just for the sake of it. As with every story I read, I always look for what the author was trying to tell me, the reader. It’s also a challenge to try to unravel the writer’s mind. After three readings, I came to understand King’s wisdom.

The central theme is about marriage. Specifically, the marriage of two incompatible people, Ray and Mary. Or, by analogy, people who have drifted apart from each other, who have changed over the years, who have grown apart. It depicts the image of many marriages today: marriages where boredom and indifference had set in, and love, that glorious feeling they had at the beginning, has faded in a background of monotony, resentment and discord.

“When they argue, they’re like greyhounds chasing the mechanical rabbit. You go past the same scenery time after time, but you don’t see it. You see the rabbit.”

I wouldn’t change anything in this story. The story was perfect for me. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. To some, reading this may be like a road leading to nowhere. But if you walk carefully and slowly, you’ll find yourself treading toward a sure destination.

The story begins with the state of their marriage: ten years, childless, nearly bankrupt, arguing a lot. His wife was barren, overweight, constantly bickered him on his smoking and over almost anything, a bit extravagant for his own taste. He’d bought her a dog, a Jack Russell named Bizz, whose loyalties turned to her, and the three of them were on their way to Walmart to buy grass seed for their lawn, which she insisted is needed to be able to sell their house. They stopped at Quik Pik to buy a purple ball for her niece, again, at her insistence and with his compliance. There, two things happened one after the other, giving Ray the freedom he didn’t know he wanted.

The ending was expected of Ray, whose character background was well-portrayed – his unhappiness and discontent over his marriage – and who, after his initial shock and sadness, was already thinking of a life diferent from what he had for the last ten years.

“It comes to him that now he can smoke all he wants, and anywhere in the house. He can smoke right there at her dining-room table.”

He was finally free of a suffocating, dull marriage, and he was looking forward to a bright future. (I was thinking of the dog, though. The author didn’t mention if Ray took him out of the car before he drove to the hospital with the windows closed and the air-conditioning on.)

“Ray smokes all the way to the hospital with the windows shut and the air-conditioning on.”

When you think about it, even the title depicted the theme of the story. Ray said it perfectly:

“‘That off-brand. Premium Harmony, they’re called.’ They taste like homemade shit, but all right.”

Ray was settling for less in life: cheap cigarettes as well as a boring life with a fat, bickering, disagreeable wife, and an ungrateful dog who loves his wife more than him – just to survive or to exist. He was trapped and didn’t have the guts to get out of it. The solution was taken out of his hands, and in a span of one hour! Lucky fella.

 

Rating:
5/5

Stephen King is an acclaimed award-winning American best-selling author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction as well as non-fiction books. Many of his books have been adapted into films and television series.  

This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.

Articles, Kitchen Adventures

“Shortcut” Baking

(This post contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure at the end of this post.)


Baking is a worthwhile domestic activity which brings joy (hi there, Marie Kondo!) to one’s self. But if you’re like me, living in a tropical country like the Philippines, it can be a harrowing experience. My kitchen is small and the temperature in here is always hot, compared to American and European standards. My oven is gas-type, which means I have to fire it up with a gas lighter, which always empties fast, and it’s empty at the moment. My work table doubles as our dining table. And I’ve ran out of flour and other baking essentials and the grocery is far from our home. (That last one is the most plausible reason, don’t you think?)

Mind you, it doesn’t mean I haven’t ever baked from scratch. I have proof! I have pictures!

But I’m sure you’d understand there are times when even the simple act of measuring sugar and baking powder is laborious, not to mention the thought of washing all those cups and spoons and pans. Plus, we have a new electric mini-oven I was itching to use (tee-hee!).

Ta-dah!

So, I’ve decided to try the famous Betty Crocker mixes. I used Betty Crocker Muffin Mix Triple Berry.

I bought mine from our last trip from our local grocery, but it can also be bought online.

That’s right, I picked this one because I absolutely love berries. And I wasn’t disappointed, even though it said (rather too honestly, I think) that it contains imitation berries. But surprise! The berries in the muffins tasted like the real thing!

I produced twelve muffins instead of six because I used a mini-muffin pan. It turned out to be an additional advantage too. We had bite-sized muffins which were filling and delicious, just the right size to pop into our mouths. Perfect for breakfast!

I have one complaint, though. I have to estimate the amount of milk I put in the mixture. There is no exact measurement of how much to add. (If I’d missed reading it from the directions written on the pouch, enlighten me by commenting below, I’d really appreciate it.)

Verdict:

Easiest way to bake soft, tasty muffins in under twenty minutes! Just add water or milk, mix until just blended, pour into a muffin pan and bake for 15-18 minutes.

So, there. I think I’ll be looking out for more Betty Crocker mixes in the grocery from now on.


Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.

#28Letters Writing Challenge, Articles, Writing, Writing Challenge

Day 9 #28Letters – WHO’S BAD?

“Mommy, are all people bad?”

“No, sweetie. Please don’t ever think that. Not all people are bad. Many are good and kind, caring for others like us.” Sighing, she scratched her tummy. “Only a handful of them are bad. They’re those who are only happy when they’d inflicted harm on others. Do you understand that?”

Nodding, she asked again. “Mommy, are we bad?”

“No, sweetie!” The mother gasped. “We are not bad. We just want to live peacefully, to protect our own, that’s all.”

The little bear rubbed her mother’s blood-spattered, pregnant belly. “Is that why you killed those hunters?”

#28Letters Writing Challenge, Articles, Writing, Writing Challenge

Day 8 #28Letters – FROZEN EDEN

Like a puny flame, the sun was expunged by the passing of billions of icy cold, colossal meteors, gobbling it up in one fell swoop.

When the heavy pounding of snow stopped, Evie came out from under the volcanic cave where she’d taken refuge, surviving by keeping herself warm beside the flickering heat of the lava. Her heart sank at the sight of the freezing, white vastness of nothingness. She shivered, realizing she was the only survivor of the catastrophe which ended all life on earth.

Or was she?

A few feet away, Aidan, shaken and dazed, caught her eyes.

#28Letters Writing Challenge, Articles, Writing Challenge

Day 7: #28Letters – VOICES

He squeezed his eyes tight, shaking off the voices inside his head.

“Don’t do it!” “This is wrong!” “Think of the damage you’ll cause!”

Damage? His own voice roared, towered over them. Did they think of the damage they caused to my life when they fired me for no reason? It’s just the building entrance. I’ll just scare the owners! Hate, resentment rationalized what he was about to do, smothering the voices.

He pushed down the trigger. A voice echoed outside his head.

“Daddy!”

His son and wife waved at him across the street before the bomb blew them off.

#28Letters Writing Challenge, Articles, Writing, Writing Challenge

Day 6 #28Letters: The Window

His feet tapped on the window sill, finding rest for his tired, wind-whipped body. The mother whispered, “Go away,” but abruptly stopped when her child grasped her arm, weakly shaking her small head. In gratitude, he sang her a beautiful song. She rewarded him with a dazzling smile.

From then on, the window remained open. Day, night, rain, or shine, he came and sang to her, his heart full of love.  

Until one day, he found the window closed, its curtains drawn. He understood. In grief, he wept, perched atop a tree. Wings folded, he sang a song for her…still.