Saturday, December 30, 2006

The joys of being unplugged

It's been a wonderful 5 weeks (maybe 6 -- sure feels like more) and it's because of the busted TV.

One day in November, the TV just conked out after months of bad picture quality. It's an old set after all. The first few days were quite an adjustment, primarily for my mother and sister who spend more viewing time and who derive more satisfaction from it.

I don't remember which gave out first, but my PC was also out of commission for more than a month (I got it back from the shop two days before Christmas day). Since I was so busy, I didn't have time to have it repaired right away; hence, staring at screens was reduced to a minimum in this household! In fact, the only screen-staring was done by me -- whenever I had to send or read a text message.

I love life without a TV. Since that day the TV died, my mom and I have been talking more. And not just idle talk -- really conversing, sharing ideas and experiences. Let me tell you that this does not naturally happen so often in my family so help (like a busted TV or a power outage) to facilitate things is always appreciated by me.

My mother got to talk about snippets of life in the province where she grew up, about her siblings whom she had gotten to spend considerable time with lately on account of two sisters who vacationed in the Philippines last month, stories she'd read. Have you heard the details of what inspired the song "Tie a yellow ribbon"?? I've heard it half a dozen times but everytime my mom tells it, it makes me tearful (in a good way). Well, that'll be for another post.

Anyway, I also asked her about her travels with my Dad and she seemed to enjoy talking about those, though I could see she became teary-eyed during some moments. It's not surprising -- they were married 51 years when he died, and sharing one's life with someone for that long is bound to make the separation difficult when God decides it's time to take one of the spouses Home.

Then there was the baking. Did I mention that I have no electric mixer? So ignorant am I about the rudiments of baking and going into this business that the significance of not having a mixer didn't occur to me. Needless to say, my right arm is now very toned and strong. But if my mom had not been around to help me during our mixing sessions, I might have given up completely. So, with all the baking that we did, there was plenty of time for chitchat amid the bowls, spoons and ingredients. One of the things I learned was that she minored in home economics at university, which explains her knowledge of baking and cooking principles which she would casually spew out in the course of our conversations while working the wooden spoons.

At one point, my mother even said that she likes it that we have no TV to use because now she spends more time reading and doing crossword puzzles. Man, I know very few people who can finish entire puzzles to the last letter! Besides the puzzles in the daily paper, she has stacks of crossword puzzle booklets in her room! Then of course I'm sure she notices the difference provided by our "unplugged lifestyle" of late to our remarkable daily interaction. I've been quite content with this...until yesterday when she announced that she wanted to buy a new TV. I was crestfallen, at the same time thinking that it was too good to last anyway and that at least we had the time to do all that talking in the first place.

She misses watching Fr. Corapi and the other shows on EWTN. "Jeopardy" has also been among her regular viewing fare. So I said, "we better make sure we control our viewing time and not let the TV control us."

Let's see what happens. I just don't want to return to the time when people would sit and stare at the TV screen for hours at a time, become somewhat lethargic and more concerned about catching some show instead of checking up on the others in the house. I'll admit the TV holds some "magical power" over me at times so I avoid watching. Even this computer screen has been in control of me many times, so I make it a point to be as detached as possible even if I do love to blog and to read others' blogs!

So, with my PC back on and my family shopping for a new TV set within a week, the challenge to moderate technology use around our home comes to the fore again. Let's see how it'll turn out. I'm wondering if there's a patron saint for technology or electronic gadgets whose help I can enlist right away. We certainly need the assistance!

Great and small

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

- Mother Teresa

Friday, December 29, 2006

Visual treats of the season

First, here are some photos that I came across in the past several weeks that I want to share simply for the visual treat they hopefully provide for you as they do for me. That one above is a shot of the window of Svenskt Tenn, a shop in Stockholm, Sweden. It's one of the many wondrous photos that I've been marveling at recently on Karin's Style Blog, which I do check out from time to time. The blogger, Karin Eriksson, is a an artist from Sweden, and right away after perusing her work (and the inspirations that influence her) do I appreciate the differences in artistic styles and sensibilities compared to the more "conventional" ones I've grown accustomed to. Below is one of her ceramic creations, more of which (vases, cups, bowls, tealight holders etc.) you can see on her website and on her page at Etsy.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that packaging was among my main concerns this Christmas season on account of my very unexpected venture into the baking business. Hence, I've become quite fascinated by the imaginative ways by which gifts are wrapped and generally presented to the receiver.

This is one of the designs made by Delicious Days -- so not only does her expertise lie in the culinary arts; she's a graphic artist as well!

After making the rounds of several food blogs, I stumbled on these peppermint squares, the origin of which I can't remember. I do recall coming across the site via a link at Eggbeater.

Nice pictures, eh? Definitely eye candy for me, but somehow they make me a little sad. Why? Because they're shots of mere objects. Though they're products of human ingenuity and hard work, they're still just "things." These photos show no people, and even though the first picture shows a beautiful room, exquisitely decorated for Christmas, to me it could be a representation of loneliness. It is beautiful, but kind of empty for the lack of people.

At least I found one picture that conveys the majestic celebration that the season is all about and contains people in it!

This is also from Karin's blog. She writes: "It’s becoming a tradition for my family to go to Storkyrkan for Lucia night. It’s the oldest church in Stockholm and sitting in a building from the 13th century, packed full with people, listening to the violins and the singing is beautifully meditative."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Facing Life on TV

I hope this is not too late! From Barbara of Mommy Life, posted on her blog on Dec. 20 --

Facing Life - TV show about Down syndrome

Remember a few months ago, I showed you how my living room was transformed into a TV studio for an interview I did with a TV show?

Well, the show is scheduled to air next week. It's called Facing Life and you can check out the air times where you live here. On Direct TV, which is what our family has (though why I don't know since we hardly ever watch it), the show airs weekly on Monday at 10:30 AM and 8:30 PM. That's Christmas Day, so I will be setting the DVR to record it, I guess.

Anyway, just thought I'd let you know. The show is about kids with Down syndrome, abortion and the adoption option.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Yuletide greetings to all

Have a blessed Christmas with your family and friends, guided by the true North Star.

Silhouette art by Gertrude Junker

Friday, December 22, 2006

A brown Christmas

These are the reasons for my absence of late. It's my first time to go into business and my third or fourth time to bake anything -- the first two or three forays with the oven being borne out of a Sesame Street activity book I got for my 8th birthday. There was a recipe for Cookie Monster oatmeal cookies and so I worked the mixing bowl and spatula and followed the instructions. I have a very vague recollection of that though.

The last several weeks I breathed flour and butter, baking cups and gift boxes, measuring spoons and walnuts. I think the eight aluminum pans I bought have yielded around 50 batches of lemon squares and an equal number of brownies thus far. Cookies were limited to my mom's close friends and some of my former officemates (personally, though, they're my favorite to munch on!).

Boy, have I learned a lot these past three weeks -- about the intricacies of business ventures, about refining the slicing of baked goods, even about the care of baking tools. I can say I even have a new-found respect for the culinary products of our bare hands and basic ingredients. However, as I told myself during one of those late-night mixing sessions in the company of bowls, spoons, butter, eggs and lemon juice, if I don't take care I'd easily lose sight of the Reason for the season. And I very nearly have on account of all the orders I had to produce. Now things have slowed down and I am doubly grateful.

Only 3 days to go before we again celebrate the birthday of the most important of all VIPs! I wish you all a blessed Christmas in the company of family and dear friends.

Holiday reading

Did I mention that my PC is at the repair shop? I don't think so. Well, I'm typing this in a net cafe a few blocks away from home. Baking non-stop (well, almost) plus a PC that has conked out on me since early this month have made going online nearly impossible. But I'd like to do what I still can to bring out the meaning in this season for anyone who may be reading my blog, so I figured I'd just post a few entries from December last year, from my other blog. Hope they somehow help you to really savor the richness of Christmas and to contemplate the baby in the manger.


Stille nacht, heilige nacht

One of my favorite movies about Christmas is the one that has been shown on the Hallmark channel several times. It tells of the story about a mother, her little son and a bleak Christmas in their little cabin in Germany during World War 2. It's called "Silent Night" and none of the cast except Linda Hamilton are familiar to me, but the movie remains unforgettable.

Silent Night, however, is better known as a traditional Christmas carol. The original lyrics of the song Stille Nacht were written in German by Josef Mohr and the melody was composed by the Austrian headmaster Franz X. Gruber. The version of the melody that is generally sung today differs slightly (particularly in the final strain) from Gruber's original.

It is believed that the carol has been translated into over 300 languages around the world, and it is one of the most popular carols of all time. It is often sung without musical accompaniment. It is given special significance in the Lutheran Church.

The carol was first performed in the Nicola-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria on December 25, 1818. Mohr had composed the words much earlier, in 1816, but on Christmas Eve brought them to Gruber and asked him to compose a guitar accompaniment for them. The reason for this is unclear — perhaps Mohr simply wanted a new carol for the Midnight Mass, but tradition has it that the organ at the Nicola-Kirche was not working that night (a popular version of the story claims that mice had eaten out the bellows).

If you'd like to read the rest, it's at Wikipedia

Full post at Live and Let Them Live

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