Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One Bag… And Then Some More

I have never been an advocate of traveling light. When I was single, I would bring along 2 brimming suitcases full of “girl” essentials. The sight of me lugging along two gigantic baggage must have been a hilarious airport sight, giving not a few porters a chuckle. Now that I have kids, I have toned it down a whole lot and have managed to fit all of our essentials in 2 suitcases – if our destination is a resort. But for a city tour kind of thing, I try my very, very best to keep it down to just 3 suitcases, plus one carry-on trolley.

I am the family’s designated packer for every trip. I have mastered this craft so well that I can now effortlessly pack 3 suitcases in one go, if there’s an urgent need for it. However, as most trip goes, I usually start packing 3 days before a big trip. Packing for a few hours at a time, taking breaks every now and then. Packing for 5 may seem daunting at first but through the years I have thought out a technique that keeps packing organized and systematic.

I discovered packing cubes early on in my marriage, and I cannot extol its merits enough. I managed to keep our clothes in order by segregating and putting everything in containers designed for that purpose. I would put all underwear and toiletires in our his-and-hers bags, another one for the sleeping clothes, still another one for the shirts, the list goes on. That way as we search through everything that we brought with us for the trip, the clothes don’t end up scattered and messy inside the luggage.

I remember when the kids were much younger, going away on trips means carrying almost the whole nursery with me. The portable playpen, bottle sterilizer, electric thermos, blender, booster seat, baby tub, et al. The baby clothes alone would fit almost a whole suitcase. Thankfully, as they grow older their traveling essentials decrease.

Since C cannot be counted on to lend a hand during packing, I have made 2 packing checklists, one for C and me, and the other one for the kids to ease the confusion (and avoid the backaches). These lists are a life saver and I have not yet experienced leaving anything behind because of them. 

Save for that one time we took J to her first Disneyland trip. Everything was ready and packed the night before.   On the morning of departure, I was supposed to fix myself up and do a little bit of make up, when C decided that we have to leave already. Ok, no big deal, I thought to myself, I will just fix myself up at the airport’s waiting lounge. As I was rummaging through my bag to get our passports and tickets for check-in, I realized that I left my make up bag behind! In my hurry to go down the stairs, I left my entire make-up bag in the bathroom. Without exaggerating, let me tell you that was one traumatic traveling experience. I had to buy new ones as soon as we landed to replace the ones I left behind.

Two suitcases done and the third one still lying around empty, I am right on time. I still have a full day to go. The third suitcase is going to make its debut this trip. I just got it recently – as a freebie! Chris has a new BDO Titanium Card (of which I am a supplementary cardholder), and the mechanics says that if the cardholder spends a minimum of PHP70 grand for the first two months of card usage, the suitcase set is free. How wonderful is that. Talk about perfect timing!

Winter Fashion 101

We are leaving for Korea in a few days, I find my head filled with confusion and excitement, the feelings alternating with each other. There are so many things to pack, so many checklists to mark off, countless bits and pieces to clean up before we leave. I try to prioritize, but I constantly and rudely get interrupted by a thought bubble in my head about something that always seem more important than the task on hand. Tsk! Tsk!

What makes packing for this trip harder than the previous ones is that we will be staying in three different hotels for the first three nights. To minimize the number of luggage to be opened each day, I have segregated our clothes into clusters. Two luggage contain our clothing divided for the first and second half of the trip, and the last one for other travel needs.

For someone living in the tropics, keeping an up to date winter wardrobe is a wasted and expensive indulgence. My operative fashion word when buying winter clothes is timeless classic. I will only buy it if it is: 1.not trendy (so I can wear it eight years from now and call it vintage), 2.reasonably priced (I don’t know how soon I’ll be wearing it again or how often), 3.in a neutral color (black, beige, gray or deep brown). So with those restrictions carefully set, I went here, here, and here to have a glimpse of winter fashion in the opposite side of the world.

While surfing for winter fashion inspirations, I decided to make a quick check at CNN-weather. It showed that temperature at Incheon and Seoul is at subzero degrees. With that cruel weather to welcome us when we land, I want to ensure that the kids bring enough of the proper clothing to stay warm and toasty at all times. In temperatures this chilly, proper layering is key to a comfortable trip. Here’s how I plan to keep the kids warm: Start with a woolen (preferably merino) thermal undershirt with a snug (but not tight) fit, then add a long sleeved shirt over that, then put on a sweater, finish with a heavy coat with hood, preferably with down insulation. Should they get too warm, layering makes it easy to just peel clothing off one at a time.

Legs should not be forgotten, start with thermal underpants and finish with heavy duty jeans. And since feet come in contact with the ground, it is key to wear thick soled shoes (to keep feet as far from the ground as possible) and heavy wool socks, double up if possible. I started paying more attention to materials after almost getting my toes frostbitten a few years back. I doubled up on cotton socks under my boots, mistakenly thinking that this would make my feet warm. Instead I got too warm, which made my feet sweat, and which made my socks wet and which ultimately made me very, very cold. I have since invested in wool socks, which stays warm even when wet. While cotton is our preferred material in the tropics, it is the worst material to wear in harsh, cold weather, it doesn’t trap body heat and worse, its fibers are loosely woven that cold air easily passes through. On the other hand, wool, fleece and polyester are good materials to insulate the body and trap heat.

Matching accessories like hats, scarves and gloves not only look nice, but they are essential to maintaining body warmth. Head, neck and hands should always be kept warm.

Help me pray that I do a good job of keeping everyone warm - and fashionably so!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

J has got game

J has surprised me by loving soccer. She started with the sport early this summer. I wanted the kids to try out different sports so they can decide for themselves what they enjoyed to do and wanted to pursue. After the soccer clinic has ended, she enrolled in a weekend football program, where she is registered upto now.

She is gentle and non-confrontational, so the aggressiveness needed by the sport was something she just could not turn on when she is on the field. I remember watching her during her first few sessions, she would run after the ball but would hesitate to get it from an opponent. I had to explain to her that in this sport, getting the ball from the opponent is not "grabbing", it is simply how the game is played. But being who she is, she is not one to charge at the ball, dribble it from across the field to score a goal. It's not in her character to be the hard-hitting striker. She has found a position she is good at, where her heart is comfortable playing. She is a solid and reliable defender. Strikers from opposing teams have a difficult time getting the ball past her and her team's goalie has found fewer balls to watch over.
In a recent mixed group tournament, she found herself in a group of ten kids from ages six to eight, of which, three of them are girls. She was the only girl in her group to play in all five qualifying games. She has surely come a long way from where she started in the sport.
Their team went on to win 2nd runner-up in their age category. She went home at the end of the day exhausted from playing (she slept the whole ride home), her skin a shade darker (even with re-applying sunblock every 2 hours), but with pride in herself and exhilaration in her heart.

Moving Up the Cake Ladder

Although I have always loved to bake, I have for the most part stayed away from whole cakes that needed expertise in decorating, preferring instead to make miniature cupcakes, bars and cookies.

Lately however, I have been feeling daring and experimental. I feel like it’s time I expanded my dessert repertoire. So with the numerous pot-luck dinner parties all lined up this holiday season, I unreservedly offered to bring not just one, but two desserts to the dinner buffet table.

In my first try, the strawberries sank in the whipped cream frosting. I must have been taking my sweet time to decorate that the cream warmed up to room temperature. Still, I managed to impress our friends, I got compliments from the wives of C's Tuesday group.

The second time I made it, it was for my co-parents in J's class. I was going to make it for ladies who really know their way around the kitchen, so the was a little pressure there. This time around, I made sure to put the cake back in the refrigerator after putting the swirls to make the cream firm up. After a few minutes, I took the cake out again and added the luscious berries. Here is what it looked like:

The tiramisu was relatively easy to make as I have been making this for years, but I used to make this trifle-style, in a glass baking dish. So the challenge now was to make the cake as divine looking as it was delectable. As predicted, it was complicated to pretty up the sides of the cake, so I decided to cover up my lack of talent and improvised by putting ladyfingers around the sides and tying it up with a festive colored ribbon.

Friends who can't wait to slice and enjoy the cake...

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