Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stanyan Park Hotel

Sitting room with Miriam under the blanket.

Here we are in San Francisco at the Stanyan Park Hotel which is very close to the Golden Gate Bridge. We have a suite which is like a big apartment.  It has two bedrooms (a queen bed in one and two twin beds in the other).  The living room is equipped with a hide-a-bed and very nice seating.  It has a separate dining room and a full kitchen area.  This is much bigger than the apartment we rented in London England few years ago or the one we stayed in Perth, Scotland. The hotel is a historic building and the furnishings and decor remind me of some old British homes as seen iides a lot of places to n movies such as those of Jane Austen - not the kind of Mr. Darcy's or Bingley's but that of the less opulent families.   The heating is old fashioned but they work perfectly.  The kitchen is furnished but there is not a dishwasher.  Who'd expect a dishwasher in an old house anyway?  We have two televisions, old fashioned telephones and WiFi.  There is no parking space directly adjacent to the building but there is a parking area across the street.  A little bit inconvenient especially that we came with an ice chest full of food.  And yet it is more economical than having to have valet parking where we would pay at least fifty dollars daily.  The place is very close to the Golden Gate Park where we strolled this morning.

Close to the hotel is a McDonald's restaurant where some homeless folks and hippies like to hang out.  It's nice to be in the city and see how the other people live. Being here reminds me that we live a very protected life in El Dorado Hills.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Special Day

Bay Bridge - January 25, 2013

So it happens that I now join the other side of life - senior citizenship.  I guess it is like passing through the Bay Bridge hicks town of El Dorado Hills to the modern and sophisticated city of San Francisco.  Right now I feel like I am on the bridge and excited to see the beautiful sky scrapers...and at the same time reflecting about the simplicity of the rural foothills where I just came from.  

Right now there is only gratitude and contentment in my heart.  God has been keeping me all these years - putting me in the right places and with the right people.  I know that He will hold me the same as I tread the next phase of this life - no doubt about that.

Well, Tim jokes about the fact that soon he will be able to go to restaurants with someone who gets discounts.  And I think I will soon change my shopping days to coincide with the days when the stores give discounts to senior citizens.  :)

So I spent this special day with my dear husband along with Brahms and Miriam.  Shannon may be away but she seems to be very close.  I got to talk to her earlier which is always a good thing.  The only regret that I have is that she was not able to share dinner with us - I know she loves falling-apart-pork ribs and very soft beef brisket (from Back Forty BBQ).  :(

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Miriam's Drawings

Drawing 1.   Miriam's self portrait.  (Notice Lexy the bunny.)

One of the things that I always tell my children is to attempt to "produce" not just "consume".  Watching TV, movies, reading, and video games are all considered "consuming" activities because you are just using something that was produced by someone else.  It is not at all bad to consume but there should be a balance between that and being the one in charge.    Writing, drawing, planning, creating, analyzing a book or a movie, journaling, and cooking are examples of activities that produce. Producing is when you initiate something to happen - you are the boss.

Drawing 2.  The crow and the wizard.  (Notice the cattails in the background.)

Miriam has been "producing" these beautiful pictures.  She seems to have improved a lot since the last time she showed me her drawings.  She has been using the digital drawing tablet that was a handed down to her from Shannon.  I think that her big sister encouraged her to draw more

Shannon has been drawing for a long time and she has become very good at it.  I wished I also had collected her old drawings.  But I think she has a new blog where she posts her creations.    

There will be more of these drawings in the future...I'm glad that technology now allows me to store them digitally. :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Buying a door is like buying a car.  You never pay attention to the make of cars until you are shopping for one.  Since we started looking for a door-style, doors suddenly became the most interesting feature of any home that I see.  Tim and I have been walking around our neighborhood for our morning exercises for years and I hardly ever paid attention to the doors of homes around.

After looking at so many different brochures, I think we have decided on a door to replace our broken one.  We have a quote from Home Depot, but until the contractor comes to make the final measurements then our options remain open.  The door is single with two wings (I think that's what they call the vertical glass panels on each side of the door).  We are planning to  replace it with a double door without wings but I am vacillating between that and the former style.  With a double door, bringing in and out furniture and appliances will be a lot easier but I also like the light coming in through the glass panels on the wings of a single door.  One thing is final at this time - we are getting a wood door (with a glass) instead of a fiber glass door.

In the meantime, our insurance company already informed us of the check that they wrote for us.  Although it is not sufficient to cover all the replacement cost of what we lost, it is substantial enough that we can afford to upgrade without breaking the bank.  God is good!

Things are moving forward but we were told that the door we are going to purchase will still have to be shipped from Panama.

We are learning...

Cassava Cake deLight

While cleaning the freezer yesterday, I saw bags of frozen cassava buried under all the more popular selection of foods.  The immediate thought that came to mind is Cassava Cake.  It's been ages since the last time I made cassava cake.  Ate Ludy Tanchoco gave it to me when we were still living in the Bay Area.  She used to make it for the potlucks at BABF.  It is the best cassava cake ever.  However, her recipe is loaded with fat and calories (just look at the pictures below - I even misspelled the word "ingredients" :)). 

Today, I made my cake with some modifications.  I used only half of the coconut milk, butter, and condensed milk.  Tim, Brahms and I sampled it...and the verdict:  it is still very good! Nonetheless, there's still a lot of room left to make it less rich.  

This recipe has been in my recipe binder for almost two decades.  :) 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I'll Praise You In the Storm

Comfort and Security:  Two-by-four lumber,  Screws and Penguin duct tape

Christmas this year has been more eventful than some.  Something new happened and may it be that this year is extraordinarily special so that there will be no other year in the future when such event will ever happen again.  We will remember...we will always remember this (2012) as the year our house was broken into.   

All my precious jewelry was taken away.   It is a collection of gifts my loving husband gave me over the years.  One of them is a necklace designed to show the characters of the Hebrew word for love ahava. It is a present he gave me before we got married which he sent to me in a package when I was still in the Philippines.  It is not as expensive as the other ones I lost but it is full of memories.  Every single piece had a nostalgic and cheerful story to tell.  But they're gone now.  
"He gives and takes heart will choose to say, "Lord blessed be your Name"."
Jewelry is things.  And things are things.  They are merely ornaments on what matters.  I am blessed to know that God is always there for me and my family.  And that's what matters.  The loss of my stuff caused no hurt or devastation at all.  Our God is with us.  On December 27, 2013 we were on our way home from Eureka (about three hours' drive to home) when the Sheriff called to inform us of what happened.  I realized that there was no better place where we could have been when we heard about the burglary at our home.  We could not do anything - nothing at all - except to praise God.  The whole family was so thankful.  We were all together and safe.  God is good, indeed!  I prayed while I was in the car that whoever did it would have his circumstances changed and that he would get closer to God as a result.  I told Tim that if the person came to ask for my jewelry I would not have given all of them to him but if the police caught him at this time, I would freely give all the pieces to him just so he can start life anew.  I was feeling merciful like the priest in 'Les Miserables" who, after Jean Valjaean stole his silverware, also gave his candelabras away.  When we arrived home, while Tim and Brahms were at Home Depot buying lumber, I posted the following phase on my Facebook status: "Praising God for His goodness!"  It was the simplest, most accurate and least consternation-causing statement I could share at that time.

The invasion of our privacy is probably more shocking than the loss of material things.  The thought that somebody was there looking into the private rooms of the house gives me an eerie feeling especially when I wake up in the middle of the night and through the dim light I see the dresser that was ransacked and later on powdered for finger prints.  However, it is comforting to know that beyond all the man-made doors and locks, is the inner-most private room of my life where only God can get to it.  That is where my true treasure rests.

Our door is broken and we are in the process of replacing it.  But if I look at it now, I notice that aesthetics and convenience come only second after comfort and security.  Pieces of knotty two-by-fours and long screws hold the door in place.  We can no longer go in and out of it but it is secure. Penguin duct tape seals the cracks to keep cold air out as much as possible.  Who needs a beautiful door when the house is cold? 

My children were all cool about the incident.  No anger or feeling of retaliation has come out of this.  Shannon puts it accurately when she parallels the event to a natural calamity as in a storm.  There's no one to blame.  And I like it that way.  Natural calamities have the ability to shake up lives.  They are short-lived but can leave lasting lessons behind.  We learned so many lessons from this incident but one thing sticks out.  If God is your most important treasure of all, then no amount of burglary will ever shake up your life.  

Psalm 121:1-8
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

We can laugh at the days to come...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fogged Up Lenses


This is their interpretation of an Asian-style portrait. 

 I thought of having a family photo shoot when everyone was present.  But my kids are among the hardest subjects to photograph in that they either say no or tell me to take only two pictures or give me a few minutes to take the pictures.  This time, before I had my camera ready, they went outside and waited for me there.  I found out that my camera, because it was stored in a cold closet, the lens was fogged up.  Knowing that my kids have very short tolerance for pictorials, I took pictures regardless of the condition of the lens.   

Hazy or not, the pictures tell crisp stories.  We will look back at these and remember exactly what went on.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Family Fun Time

Copying Norman Rockwell

January 4, 2013.  It was the day when Shannon was scheduled to go back to Irvine, after her Christmas vacation, when I suggested that we go see the Norman Rockwell Exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.  The idea was well appreciated by all members of the family.  When something is desired, anyone seems to willingly adjust - finishing tasks quickly - in order to accommodate the promised reward.

We spent two hours at the museum and then we went to have dinner at Sizzler in Natomas which is about five-minute drive to the airport.  Shannon's flight was at nine in the evening so that allowed us a substantial amount of time at the restaurant.  There is nothing worse than having to sit at a restaurant and knowing that your time is tight.  Fortunately, the place had good service and the place was not crowded.  There was an ample time for stories, laughter, and even serious questions from Brahms (What if (his sisters) wanted to marry someone without a stable job?).  Then that led Tim and I to talk about character and how to identify a good character.

Tower Bridge: Famous city landmark of Sacramento.

The silly Lewises pose by a sculpture outside the museum.

This is the first fun family outing of the year.  God willing, we will have numerous good things to do during the year.  However, it will be difficult (as it was last year) to have Shannon with us.  Nonetheless, we will enjoy every opportunity that we can to have the whole family together.   

Friday, January 4, 2013

First House Guests of the Year

January 2, 2012.  We had the pleasure to host our dear friends the Actis Family.  It was very nice to see them after a year and a half since we went to see them and participate in their ministry.  They brought back very fond memories of Colombia.

Being the only boy, Brahms entertained the girls by being silly.

Tim, Shelly, and Matt talked while they ate Crepes and Sausages

Is this Chloe or Sophie?

Matt and Tim

The kids: Ours and theirs

Dainty and Demure girls: Sophie, Kennedy, and Chloe

The grown-ups

Lyndsay, and Kennedy

Tim and I have met Matt and Shelly in two different missions trips already but there seem to be a lot more to learn about each other.  It's still fun discovering each other.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Begins..


This is the picture we took of our family during the first two minutes of 2013.  At midnight on New Year's Eve, we start the year with a cheerful a toast (sparkling apple cider) and then we clump together for the picture.  The problem this year is that the couch was too small for the five of us.  The bench at the breakfast table is usually the place where we'd pose for the picture but this time we were watching "Pride and Prejudice" prior to midnight and were so lazy to move.

Among the many Filipino traditions that we have adopted as a family is to have the following in place when the New Year comes in: a bountiful table; well-stocked pantry and refrigerator; all bills paid; clean house; and good mood for everyone.  Cleaning the house is always the most challenging part of this.  For one thing, it is impossible to clean the yard, which is a part of the house, in the cold wet winter days.  The garage, which always needs organizing, is also cold.  Oh well... I'll just have to suffer with a desire to have a perfectly clean something throughout the year. 

Tim brought us to Seafood City in Sacramento and had lunch at Chowking.  We don't live anywhere near an Asian community - so this was a treat for me and my kids.  It reminds us of the Philippines.  It is also a treat for Tim because he gets to use his Tagalog skills and surprise all the unsuspecting Filipinos.  Our evening munchies this year included the following:  Fruited Chicken/Macaroni Salad; Shrimp Cocktail; Chocolate Fondue; Pumpkin Pie; Apple Pie; Herbed Sausage Croissant; Lewis-style Lumpia; and more.  

Shannon and Brahms played LOL (League of Legends) while Miriam played Mine Craft since she's not thirteen yet to be able to play LOL.  The three of them played Portal 2 and Lego Lord of the Rings. 

The following morning we all watched the Rose Parade and then the HGTV Dream Home.  It was generally a lazy day because everything should have been done the day before. :) The only thing I had to do was to go shopping (yes, shopping New Year's day!) for things we needed for the next day to host the Actis family.  We also put away all the Christmas ornaments including the gingerbread houses that the kids made.  

Miriam's Fluffy House

Brahms' Luxury House

Shannon's Three-Sided House

We can laugh at the days to come because we trust in the Lord.

New Year

2013.  New year and new beginnings.  Unlike other years, I have not had the time to write my resolutions for the year ahead but I have a few ideas that I would like to translate into actions this year.

1.  Smile more frown less.
2.  Understand not dismiss.
3.  Eat less and drink more water.
4.  Keep a journal.

This list is simple as it looks but it will definitely challenge my self discipline.  I'll have to rely on God's help daily.

How about you?