Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hair it goes

I finally did it! Had a haircut last night. Now my hair is just below my jawline from just above my waist. It took me about three years to grow that hair since I had it permed and layered in the Philippines.

As a child, my hair was long at the back, often with bangs in front. My mother took care of styling it. I had my first haircut at age 13 or 14. People said that once you cut your hair short, it would be difficult to grow it again. Nagtatampo. For me, it was never a problem.

Coming here, I found out that a haircut cost a lot (by my standard). I rarely went to the parlour. And because my hair grew fast, I could easily have long hair within 2 years or so.

A few years ago, I thought I could put my thick hair to good use. I planned to donate it to the BC Cancer Society. When my hair was long enough, I learned that only untreated hair was acceptable. Mine had been dyed at that time, so my plan fell through.

This time I managed to keep my unsightly gray hairs undyed for a long time. My cut hair is now sealed in an envelop ready to send to a wig company in Vancouver and donated to a cancer patient or patients. I hope the wig company would find it acceptable. It is more than 8 inches long, which is the minimum requirement.

Learning my reason for having a haircut, the parlour owner gave me a discount. Now she too is planning to encourage her clients to donate their hair.

There is a group at my office that regularly donates blood. Their motto is “It’s in you to give.” With a tendency to be anemic, I am not inclined to donate blood. But my hair is good resource and it’s ON me to give.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


The other night, I was pranked by Gabriel and Markus at dinnertime. I drank vinegar in a Sprite bottle. Guess what, I became as sour as the vinegar I drank. In fact, I blew my top.

What happened was, Mickey asked if there was still any Sprite left from the previous night. Gabriel willingly took it out from the fridge and set the bottle near my plate. Quite thirsty, I poured about half a glass and took a gulp.

"EEwww!" I shrieked as the liquid traveled through my esophagus all the way to my stomach. I dashed to the kitchen and drank two glasses of warm water. I have a history of stomach ulcer and acidity. Combine that with hypochondria and what have you got?

"You don't do that! That is so not funny! You think that's funny? That is so not safe. If it's ingested, it's not safe! Are you trying to kill me? Whose idea was that? yak yak yak" I delivered a paranoid rant.

"Mom, that wasn't for you," the two boys said.

"Well, be thankful I drank it first!" I said. If it was either Mickey or Gino, I could have been refereeing and yakking afterwards. Unless the older brothers could take a prank like that.

The following morning, after I had stewed and simmered down just like our nilaga, I apologized to the pranksters while driving them to school. "I'm sorry for losing my temper last night," I said with a stern voice. "I don't like pranks unless it's a good prank... You be careful who you play pranks on. Especially not loners like Cho..." I heard a grunt from Gabriel.

"What? I'm not telling you a wrong thing," I said. I sensed it was the wrong timing. I kept quiet. We all did.

When I came home that afternoon, everyone's mood had changed. We were back to our chatty selves again and teasing and laughing about the vinger prank. Mickey and Gino were laughing about it too.

"Mom, do you like Sprite?" Gabriel asked. "Dad will buy Sprite. We are making amends."

"Well, do I hear a sorry?" I replied. I didn't really care for Sprite because I am not a big pop drinker. Just the same, Bud bought a bottle of Sprite along with chips and popcorn. I think the guys were just looking for an excuse to have junk food as I am not big on junk food either.

"I want only good pranks," I announced in the living room. "A good prank is when I get better than I expected," I repeated what I was telling Gabriel and Markus in the car. "For example, it's my birthday and you pretend to forget then I come home to a surprise party... Or I say I want a ring, then I get a necklace too..." Okay, I just re-defined the word prank.

"I think Mom is hinting," Bud said.

Maybe. But when I say I don't like pranks, my family knows now that I mean it.

Monday, April 09, 2007

At home in Seattle

We spent last Easter weekend in Seattle. Too bad Gino and Mickey couldn't join us to visit their Lola, my mother. I always enjoy being with my mother. We have a good laugh about old times, my boys, shallow comedies...chatter, chatter, chatter... My father is always part of our conversations.

We also talk about make-up, trinkets and other girlie stuff. I get to dig through her collection of costume jewelry and take some home. She has a lot cosmetic items too, more than I ever care to have. Her cabinets are full of clothes and accessories. I usually take a few items from those too. It's nice to be around another woman in the house for a change.

For an 81-year-old widow, she is doing well. My father passed away in 2004 and though they were inseparable when he was alive, my mom has adjusted to living on her own, surrounded by other seniors during the day time. "Mas malakas talaga tayong mga babae," she tells me, meaning we, women, are stronger than men emotionally. We rebound more quickly.

I have a sister in Seattle too who lives in the same apartment building with her hubby Ed as my mom. Their two sons live in the unit opposite theirs, the reason being there can only be two residents in one unit.

When my family visits Seattle, we stay and sleep at my mother's place on the 7th floor, dine at my sister's on the fourth floor, and surf the Net at my nephews'. We watch TV in all their three homes. Between the six of them, they have five TV sets. In spite of that, we, the guests, often find ourselves squabbling over TV shows. They have better cable TV programs, it seems, and we like to watch different things at the same time in the same room.

At my mother's one-bedroom apartment, I always get to sleep on the couch. "I call the couch!!" I yell upon entering her house. My boys sleep on the floor. They aren't very happy with that arrangement, but hey, who's to argue with the only female in the family? But last Sunday, I gave up the couch to Bud because he was the one driving back to BC.

My mother's apartment has a nice view. I enjoy looking out her window to watch the skyline and the pigeons and the people and traffic below. Or I imagine what's going on at Safeco baseball field or Qwest football field. Sometimes I just check the time on the large clock at the Union Station across the street. More clocks at the King Street Station on the other side.

From the room with a view

At night, I usually hear a loony yelling nonsense on the streets. Once in a while I see policemen apprehending someone on the sidewalk. Just like a scene from Law and DisOrder. I hear sirens several times a day. What an interesting area!

Seattle Center is one of my favourite places to visit. For the first time we went up the Space Needle, thanks to complimentary tickets from my sister. At $15 per adult and $7 per youth, that would have cost me $44 US. No, thanks. I have fear of heights. But I won't refuse a free opportunity...

The Space Needle

View from the top

Looking through a telescope at the viewing deck.

Here are more pics from Seattle Center...

Guess who Markus is imitating.

Yep, that's me!

Markus is bursting at the seams.

Gabriel is looking cool! Or hot...

Dwarfed by a giant fence

Walking to Experience Music Project.
The Monorail passes through it.

Me, outside EMP that's unlike any other structure that I've seen. It has none!

I feel at home in Seattle. Sure, it's got its charm on me, but it's not just about the city. It's more about family and memories we have collected there together--my parents, my siblings and their families, and my own. And more so, in Seattle, I can be a child again -- literally.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Shop smart

It used to take me about one hour to do my weekly grocery shopping. Lately, it has taken me two. No wonder no one in my family wants to go grocery shopping with me, not even with a treat for a bribe!

Actually, even I wouldn't go shopping with myself if only I had a choice. But I don't, so I might as well make peace with myself and make the most of these shopping sorties.

Shopping used to be much simpler for me. I hardly made list, I just walked aisle to aisle, picked out items I thought we needed or might need, browsed through a mag at the checkout counter, paid and left. Nowadays, not so.

Since I attended a budgeting seminar at our church and acquired more information on nutrition and wellness, I became more budget-conscious and health-conscious than ever. I now bring a shopping list based on a weekly menu, I compare brands and prices, I read nutrition facts, and consider various factors - taste, look, expiry date, discounts and family preferences. Ahhhhh, how more complicated could shopping get?

That's why I take too long to shop. I haven't even gotten around to the bigger issues like which products came from where, or which manufacturer supported what cause. No, I haven't gotten that far…or maybe I have, but to a much lesser degree. I know I have avoided certain brands because I got piqued with the manufacturer…

Yesterday, I was at Canadian Superstore which has become my supermarket of choice, all factors considered. I visit other places for specific needs, but I find that the Superstore meets most of my shopping requirements. So there I was, with my list and all. I decided I will be even more finicky with my purchases this time. I scrutinized everything and discovered a few things.

For instance, bulk items don't always mean cheaper price per unit. For example, you would expect that if you bought a pack of 12 rolls of paper towels, you would save a few cents per roll than if you bought a pack of 6. Not necessarily. I computed a 12-pack and a 6-pack of the same brand, and the 6-pack yielded a cheaper unit price, even if it's just by a few cents. Where is the wisdom of bulk-buying here? This is true for other items as well, so be smart. Larger is not always cheaper.

Toilet paper prices took me harder to compare. I checked the number of plies, 2-ply, 3-ply, the number of sheets per roll and the number of rolls. $.0012/sheet vs. $.0024/sheet…Then after all the computations were done, I wondered, which feels better on the…(I don't have to say that out loud.) That needs to be considered or my family will complain.

Another thing, and I think this is true not only for Superstore but for other places as well. The bulk section, where you bag your own items from large bins, does not necessarily mean cheaper buys. Brown sugar at the bulk section turned out to be slightly more expensive than the packaged one you can just get from the shelf. It's the same with rice and elbow macaroni. I computed the price per 100 g to find this out for sure.

I learned from my seminar that brands on the eye-level shelves are more expensive because manufacturers pay more to get that location. So when shopping, look high and look low, we were taught. Me, I look all over, in front, behind, just in case...

Also, house brands are supposedly usually cheaper. Superstore carries President's Choice and No Name brands, I believe. Pricesmart and Save-On have Western Family, Costco has Kirkland... These are the first brands I look for depending on where I am shopping at the moment.

My latest thing is the nutritive value. Previously, I hardly ever noticed the nutrition box on the labels. Now I check for sodium content and trans fat, on one hand, and all the good nutrients, on the other. Is it worth to have a little more sodium, slightly less fat, with a high protein content?... This one has lots of iron and potassium, but more fat, but less sodium…For a few more cents, this gives more fibre, vitamin A…blah blah blah… You can just imagine the discussions going on in my head.

With a limited shopping budget, I find it very challenging to find the best compromise between cost, quality, health, taste… But I keep working at it. I wish I could choose all organic or natural or free range, all the time, but the reality is something has to give sometimes. I have to be realistic with the budget that I have.

After I have made a thorough evaluation of different brands, I stick to that brand. I have my usual flax bread, orange juice, bag of lemons, margarine, cooking oil, frozen shrimps… I hope to eventually do this for most of the products that I regularly buy. Then shopping will be easier.

One other tip, at the checkout counter, watch the cash register as the cashier scans or punches in your items. They can make mistakes too especially for items that don't have bar codes. Fresh produce, for instance. Yesterday I was watching this young guy manually punch in vegetable codes. The register read "coriander". "That's parsley," I said. Then "rutabaga". "That's turnip," I corrected him again. One time, my small watermelon was entered as large. It was good I caught it soon. Saved me almost $2.

As I was heading to the checkout counter, I was so tempted to reach out for a choco bar. I've been shopping so hard, I deserve a treat. Caution: This is what those items are there for--to get you at your weakest, after you have exhausted yourself crazy trying to buy wisely. That area triggers impulse buying. Fortunately, I was able to resist the choco bar knowing that its calorie content is equivalent to 20 minutes of running on the elliptical trainer. I would not have been able to resist it though had there beens nuts there instead.

From now on, I will write all my shopping discoveries in a notebook to make my life at the supermarket simpler. Then maybe I will enjoy shopping with myself!!