Sylvanian Families- Collection Update 2015 P1

23 Mar

I should really get around to uploading these pictures to the Sylvanian collections. If I don’t do it now, I’ll never get them done, I just know it. With me being at Alphonse’s beck and call these days (and he does beckon very often, alas!), there’s hardly any time to do much of anything else except look at a few figures now and then.

Usually, I no longer bother to post separately before I upload these pictures in their proper categories. I thought to do it differently, just so I can see in one glance what I’ve done so far. Doing this also allows me to know right away which boxes and bags I still have to work on.

These figures are part of last year’s purchases from London, Japan, and Hong Kong. There are also a few that were bought locally, precious finds from local toy collectors and resellers. As much as furniture and houses are fun, I’ve discovered that I love figures more and can’t wait to add more to my collections. I have some more that will need to be reunited with their families so here’s hoping I have more time tomorrow to haul them out. In the meantime, please enjoy my new figures.

Warning: This post is graphic heavy.

The Grandstand and Souvenir Shop with Shopkeeper Zoe Barker (FL)

New SF 0315 01- Sue Barker and games stand

The Fish and Chips Van with the Osbornes (FL)

(Papa Finley comes with the van, Mama Francesca comes in the “Francesca the Fish Fryer and Sonny” play set, and Andrea comes from the “Canal Rowing Boat” set.)New SF 0315 02- osbornes and fish and chips van

This is Sonny Barker. He has a thing for fish and chips.

New SF 0315 06 FL Sonny Barker

Dolly’s Candy Floss (FL)

New SF 0315 21 FL Dolly's Candy Floss

Elsie’s Ice Cream (FL)

New SF 0315 20 FL Elsie's Ice Cream

Chocolate Labradors (FL): The Hunter-Smyth Family

Papa Charles, Mama Camilla, Brother Hector, Sister Isabella, Baby Gerald and twins Thomas and Georgina

New SF 0315 04 FL Chocolate Labradors

 Striped/ Caramel Cats (JP)

New SF 0315 03 JP Caramel Cats

 Beavers (JP)

New SF 0315 24 JP Beavers

 Gray Mice: The Thistlethorns (FL)

New SF 0315 17 FL Thistlethorn Gray Mice

Goats (JP)

New SF 0315 16 JP Goats

Golden Labradors (JP)

New SF 0315 15 JP Golden Labradors

Monkeys (JP)

New SF 0315 14 JP Monkeys

Hamsters (JP)

New SF 0315 07 JP Hamster

Solitaire Cats Wedding (FL) 

New SF 0315 08 UK Solitaire Cats

(Grandma) Hazel and Rihanna’s Day Out (FL)

New SF 0315 19 FL Grandma Hazel and Rhianna Dappledawn

Babblebrook Grandparents (JP)

New SF 0315 13 JP Babblebrook Grandparents

Chocolate Rabbit Grandparents (JP)

New SF 0315 23 FL Chocolate Grandparents

Berry Grove Cheerleaders (FL)- renewal figures for SSK membership

New SF 0315 22 FL Berry Grove Cheereleaders Renewal Figures

Maypole Dancers: Abbie Keats and Poppy Dappledawn

New SF 0315 18 FL Mayflower girls

Oakwood squirrel brother (JP)

New SF 0315 12 JP Oakwood Squirrel Brother

JP Milk Rabbit sister with JP Cake Shop Special Gift Set

New SF 0315 11 JP Cake Shop Special Gift Set Milk Rabbit Sister

 JP Prize Pink Cotton Rabbit (c.2000)

New SF 0315 10 JP Special Prize Pink Cotton Sister Yr 2000

Woodland Princess (JP)

New SF 0315 09 JP Woodland Princess

Part 2 coming soon…


The PH❤SF Love Photo Contest 2015

21 Mar

Thank you 03 copyThe final entries came last night in a flurry of last-minute submissions. There were more entries in the past two days than in the first three weeks of the contest and I was floored with all the e-mail and private messages I got one after the other.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find that this year, despite the absence of international submissions, we had 70 local entries- a record number!

While the judges set about to studying each picture in detail, I’d like to invite you all to please check out the submissions of our local contestants. You can find them at the PH❤SF page in this album: The PH❤SF Love Photo Contest 2015.

PHSF timeline old

My thanks to all those who Liked the page, who made time to set up their detailed dioramas, painstakingly took photos, and submitted their entries, and who stayed tune to all the developments in the page. I am also deeply grateful to Ban Kee Toys, the official distributor of Sylvanian Families in the Philippines, and to Mr. Joseph de Leon, Brands Department Manager, for the support they have shown me and the PH❤SF community.

And with yesterday being Sylvanian Families’ 30th birthday, I must say these entries were all wonderful ways to celebrate this important milestone! Salamat muli!

HBD Sylvanian Families

Mabuhay ang Sylvanian Families sa Pilipinas!


The Meltdown

13 Mar

A couple of days ago, Alphonse woke up with a swollen eye, new bruises on his face, and a sour disposition. The day before, he had been intractable in his self-injurious behaviors and all our attempts at redirection were unsuccessful.  I guess given that day’s circumstances and the days previous to that, a meltdown was to be expected. Then again, I guess I have gotten a bit soft and a wee bit more optimistic, so used was I to having back my amiable, sweet boy.

And then the inevitable happened.  I was upstairs cleaning our bedroom, confident that he was going to be alright downstairs with three people looking after him. I had barely started on folding the sheets when I heard a loud angry scream (his), and more screams and shrieks afterwards. When I got to him, he had already pulled clumps of hair and ripped a shirt. He buckled furiously under the weight of his restraints (two people holding back his arms, one holding his head in case he decided to hit it- we were lucky he didn’t kick us that day) and we wrapped him with a thick blanket before he calmed down.

Alphonse 031315

As I investigated the events of that morning, I was told that he had been calm before that fit of anger. The person’s intent was only to greet him with a kiss. Understandably, Alphonse’s “victim” was shaken and upset by this sudden turn of events. How can he be calm one minute then fly into a rage the next? It is quite difficult to explain how sometimes even the most innocuous things can set off a negative reaction in individuals with autism.

Imagine trying to control all your senses to keep calm, to hold back all the sensations coming at you all at once, only to be suddenly interrupted or surprised with abruptness of sound and movement.  Imagine suddenly being assaulted with a sound or movement that you felt was threatening.  Imagine not being able to discern intentions. Imagine fear and panic you cannot express with words. Were I in his shoes, I don’t think I could have held on to my calm that easily too.

I don’t think people understand just how much we’ve asked of Alphonse in the last year alone. When we decided to make changes to our household, it was always with the intent of caring for and helping the people we love. Unfortunately, we also overestimated Alphonse’s capacity to adapt to change and we are all paying for it now.

All those changes in his routine, the different people in and out of our home, the disruption to all that is comforting and the same, the chaos brought about by the unpredictability of each day- didn’t we ask him to accept all these without question or explanation? Didn’t we ask him to bend over backwards for us, while we tried to accommodate others’ needs before his?  How could we have expected him to watch placidly while everything around him changed and continues to change? How could we not have expected him to react with aggression and self-injury? We bear the guilt of his pain.

It’s devastating to see Alphonse angry, to see the smiles replaced by a sullenness surpassed only by his ability to inflict damage to others and to himself.  But it’s just as devastating to find fear and apathy sown in the hearts of those whom I expected to love him unconditionally.

I am heartbroken for Alphonse.

A Time to Play

11 Mar

Sometimes, to get out of the rut of very long, difficult days dealing with meltdowns and self-injuries, I need to set aside time to play. Of late, all my toys have been forgotten in the worries of every day. My Sylvanians are still in boxes, waiting to be photographed. My dolls are unboxed and languishing in a limbo of neglect. Even Nimes, once my trusted companion, has remained in her pink suitcase, unloved and untouched.

Yesterday, however, was different. I took out a few pieces of doll clothing to wash and a wig to do a hair spa on, and soon enough, I was already setting Nimes up for pictures. One of A♥’s gifts, the boxed Blythe dress set Pinky Doodle Poodle, has turned out to be favorite, what with the fifties poodle skirt, the pink wig, and high boots! It is simply beautiful!

Dress set- Pinky Doodle Poodle

After dressing Nimes up, doing a spa on the wig and setting it up with foam rollers, I thought, “Why not take a picture to remember all the work, ehrm, play I did today?”  Well, the picture turned out nicer than I expected. I liked it so much I thought to share it with you and save it here on the blog for posterity.

Nimes does the fifties

Nimes does the fifties

It even inspired me to write a few lines of fifties nostalgia, sung to the tune of “My Favorite Things:”

Poodles on swing skirts
And cute roadside diners
Corvettes, convertibles
Checkered recliners

Pin curlers and rollers
Worn all night, it seems
These are a few of my favorite things! 

As it turns out, I did need the couple of hours of play to feel “normal” again. The constant anxiety I carry in the pit of my belly has subsided a bit, no longer the pressing, urgent, demanding monster that it is on a daily basis. I know tough times are ahead of me and my family so I need to keep reminding  myself to find a little happiness where and when I can.

Hello Kitty Secret Garden

9 Mar

We couldn’t have found this place on our own, let me tell you that. As my husband and I get older, vacations usually mean one thing- sleeping in- though I often wonder why we have to leave the country to do that. (Okay, I remember- Alphonse!) And that’s another reason why I love my friends, because they’re the only ones who can drag us out from the comforts of our hotel room (and let me tell you, it was such a fabulous room!) to go traipsing around a city we’ve been to many times over the years.

HK 2015 ShangOur Horizon Club room at the 21st floor of Kowloon Shangri-La

Before this visit, I was also in Hong Kong in August of last year. It seems that in the past six years, I’ve been there yearly, sometimes even twice a year, without fail. That it is so near Manila makes it an ideal destination for people like me who can only squeeze in a vacation from the kids every so often. More than this, however, one of the best reasons I have for visiting Hong Kong is the pleasure of my dearest friends’ company.

Karen and I met for the first time in 2011 but we have been Facebook friends longer than that. Since then, the highlight of my HK trips are always with Karen, as she and her husband German generously share their time and effort to show us the best places in their city.

This visit, she and her husband picked us up at the lobby of our hotel to bring us once more around the city. Karen and I had previously talked about visiting the Hello Kitty Secret Garden, a stand-alone cafe in Tai Hang so that was the first priority of the afternoon.

The Hello Kitty Secret Garden Cafe opened in June of 2014, around six months after its sister cafe started operations. The pint-sized but equally cute Le Petit Cafe opened in December 7, 2013 at the basement 2 level of Sogo Causeway Bay. However, unlike Le Petit Cafe, which is a kiosk serving pastries and coffee, the Secret Garden is a full service restaurant with a more extensive menu. In Le Petit Cafe, patrons could only take their purchases to go or eat them standing up in the middle of the bustling aisles. At the Secret Garden, while seating is limited, customers have the luxury of enjoying their meals and desserts in a relatively unhurried fashion. Of course, this only applies when the lines aren’t too long, otherwise, most patrons are limited to an hour per visit.

HK Secret Garden 02

We went to the cafe on an early Tuesday afternoon, just a little past two. One would expect the place to be readily available on a work weekday but alas, this cafe commands a constant audience. Although the queue was shorter than it would have been on a weekend, it still took us an hour to claim a table. Good weather notwithstanding, there wasn’t much else to see or do while waiting, so Karen and I took pictures and played with her dolls.

HK Secret Garden 01

As you can see from our pictures, you can’t miss Hello Kitty in her Secret Garden because she’s everywhere! On the walls, in the roof, in the sidewalk, the glass facade- the cafe suffers from a really cute case of Hello Kitty mania.

HK Secret Garden 03

There’s even a Hello Kitty bicycle parked outside the cafe!

HK Secret Garden 06

As you walk towards the side, where the service entrance is supposed to be, there’s a hint of things to come. Another section of the cafe is said to open in the next few months, and this will not only be a venue for scheduled events, it will also serve as a cafe extension when not in use.

HK Secret Garden 09

A little farther down the side of the cafe is the Gaggia Barista Academy, said to be affiliated with the Hello Kitty-themed cafes. Since the Secret Garden serves a variety of specialty coffees, it does make sense for a barista academy to be right next door. I can just imagine all those baristas-in-training with their Hello Kitty templates, working on making the perfect designs on coffee and froth!

HK Secret Garden 10

This is the service door, which proved fortuitous as it made a perfect backdrop for Karen’s kimona-clad girls. :-)

HK Secret Garden 26

A sample of our playtime pictorial: Aren’t these girls lovely?

HK Secret Garden 25

After a lot of pictures, we were asked to come inside the cafe. This is the first thing you would see when you enter. Inside the cafe, the garden theme is carried out with a lot of fake foliage hanging from the ceiling and more Hello Kitty cut-outs and designs.

HK Secret Garden 07

The POS system is located near the back, on a shelf of Hello Kitty bric-a-bracs.

HK Secret Garden 11

Over at the bar, a blackboard displays an overview of the cafe’s offerings, allowing patrons a chance to decide on their food even without seeing the full menu.

HK Secret Garden 08

A♥ noticed this little blackboard on the counter and immediately pointed to the “Kittymama” written on it. It seems I have a stake in this restaurant after all, in the form of “cheese.” Good thing Kittymama didn’t cut it while she was there, teehee!

HK Secret Garden 14

The cafe boasts of its burger as its special offering, and at HKD98, it wasn’t exactly an inexpensive burger. A Big Mac meal at McDonald’s Hong Kong, for example, costs only HKD37.60, based on its online menu, around 40% of the price of this specialty burger. Still, it was an experience we could not pass up so A♥ and I ordered this, not having had enough time to eat lunch that day.

HK Secret Garden 19

While waiting for our food, I noticed little details that made the cafe stand out more, such as this Hello Kitty engraved cutlery and napkins, the latter making perfect souvenirs of our visit.

HK Secret Garden 15

When the burgers came, it was a pleasant surprise to find each of them juicy and well-seasoned. The large cut fries were crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. There was a hefty serving of vegetables (lettuce, tomato, pickles) and an even more generous heaping of bacon. It was just too large to eat sandwich-style, so we opted to eat it with utensils. Nom nom nom nom nom.

HK Secret Garden 22

Note that the egg was Hello Kitty- shaped! *squeals in delight* I would have expected the patty to be as well, but alas, no dice.

HK Secret Garden 23

Karen opted for something light in this strawberry tart with a topping of Hello Kitty white chocolate.

HK Secret Garden 24

She also chose a Rose Latte, so-called because it is a latte with rose petals.

HK Secret Garden 16

I chose a cold drink, an iced Cafe Mocha that looked absolutely cute with its cocoa ribbon on top.

HK Secret Garden 17

There were plenty of choices on the menu for the ravenous, from sandwiches, soups, and even quiche. If one is not in the mood for heavy fare (the servings are huge). any one of these appetizing desserts found at the refrigerated counters will surely delight the Hello Kitty fan. Prices range from HKD48 to HKD58.

HK Secret Garden 13

I should have tried an apple pie but the burger was heavy and filling already.

HK Secret Garden 12

This shot shows how little the cafe actually is. The limited seating (the cafe seats 16 comfortably, but can accommodate 20) is responsible for the long lines outside but with cooperation from both diners and staff, the flow of guests is fast and efficient. I suppose the experience would have been different if we were waiting in the sweltering heat of summer, but in late Febuary, there was enough chill in the air to make the wait pleasant and comfortable.

HK Secret Garden 20

All in all, it was a memorable experience for this reformed Hello Kitty fan. As much as merchandise is one way to go about being a Kittyholic, I have since discovered that making memories is an even better way to appreciate Hello Kitty. Morever, no one can beat Hello Kitty memories made with your best friends.

HK Secret Garden 18We ♥ you both, Karen and German!

If you’d like to visit the Hello Kitty Secret Garden in Causeway, you may opt to take the MTR to Causeway Bay and take a taxi from there, giving the driver this address: 19 Ormsby Street, Tai Hang.

Alternatively, one can go down the Tin Hau MTR station and walk 10-15 minutes to Ormsby. Just follow the stream of mostly young women (with the not-so-few dragging their significant others) and you’ll spot it easily. Still, a taxi would have to be my default for finding this, especially if one is not a Chinese speaker.

HK Secret Garden 21

The Hello Kitty Secret Garden Cafe is open Tuesdays to Sundays at the following times:

Tuesdays-Thursdays 12NN to 9 pm

Fridays 12NN to 10 pm

Saturdays 9 am to 10 pm

Sundays 9 am to 9 pm

Come and visit the next time you are in Hong Kong!



Just A Regular Every Day

22 Feb

I have not had a real chance to play with my Sylvanians in a long while. When I packed up my Sylvanians in May last year to do some house remodeling, I did not foresee that getting them back out again would take this long. But life is crazy that way and what we plan for one day isn’t necessarily what will happen the next. The best we can hope for is to always be prepared, and if that doesn’t work, at least to hope for some grace and wisdom for when things go awry.

These last few weeks, we’ve all been hard at work to make our house feel like a home again. We’ve had boxes of things from my parents’ move lying around forever. Old furniture that we had been storing for a planned remodel were occupying what little space we had left. Even our collectibles were in sore need of organization and downsizing. We were living in boxes again and suffocating from the huge weight of clutter in our lives.

The first to go were piles of junk. I call them junk now but for a long time, I could not bear to let them go, determined as I was to find a use for them. Then, we finally found a great upholsterer who could work within our budget. In two weeks, we had three sofas, two arm chairs, and three ottomans looking like new again. We finally rid ourselves of that unsightly pile of old sofas lying around in the garage. We started moving around the house, reorganizing to make more room, giving old collections a once over to make sure we didn’t start piling them on again.

We still have more to go through and that means combing over the catch-all rooms- the basement library in our home, the kitchen and bedrooms in the schoolhouse. We have also planned some minor kitchen remodeling, additional shelving by the basement stairs, and a second round of roof repairs. It’ll take us much longer to sift through all those, but as long as we continue, one day at a time, I am confident even those will be ticked off our to-do list in no time.

In the meantime, while I take the morning off for some rest and recreation (I have a wee bit of a cold), allow me to share with you my newest Sylvanian treasures. I think finding them reawakened my Sylvanian mojo, my desire to start playing with them again after all these many months. And you already know by now that Sylvanian grandparents are my favorite figures in the whole line; they never fail to make me smile.

I purchased this pair of Babblebrook grandparents from my dear friend Apples for a very reasonable price. They were a little stained and dirty from storage and didn’t have all their accessories (Grandpa was missing his cane and Grandma was missing her shawl) but they were in great condition. Their fur/flocking did not have any scuffings or scratches, which was most important. Their clothes were not ripped and only needed some washing to restore to their original colors. And they both had their wire eyeglasses, which can be so difficult to find these days.

I gave them both a bath last night. Washing the figures lightened the stains but I did not try any of the more vigorous cleaning techniques I have employed on newer figures because of the possibility of tearing their flocking. These are old figures, circa 1986, and I would much rather love them with their flaws than risk hurting them.

Here is a before picture (original photo of Apples):


Here is an after picture:


I fashioned a cane from a real plant stalk and spray painted it clear to give it some sturdiness. Grandma’s shawl is borrowed from an outfit sewn by The Crafty Ladybug for my Periwinkle grandmother. The color is great on her, and is very close to the original. I can live without the missing parts for now but will be on the lookout for them in the future.

Finally, here they are, being welcomed by some of the senior rabbit citizens of Kitty Little Lanes.


Sylvanian Families help remind me that no matter how busy we are with real life, it’s always a gift to be able to play, to relax, to unwind. So today, as I get ready for the next round of cleaning, I am thankful for these moments of peace, for this gift of unhurried time, and for this joy of childhood play.

Of Tikoy and Memories

20 Feb

Today, on the second day of the Chinese New Year, I am missing my father more than ever. My father always loved this lunar holiday. Growing up in a Chinese-Filipino household, ours was always an extended season of merrymaking, Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year included in an already unusually long holiday season. And because Daddy was a tireless giver, he always found reasons to present us simple little gifts, even if we didn’t necessarily deserve them. Now that he is gone, nothing about today feels the same anymore.

I suppose I can always look back to the celebrations of the past for inspiration. My strongest memories of Chinese New Year were always associated with boxes and boxes of sweet, sticky rice cakes (tikoy), all meant for giving away to family and friends, and how my father always made sure that I had boxes of my own to give away to classmates and teachers. It was a tradition that he cherished and shared with us- me- most of all. The other night, as we ushered in another New Year, it felt strangely devoid of all significance, other than that he is gone.

Still, life goes on, right? And if this sudden apathy for this past holiday is a reminder of how unsettling and new and unexpected our lives have been since Daddy left us, I find strange comfort in how appropriate it is that the New Year’s Eve Celebrations this year fell on Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. While Cardinal Tagle gave Chinese-Filipinos the dispensation to continue with their festive preparations, given the way I was feeling, I was more inclined to honor the fast. So that night, amid the sounds of firecrackers and revelry, we chose to do away with all that.

They say grief comes in waves, in large tsunami-like crests that overwhelm and inundate you one after another without let-up and without mercy. This is grief within memory’s reach, when the wounds are fresh and bleeding. In time, they also say, the waves come less often, spaced farther and farther apart. They lose the ferocity of their strength. They let you forget the depths of your anguish and ease you to healing and forgetting, But once in a long while, just when you thought that the worst of your pain has passed, a strong memory conjures a grief so strong that it knocks the breath out of you, rendering you raw, bruised, and hurting. Then you remember again how it was to feel vulnerable and afraid, to feel helpless and alone in the darkness of your sorrow.

Funny how a box of tikoy can undo all those months of “moving on.”

In these moments of weakness, I cling to the reassurance of my faith. This is what Lent is to me: a renewal of the promise of His love for us. And just as the New Year heralds another beginning, Lent signals our rebirth in the spirit. If only for this promise, I am once again strong enough to be washed in pain. I just wish I didn’t have to miss Daddy so much.


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