Happiness is… a Hot Cup of Coffee

Most mornings, I break my fast with a cup of coffee. Some days I brew coffee; most days, because sleep is a premium, I go instant. I heat about two cups of water in an electric kettle and pour it over a heaping teaspoon of coffee granules. I add a packet of stevia, then a tablespoon each of heavy cream, butter, and coconut oil/MCT oil, the last depending on what I have at the moment. I pull out my Aerolatte frother and stir away, creating a rich, smooth, and creamy concoction. I smell the faint hint of coconut and the strong notes of coffee, and already, my senses are wide awake.

I like to take my time to savor my coffee. I usually just have one cup a day; on special occasions, though, I make an extra cup. But when Alphonse- my coffee guzzling son- comes out of his little schoolhouse in the morning, I have to gulp the whole thing down in a hurry, leaving only a teaspoonful or so at the bottom of the cup for him to drink. I have to tell you that caffeine and Alphonse don’t mix very well, unless I want a hyperactive man-child literally climbing the walls.

Lately, Alphonse has been asking for more and more coffee. I take that as a sign to stop drinking coffee in front of him so I decided to extend my intermittent fast to 18 hours, moving my BPC in the afternoons while Alphonse is busy. This way, I have a few hours to enjoy coffee without downing the whole thing in one go.

Now this is where Ember comes in to give my life an extra boost of happiness. I got the Ember travel mug as a Christmas gift over the holidays, and while I have accumulated a wide variety of mugs and tumblers over the years- from double walled stainless steel vacuum flasks to plastic reusable mugs and hardy acrylic cups to dainty ceramic teacups- nothing quite beats the virtues of the Ember.

Just what is the Ember?

The Ember is the the first temperature controlled travel mug that keeps your beverage at your desired temperature for hours, allowing you to enjoy your drink without hurry. For people like me who like to sip and savor, the Ember is a handy mug to have around. It may seem like a novelty, especially since some thermal mugs can keep things warm for hours, but once you’ve tried it, you’ll love the way your coffee (or tea) stays exactly the same way for hours.

At USD150, the Ember travel mug is a pricey deal, particularly when one considers that its volume is only 12 ounces. The 10-oz Ember ceramic mug is a little more affordable at USD80, but without a lid, it is more useful for home and office use. I prefer the flexibility and durability of the travel mug. The huge advantage Ember has over newer, less expensive temperature mugs (such as the Lexo tumbler or Joeveo’s Temperfect mug) is that it allows one to remotely set the temperature via a smartphone. While I write, or clean, or bake, or even get the occasional catnap, I keep the Ember filled with hot coffee and it helps me get through another afternoon of chores. I’ve been using it for a few months now and I can say with certainty that it is a great way to enjoy a hot drink any time of the day.

Most US Starbucks stores carry the Ember, but for those of us here in Asia, Amazon is our best bet for purchasing one. The good news is that the product is available for delivery to the Philippines.

Pros: easy to use, remote fine tuning available, completely washable

Cons: price, availability in the country

Verdict: If you love coffee, you won’t go wrong with the Ember. 🙂 It’s worth every cent.


Happiness is… Old School Love, Retro Games (xxii)

GB 02 I’ve had a Game Boy since it was first released in the eighties. I was fortunate to have an aunt who lived in Japan so the very first one I owned was sent in as a gift for my siblings and me. She then brought home a couple more (a second fat one and a pocket version) when she came back to visit with her kids. Somehow, I ended up with all of them, perhaps because of the five of us, I was the one most addicted to them.

In my adolescence, I met a young man who shared many of my interests and obsessions. Nintendo was one of them. And while he was not my “first love” as I was not his (we were just great friends in high school), it was our shared history that led us to rediscover one another as we transitioned into young adults. Almost 34 years of friendship later, 24 of those married to each other, he and I continue to hold many of the same passions in life, Nintendo still being one of them.

When it comes to handheld consoles, I’ve owned almost all iterations of the Game Boy line. I’ve gone from the original gray, monochromatic, fat Game Boy to the Pocket and Color versions, all gifts from my favorite gaming partner. I shared the GB Advance with my eldest son because we could only afford one then (and the son wanted it so much he bombarded the North Pole with daily letters to Santa). My husband later made up for this injustice (hehehe) by giving us individual GB Advance SPs- a blue one for our son and a pearly pink one for me. Despite the many Nintendo upgrades I’ve had since then, jumping from the GB platform to the DS systems, I still have a fully functional, sleek Game Boy Micro, also A♥’s gift, tucked away in my games box for safekeeping. Just because.GB 01

Last night, when he came home, my husband handed me a small bag. Since my birthday last week, he has been handing me gifts every day. The day before last, he gave me Hello Kitty bento tools and a Blythe doll. Before that, he gave me a light blue Gameboy Advance, more dolls, and the Sims4 gaming CD. I had made him promise not to go overboard with gifts this year because I already knew what I was getting for my birthday (a trip!). Alas, he’s still a little stubborn when it comes to this. (Not that I’m complaining.)

He looked at me expectantly as I opened the bag. Normally, I like to indulge his enthusiasm with some heartfelt squeals but I was a bit surprised when I saw what was inside. It was a fat Gameboy, one very much like the old one we still have in one of our bottom drawers. I looked at him funny, my smile turning upside down.

“Try it out, try it out,” he insisted. “Turn it on and see,” he egged.

And so I did. This is what I found:


This is an original 1989 Gameboy model DMG-01 modded with a screen that came from the Gameboy Advance SP AGS-101. (Insert squeals here.) My husband was right. As soon as Tetris came on, I could not put the Game Boy down!

“I still have my Tetris moves,” I bragged to my chuckling husband. Pretty soon, I was all praises for his ingenious gift. Now you know why my gaming partner is my best friend. He knows me really well. 🙂

This mod plays Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. (Hello Kitty Cube Frenzy, here I come!) While its insides are GBA, it does not play GB Advance games for two reasons; one, the visual window can not accommodate the entire screen and two, its port only allows the insertion of basic Nintendo cartridges. The contrast slider no longer works (there is no need for it) but everything else does. The speakers are amazingly crisp and clear, loud too. For me, however, the second coolest thing about it is that it no longer uses batteries. The genius who modded it, a young friend of my husband who goes by the name Hai Hai (thank you!), gutted the innards and replaced it with the SP’s motherboard and rechargeable battery.

For the first time in weeks, I was able to put down my 3DS last night to play something other than Story of Seasons. Lost in the game, I found myself humming to the Tetris theme all night. (That song- “Tetris Type A theme,” a mesmerizing version of the 19th century Russian folk tune Korobeiniki– how do I even get rid of Tetris LSS when it’s been playing in my mind for years?)

Once in a while, however, I paused my game and reached over the other side of our bed to give my gaming partner a kiss. It felt strangely comforting to share these moments with the best friend I grew up with, the very same person I shared so many other Game Boy moments with. And it felt absolutely right.

Old school love and retro games, what’s not to celebrate?

Happiness is… The Princess In Me- Launching Day (xxi)

Barbie 29Two years ago, Hello Kitty took SM North EDSA by storm, with a whirlwind of activities, exhibits, and merchandise- all Hello Kitty-themed, of course. This year, another worldwide superstar takes the helm of SM Malls’ Christmas celebrations with the theme “The Princess in Me.” And though she is all of 55 years old, this superstar has conquered gender biases and aging with a lot of grace and grit. Yes, for SM City North EDSA, the royal ball will not be complete without the ultimate princess, Barbie. The Princess in Me Christmas campaign recreates a magical fantasy of princesses and royal balls for children and kids-at-heart. Decked in all fabulous pink, with pampering activities to treat guests and visitors throughout the holidays season, SM North EDSA was transformed into an enchanting wonderland and this magic will last throughout the holidays. Barbie invite The launch of the campaign, held last Friday, November 7, was a glamor and glitz event headed by SM Prime Holdings, Inc. President Hans Sy and  SM President of SM Supermalls, Annie Garcia. As expected, entertainment stars graced the event and rubbed elbows with the common folk. Most significant, however, was the attendance of some of the special beneficiaries of SM Prime Holdings’ charities, namely, the children of Child Haus, as they celebrated the start of this season of giving with their most ardent supporters.

SM Prime Holdings President Hans Sy is always the most gracious host. He is also a tirelee philanthropist, as he and his family gifted Child Haus with a permanent home in Barangay Pinyanah, Quezon City in 2010.

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With an array of booths in the Holiday Barbie Lounge and the Royal Court, guests were treated to a royal pampering of their choice. Food and drinks were aplenty- and in pink! Older guests had their dreams of a model photoshoot fulfilled in the Barbie Photobox while younger princesses had their choice of glitzy stylings from hair, nail art, glitter tattoo and face painting stations.

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In keeping with the fabulous princess theme, guests were welcomed at this diamond ring arched entryway. You know what they say about girls and their diamonds (though I prefer pearls, myself).

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The “royal guards” stood at attention at the second foyer. Beyond that, lovely ladies-in-waiting greeted and courtseyed guests in.

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There can be no doubt, however, that the star of the show was the fabulous Ms. Barbara Millicent Roberts. It’s a girl’s world alright! Yeah!

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A large B loomed over guests; this is the iconic B that represents her name, style, and the billion-dollar industry she has generated.

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The Christmas Princess Tree, also known as the Couture Tree, stood magnificent upon the stage. This, along with the SM Bears of Joy Tree (see picture below), represented the advocacies of SM. I suddenly remembered that the real princess is one who loves herself and others too.  

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Just a note: The SM Bears of Joy Tree makes giving easy. Buy a pair of bears for only PhP200, one to keep, and the other to donate to the SM Cares Foundation.

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Friday’s event was a literal standing-room-only affair. Invited guests filled the lounge as early as two in the afternoon.

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Kids got dolled up through face painting-

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or having their hair done at the royal salon.

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Those who were feeling the Barbie vibe loved the photobox, and this mother and her daughter were no exception.

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An hour-long show hosted by Raymond Gutierrez and Denise Laurel started at a quarter past four in the afternoon. After a brief video  and some introductions, the ceremonial tree lighting was held.

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The Princess Tree was lit for the first time last Friday and its musical lights will greet mall shoppers every half hour from 11 am to 8 pm from then until January 4, 2015.

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SM Supermalls President Annie Garcia supervised the lighting ceremony.

Barbie 26 A twenty-five minute fashion show followed, with these pretty girls sashaying down the catwalk in pop, party, and fairytale Princesses fashions.

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These young ladies pulled off these Princess looks so well.

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Still, it was the little ones who captivated the audience’s hearts.

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 The event was a ball of mall proportions, and even the decorations were specially chosen to fit the theme.

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And did I say there was food? Pink food, of course!

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The royal cake was too pretty to eat.

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Cupcakes and hors d’oeuvres were aplenty, if the royal cake was too pretty to be sliced and eaten.

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Delightfully pink macarons with silver pearl beads made the table elegant (and the mouth watery).

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What’s a royal ball without a glass silver?

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Then again,  what’s a royal ball without a glass slipper and a prince?

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Truly, The Princess in Me brought out the princess in everyone who came. Even I was not immune to its charms. Long after the afternoon had come and gone, I held on the tiara I was given as a souvenir of my visit. It may have been plastic, but it made me feel like a real princess.

Thank you, SM, for making this experience royally unique.

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The Princess in Me- Barbie Collectors Hall will be featured in part two of this post.

For more holiday activities at SM North EDSA, visit their Facebook page here: SM North EDSA

Happiness is… Repaint Project One 2014 (xx)

I’ve been meaning to ease myself back into repainting some of my old doll houses, but I wasn’t really sure I could commit to such a lengthy process right away. I’ve had the materials on hand for a while now, but I couldn’t get myself to jump in on a project. That is, until a perfect “practice” project came along.

I am talking about a Licca dressing room I got recently through a Facebook contact. I got it at a very reasonable price, albeit it was not complete and was, in fact, missing a very important part- the cover for the main dressing room. It also had minor discolorations and small chipped parts. Still, I was very happy with the purchase because it was small enough to work on and not have the project drag on for days, or weeks even,

Brand new, the Licca dressing room would have looked like this (pictures borrowed from Playmoya Japan:

Licca dressing room

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Very cute, right? I think it’s a very nice playset, functional too, as the shoe closet also serves as a carry case for a Licca doll when traveling.

Now, this was what I got, and mind you, I still loved it, flaws and all:

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This Licca dressing room was missing the hinged flap that serves as a cover to the room. As you can see, there are two exposed hinges on the side where the plastic hinge of the cover should be.

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The good news was that the door was in great condition, save for some dings on the sides and small scratches on the design in front.

Repaint 03The back and sides also just had minor discoloration strewn here and there in small, irregular patches of yellow.

It took me just ten hours to finish this project, spread over two days and with long drying times in between. I actually spent more time waiting for the paint to dry completely, so I did chores at home or worked with Alphonse while I waited.

The plan was to make it less childish in appearance by changing the color palette to one more suited for an adult doll collector. Choosing white and gray as its base colors and gold as an accent made this project elegant and less plasticky in appearance.

This is the finished project:

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Front with open shoe closet

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I used a stone acrylic paint spray for the roof to add texture to the gray primer and base pant. The white I used was a mixture of flat white primer and pearly white acrylic spray. A bright gold was painted on selected parts to serve as accent color.  I also covered the cardboard backing with a printed sticker (printed on matte sticker paper and sealed with a clear sealant to prevent smudging or running) and kept the black and white theme on it to make it less fussy.

I sealed the whole thing with more clear spray and waited overnight for the seal to dry. Just this morning, I tried it on for a few pictures with my dolls, just to see how it would look with them.

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Nimes: “Hmmm… I hate it when I have nothing to wear… Sigh…”

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Sitti: “Oh, c’mon, Nimes, stop dawdling around! Wear your jacket and let’s go! We’ll be late for school!”

Success! I like that I now have an extra closet for Blythe doll clothes. I will keep looking for that missing hinged part or perhaps replace it in the future with a home made cover. Another option would be to hang sheer white curtains in front (with tiebacks) to keep the clothes covered when not in use. In any event, this modded set will certainly get a lot of use as Nimes, Sitti, and their Blythe sisters play dress-up.

Am I ready to remake a Sylvanian building now? You bet I am ! On to the next project!

Happiness is…Turning Wicked (xix)

I read Gregory Maguire’s book, Wicked, around a year after it came out in 1995. wicked 07I have read it many times since then, reveling in the revisionist look he took of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There’s something quite compelling in the way Maguire turned Baum’s Oz around, drawing social and political lessons on what many consider a simple and straight-up fantasy adventure.

What turned my “liking” for this novel into a full blown passion was the music of its stage play, which debuted in Broadway in 2003. I had only read reviews of the play as it transitioned over different stages over the years but Stephen Schwartz’s music and lyrics have drawn me inexplicably close to it. And so, when Wicked finally came to Asia in 2011, my husband thoughtfully booked us plane tickets to Singapore. My friend Auden purchased the show tickets on our behalf, and on February 2012, Auden, A♥ and I watched Wicked at the Marina Bay Sands Grand Theater. It was absolutely fabulous!Singapore 2-17-2012 02

Auden, me, and the Periwinkles

I still have photos from that visit to Singapore, aside from the ones I already posted previously. My favorite, however, is this one of me with the very handsome and absolutely talented David Harris, who played Fiyero in the Singapore production. *kilig moment, with apologies to my equally handsome and talented A♥*

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This is a stolen shot of the stage at the Marina Bay Sands Grand Theater. I don’t do this as a rule- anyone who knows me knows I am such a stickler for rules- but I was too much of fan to pass it up.

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This January, Manila makes history as it hosts the Australian company of Wicked. Three of the actors of the Singapore show will reprise their roles in Manila. The roles of Elphaba and Glinda will still be played by Jemma Rix and Suzie Mathers, respectively. Dr. Dillamond’s role will still be performed by Glen Hosgstrom. Steve Danielsen, however, takes over the role of Fiyero (I will miss David Harris, sigh). Maggie Kirkpatrick will be Madame Morrible and Jay Laga’aia will be the Wizard.

The show will run from 22 January to 23 February 2014 and demand for tickets have been so high that even before production started, the show has already been extended by 16 performances. Manila loves Wicked, for sure!

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I’m really excited to watch the show tonight. I am listening to the Wicked sountrack even as I write this, but I do promise not to sing-along tonight, for politeness’ sake, heehee.  I’ve checked the seat plan of the theater so I know exactly where my husband, son, and I will be sitting. I’ve prepared their clothes and set my hair up in pink curlers. All that is left to do would be to get something green to wear to celebrate tonight’s show.

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And let me share you a secret: Kittymama, Nimes, and the Chocolate Grandparents will be sneaking in my purse for the show too. So ssshhhh… please don’t tell anyone. It’s an opportunity I wouldn’t want them to miss so they’ll be stowaways for the night. Wish us luck!


Happiness is… (xviii) Sylvanianizing!

If you’ve been reading this blog for quite a bit now, then you know I can be quite obsessive. And when it comes to things I absolutely love, like Sylvanian Families, I do tend to get carried over a bit and turn everything I have into similarly themed items. I did the exact same thing ages ago with Hello Kitty, remember? Although I still do carry “Kitty-fied” things with me, these days, I much prefer to  “Sylvanianize.”

Sylvanianize [sil-vey-nee-uh-nīz]

  1. provide or complement with Sylvanian Families accessories
  2. design or produce something with a Sylvanian Families theme

When I think back to when it began, I suppose it would be the day I started playing around with the idea of personalizing my phone.  A♥ had given me a very expensive bumper case as an alternative to the Hello Kitty silicon cases I used but it just seemed too plain for me. I was toying with the idea of having a Sylvanian Families cover case professionally made but I kept holding back because of the expense. Adding a back cover to my bumper case (to replace the velvet cover it came with) seemed a whim at first but I grew to love the idea. I started with a Union Jack design and then made several more Sylvanian-themed back covers as  got increasingly adept at switching covers.

DIY phone unionjack copy

Another back cover, this one with my favorite “Jerry Maguire” line.DIY SF phone copy

The plugy is a DIY too, made from a Sylvanian Families gashapon figure, a hook screw, and a plugy attachment.

DIY plugy copy

I then moved on to notebooks, making stickers and notebook covers for them. Here is one I use for my Sylvanian Families inventory. It’s not pink, but it’s the shade of blue I really do love. 🙂

DIY SF notebook copy

Mugs became easy targets once I received one that I can personalize. After I finished with one, I immediately got a hankering to do more. Fortunately, there are plenty of them at stores, and at different price ranges too.

DIY SF mug copy

I hesitate to use the word ‘last” because I doubt if this will be the last of its DIY kind. I’ve been having a lot of fun with felt from my lens cap holder project that I have moved on to making them in Sylvanian designs as well.

Here’s a chocolate rabbit…DIY chocolate rabbitand here’s my first attempt at a charcoal cat. Not too shabby, right?DIY charcoal cat copy

I like DIY projects a bit too much to stop right away. I guess that Sylvanian bug has really bitten me hard. And what can I say? It really does make me happy. So, for now, I will continue to: Sylvanianize, Sylvanianize, Sylvanianize!

Happiness is… (xvi) Love♥ Hello Kitty

I’ve been having a little fun with my Sanrio Build-A-Bear dolls these last few days. I didn’t realize how many I’ve collected in almost five years, not until I had them all laid out for a group picture.

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All the pretty kitties!

I started collecting Hello Kitty Build-A-Bear dolls in 2008, a year after the release of the very first one. At that time, you can only purchase them through eBay, so my very first one, a Tropical Hello Kitty, came in the mail in a Sun Chips box! The Tropical Hello Kitty was the second one released in the HK BAB line, the first being a white Hello Kitty (2007), which I eventually got as another present from my husband A♥. (Ohh, don’t you just love him?) If you notice the itty-bitty ones in front, those are the latest additions to the Sanrio BAB family. They are Small Frys, or smaller versions of Sanrio BAB releases, and are called such because each comes in a french fries box! 🙂

My most recent acquisition arrived last week as one of three Valentine gifts from my husband. Although released in January in the US, Love Hello Kitty is perfect for Hearts’ Day as it screams “Will you be my Valentine?” from its dual heart bow, its Love “tattoo”, and red and white heart paws!

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I love you too, A♥!

Build-A-Bear dolls are so cuddly I can’t stop collecting them. And although I’ve stuck to my version of Hello Kitty rehab with as much discipline as I could muster, these have got me weak in the knees. They are sooo darn cute! I guess I can now be considered a “cat lady” but instead of real cats, I have 16 cat dolls, a frog doll, a rabbit doll, and their mini-mes. 🙂

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Cat Lady

Now if you wonder if this craziness will ever stop, I hold Build-A-Bear USA directly responsible for this crazy obsession. They’re the ones who won’t stop making new ones!

And just to prove to you they’ve got their paws on me, here is a sneak preview of what’s coming in March, just in time for spring! Help! I am putty in Hello Kitty BAB’s hands! 🙂

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Take me home, Kittymama!

See you in March, Sunshine!