Friday, March 13, 2009

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed....

I have been a happy home baker for quite some time already. My trusty Phillips hand mixer and I have called each other team partners for ten years. I didn't realize it was possible to be even happier till I added a new member on my kitchen team - a Kitchen Aid mixer! Life before Kitchen Aid was all about manual labor. I remember mixing those Swiss meringue buttercream to stiff peaks on my trusty handheld. How my arm muscles called for a respite as I continuously and furiously go round and round trying to make the egg whites firm up. And how I would call on the maid to stand by, just in case my arms go AWOL on me.

The pricey tag was the reason why I couldn't bring myself to buy it. The cost would've almost bought me a new monogram mini lin speedy handbag in brown. But I do admit I have made a few stolen glances from afar. Specifically as I shopped online at the Sephora store on the Amazon website for my Bare Escentuals mineral make-up. Just right after I click "pay now" at the Sephora store, I quickly type Kitchen Aid in my new product search, and read the hundreds upon hundreds of product testimonials. Sigh!

Then I realized I didn't have to do this anymore. My mom has a Kitchen Aid which has been lying around somewhere in her kitchen. Vintage and brand new, both at the same time. Did I hear you say oxymoron? Because it is! She bought it the year I was born (so for all intents and purpose, let's just agree and say its vintage twenty-eight years), but she has never, not even once, used it. We all completely forgot about it, till I had this momentary flash of briliance! Since no one among my unmarried siblings has any use for it, it has found a new home on my kitchen granite.

Since I have gotten this, I have temporarily given my handheld its much needed rest. I have found myself baking more often. Now I know why hardcore bakers list this as one of their ultimate kitchen must-have list. I know it's on mine.

Here are photos of my my cinnamon rolls. I have made three consecutive batches in a span of one week due to insistent demand from my kids.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Project: Memory Book

I can now tell you why posts have been far and few between for the first few months of this year. A whole lot of my spare time was spent doing layouts for the memory book of J’s class.

I actually have quite a lot of time to spare, just not in one long stretch, but rather snippets of them scattered throughout the day. An hour or two mid-morning. A few more after lunch. But my early afternoon nap is an indulgent I do not wish to give up so that is an exception. Early evenings are hectic since this is the time when food is being prepared, kids need to be tutored, and dinner is to be served. By eight thirty in the evening when the kids are tucked in to bed, it is our couple time. So even if it does indeed fall under the category of spare time, it does not belong to MY spare time since technically speaking I share it with C. And if you have read this, you know how sacred we treat it. And so my photoshop projects are done intermittently throughout the day, which is not how I prefer to work. Being the photoshop amateur that I am, creative work is usually mixed up with tutorials as I try to teach myself new tricks. Work that could have been done in an hour easily extends to two – or more, as I try to do each step again and again.

Be that as it may, I am thankful that I volunteered just the same because the circumstance made me force myself to upgrade my skills - with emphasis on the word force. Photoshop has always been an interest but I am self-taught, and I am always either too busy or too lazy to be bothered with reading any tutorials. Surviving this, I am now armed with a semi-equipped arsenal of photoshop tricks I can whip out in a minute.

In one of my attempts to do a quotation word art, which you can see below, I found myself working on this dang file for over thirty minutes or maybe it's a little closer to an hour. I wanted to do the word art on a transparent background, but my saved jpeg file kept on reverting to the white background, no matter how many times I worked on it using a transparent one. After several failed efforts and a keyboard that's close to getting broken, a quick call to my brother solved my problem. I now know that jpeg doesn't save in transparent. Hence, I saved it in png format. What? You don't know that? Sorry, now we cannot be friends anymore. Lol.

Here are the three layouts that I made for the girls, the tiny one on the left shows you my first attempt, while the larger image on the right is the final output for printing:

Richie and I collaborated on the layouts for the group photos. But before I show you our work let me first tell you that Richie is one of the parents in our class, and the only dad, who volunteered his time and creative talent for this project. He joined us towards the tail end of the project so you can just imagine the cramming he had to do to finish all the layouts in two weeks, more or less. He was certainly a welcome addition to the group. He came on board just as I was beginning to feel slightly overwhelmed, (ok maybe slightly overwhelmed is not the correct term to use - it's more like I was in over my head) with all the templates that needed to be done vis a vis my limited photoshop knowledge, then put that against our self-imposed deadline to make sure the memory books get to the girls in time for the last day of classes. Ok. Now that I am writing down my thoughts like this, I now have a word for what I felt that time. Panic!

Here are our work: (You may click on the images to enlarge.)

My layout for Kinder Dahlia (while Richie helped with the photo clipping):

My Layout for Prep Lily:

Richie's spread for 1-Martha:

Richie's layout for 2-Scholastica:

Richie made a few more layouts for the book, and I am sure all the parents are with me in saying that he deserves a big thank you for his hard work, time, and for sharing his artistic talent. So here's a shout out of thanks to you, buddy! Here are the rest of Richie's work:

The other parents who helped behind the scenes and whose contibutions are as significant to the success of the project are:

  • Arlyn, who generously offered her efficient office staff to do the tedious chore of clipping all the photos for the girls' pages.
  • Doris, for collating all the photos and all the other text files, and for generously offering her house as our official headquarter during the initial stages of brainstorming (complete with merienda).
  • Jenny, for patiently proofreading all the pages and for taking care of the logistics regarding the printer.
  • Tes, in whose shoulders fell the tiresome task of collecting photos from busy parents.
  • Mercy is of course the force who started it all, this is really her much loved project. We all know how much of a computer genius she is ( not! :) ), but her hand was on this project every step of the way. Thanks for your big-hearted and open-handed concern for our girls. We couldn't have gotten a better class rep!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tragedy at the Ateneo

We went to the Ateneo football field Sunday afternoon to watch a soccer match between the girls of British School Manila and Miriam College. With the game over and Miriam having won the match, it was still too early in the afternoon to start heading home so we headed off to the Bellarmine Field to run around a little. In the middle of the field we find several purple cloth with white crosses painted on them, right below them are numerous white candles, in all shapes and sizes. We can only assume that they are all lighted for the soul of the little boy who lost his life.

I read an extensive update on the story from the blog of Cathy, who is a co-counder of The Compassionate Friends, a grief support group for parents who lost a child. Here is part of her version:
My husband and I have just returned from his wake and I am shocked, stunned and restless over the circumstances surrounding his death. The Alcantara’s actually almost lost three children, and not just one.

Amiel, his 65-year old Yaya Tata (who has been with the family for 40 plus years), his 7 year old sister, and 13 year old brother Javi, together with the driver, were already so close to their car when the CRV driven by Teresa Torres, careened from behind and hit Amiel. Yaya Tata was able to push the youngest one and the elder boy out of the way but was too far to get to Amiel. Yaya Tata had herself suffered injuries and fractures and is set to have surgery next week. The most heart-wrenching thing about the whole thing is that it was the Alcantara’s driver and 13 year old Javi who had to extricate Amiel from beneath the van. The impact was so strong that three other vehicles were damaged in the process before the vehicle finally came to a stop. How does a 13 year old young boy cope with the image of seeing his younger brother that way?

It was the driver who took Amiel to the New Era hospital and they were en route to the hospital in another Ateneo parent’s car when Amiel died in his arms. Amiel’s father, Pepe Alcantara, former chair of the UP Student Council in the 1980s, and his mother, Niann, were no longer able to see their youngest son alive. It is a tragedy of such great proportions.

The CRV that careened through the parking lot was around 25 meters away from where the kids were standing. Apparently, for some reasons that remain yet unclear, the driver had stepped heavily on the accelerator because a screeching sound, akin to those that you hear at drag races, was heard by several witnesses before the car sped and hit Amiel.
(The vehicle of Teresa Torres is actually a Toyota Hi-Ace, which hit the CRV in front of her)

The Ateneo parking accident was a very hot topic last week among parents. I read about it in the Philippine Star, while some of my friends saw it on the TV news. Last Friday while some friends and I were waiting for our kids during swimming practice, this subject matter came up again. What really appalled us was the fact that the driver, an Ateneo parent herself, did not sound apologetic at all, attributing everything to the fact that it was all an accident. Although it may be true to call it an accident, it also fair to say that it was an accident that happened because of HER negligence. And to be unapologetic about it, to just shrug her shoulder and say, "wala akong magagawa, aksidente ang nangyari, eh!" Let us remember that even Jesus needs for us to confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness before He is able to forgive us.

Here is part of the story of what happened when the dad of the victim met the driver. You can also read the whole Inquirer interview here

In his first face-to-face encounter with the woman who drove the van that had run over his son, all Jose Fernando Alcantara could say was, “Was it you?”

He added that he had just come from Arlington Memorial Chapels where he supervised the preparation of his son’s body, adding that it took six hours to reconstruct Amiel’s face and head to make it fit for viewing.

“I just wanted to see the face of the person who took away someone so precious,” he said. According to him, he was disappointed with the response he got from Ma. Theresa Torres, who has been detained at Camp Karingal since the accident.“Except for a shrug and ‘Wala akong magawa, aksidente yun eh (I couldn’t do anything, it was an accident)’, I did not hear anything more from the driver,” he narrated.

Alcantara, who described his son as like the “wind” because of his love for the outdoors, said he left without saying another word to Torres.
As a mother who picks up my kids from school everyday, I know the nuances of dismissal time parking and the stress it brings if you find yourself a few minutes late. You see parents fighting over parking, with manners and common courtesy flying out the window as every one makes a mad dash for that single available slot. Pick-up time is always the time when I try to instill in J some level of independence, while I make sure I am close by to ward off any untoward incident. I teach her how to cross the street, always reminding her to look both ways before crossing; to maintain a good distance between herself and the cars on the street; to stay at the innermost side of the curb while waking on the parking lot sidewalk. In my mind, I am sufficiently protecting her. But this accident gave me a reality check that no amount of safety precaution, preparation and protection can help our kids if there are mindless drivers out there who are driving and texting at the same time. Read the whole eye witness account here about how a cellphone contributed to the accident.
Eyewitnesses saw her texting with her cellphone. then people saw her unbuckle her seat belt and she stooped down to get something on the floor of the van, presumably she dropped her cellphone and bent down to get it from the floor. it is in that position that led her to mistakenly step on the gas accelerator rather than the brakes

This story makes a lot of sense as stooping down like that will make it easy for anyone to mistake the gas accelerator for the brakes. it looked like the hi-ace van has an automatic transmission. that way, your body gets disoriented as to what pedal is on the left and what is on the right.

The van must have been engaged on “drive” and she was stepping on the brakes. when she stooped down to get something on the floor, her foot must have been removed from the brakes. and to recover, she must have quickly stepped on a pedal thinking it was still the brakes but was actually the accelerator.

Wives whose husbands have died are called widows, likewise husbands whose wives have gone ahead are called widowers, children who have no parents left to care for them are called orphans. What do we call parents who bury their children? There is no word in any language for them. And this is because life is not designed this way. No parent should ever encounter grief of this magnitude.

The driver later on issued an apology, albeit a very delayed one. You can read about the response of the victim's family right here