Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year Traditions

We are approaching the end of 2011 as I type this. Of course, most of my friends have already marked 2012, and those keeping Mountain Time has just passed midnight.

I started thinking of traditions my family has done when the clock turns to midnight, marking the coming of the new year. In the days leading up to it, my mum would start gathering 13 round fruits to place in a bowl at the dining room table. Why thirteen and why round?

This is a tradition that came from the Chinese. The fruits need to be round because they signify coins, which signify wealth and prosperity. As for the 13, I've heard many different reasons, but the explanation my mum gave makes sense: she merely pointed at the tapestry of the Last Supper on the wall when I had asked her about it. It, of course, depicts Jesus and His 12 apostles, hence 13 fruits. It's a perfect explanation, especially considering that the majority of Filipinos are Catholic and/or Christian.

Of course, another explanation is that the number is lucky, so having 13 round fruits should bring about luck and prosperity for the new year.

Here's another thing: some say the number should actually be 8 because to the Chinese, it sounds similar to the word for wealth or to prosper. So whether one does 8 or 13 round fruits, the effect is still the same: it's done to bring about good luck and prosperity for the new year.

More traditions: My mum hangs green grapes at the kitchen window. She'll put a fresh bunch on a hook on New Year's Eve, where it will hang for the entire year. She said it signifies money and prosperity.

As the clock turns to midnight, you would be wearing polka-dots, and you should have some money in your pocket, which will also signify prosperity in the new year. Essentially, if you wear anything round (there's the round thing again), it resembles coins, which signifies wealth and prosperity in the coming year.

If you're a kid, you would jump up and down in hopes that you would grow taller. Even if you're not a kid, you'd still jump up and down anyway. :)

We also turn on every single light in the house. It's said that your coming year will be filled with light if you do that. In addition, all the doors and windows would be open, which means all the grace would be flowing in for the new year.

In the Philippines, it's very common to set off fireworks as the clock goes past midnight. One would set them off to give off light to greet the new year.

Filipinos have a tendency to celebrate "Media Noche", which is the counterpart to "Noche Buena" which one does after Midnight Mass. The Media Noche would be a meal to honour Mary, especially since January 1 marks the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, in addition to being for 2012 the Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord. The food on the table: in addition to all the round fruits, one would have noodle dishes. My friend, Jared, said he had spaghetti after midnight struck in the Philippines. We made sotanghon ("glass" noodles made from mung beans). The symbolism is that the long noodles signify long life.

There would also be an abundance of food in the house.

What traditions do you observe as the new year dawns?

Feeling Crafty, Part II

In this post, I had mentioned that I was working on some booties for my mother. I finished the project, and I'm working on writing down what I did. I'll probably post it over on eventually...

Here are pictures of the finished product. :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Feeling Crafty

Warning: This post will be image-heavy.

Those of you who have been following me through my attemtped NaBloPoMo postings know that I like to knit and crochet. I had mentioned in this post that I had made an afghan for a friend's baby. Since she received it, I can finally post the picture. Here is a yellow afghan, made with Caron's bamboo/acrylic blend yarn. It was done with the garter stitch, so it was a good, 'mindless' project when I needed good stress relief. The colour is 'soft sunshine'.

I'm working on another couple of projects as well. One is a knit project, but I won't reveal what it is until the recipient (who doesn't know it's coming or that it even exists) receives it. The other is a crochet project I'm doing for my mum. She was the one who taught me how to crochet when I was 8 years old. Unfortunately for her, carpal tunnel syndrome prevents her from doing anymore crochet, so I told her I'd give this project a go. It will be a couple pairs of booties when I'm done with them. Here are a couple of pictures of this project in progress.

This was crocheted in the round, using Red Heart Yarn's "Super Saver" yarn in country blue. I'm using a size J / 6.00 MM hook.

We're still deciding what the second colour will be. We'd welcome suggestions, although I suspect we'll be running off to the store after we eat lunch in search of yarn.

For those of you who knit and/or crochet: what projects are you currently working on?

And yes, I'm on, but I'll admit to not visiting the site as often as I'd like. Feel free to friend me there. I'm 'cartilagineol'.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Franciscos, Yalongs, Asanas, and Cabrera Families

24 December - Christmas Eve

First of all, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

I'm posting these a couple of days later, but better late than never, right? Besides, I have a good excuse: I was travelling. :)

I have three lists for your perusal.

Carol Woods. Services there are organised by Chapel of the Cross. This service resembles the 8.00 am summer morning Rite I services at Chapel of the Cross, with a few omissions, depending upon the Presider of the Day. Numbers are out of the Hymnal 1982.

Christmas Eve: Holy Eucharist Rite I
Prelude: O Magnum Mysterium (T.L. de Victoria)
Processional: 83, O come, all ye faithful (ADESTE FIDELES)
Sequence: 87, Hark the herald angels sing (MENDELSSOHN)
Offertory: 115, What child is this (GREENSLEEVES)
Communion: 111, Silent night, holy night (STILLE NACHT)
Recessional: 100, Joy to the World (ANTIOCH)
Postlude: Vom Himmel Hoch (J.G. Walther; F. Zachau)

It is always a pleasure playing for Carol Woods. It's very gratifying to know that what I do at these service makes a difference for the people. It was also very nice to see a lot of people at this service.

St. Joseph's Episcopal Church where I played the 5.30 pm Christmas Eve service. The service was preceded by a 20 minute carol service.

Christmas Eve: Holy Eucharist Rite II
A Prelude of Christmas Music:
  • Once in royal David's city (IRBY, arr. D. Willcocks)
  • Wonder, Love and Praise 724, People, look East. The time is near (BESANÇON CAROL)
  • 112, In the bleak mid-winter (CRANHAM)
  • Motet: Carol of the Manger (M. Wilson)
  • 81, Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming (ES IST EIN ROS)
  • 106, Christians, awake, salute the happy morn, vs 1-3 (YORKSHIRE)
  • 105, God rest you merry, gentlemen, vs 1, 4 (GOD REST YOU MERRY)
Processional: 83, O come, all ye faithful (ADESTE FIDELES)
Hymn of Praise: 96, Angels we have heard on high (GLORIA)
Psalm: Psalm 96 (Simplified Anglican Chant)
Sequence: 80, From heaven above to earth I come (VOM HIMMEL HOCH)
Offertory: How Sweet is Love (M. Paget)
Sanctus: S-128 (W. Mathias)
Lord's Prayer: chanted (S-119 in Hymnal 1982)
Agnus Dei: S-165 (W. Mathias)
Communion Hymns: 87, Hark the herald angels sing (MENDELSSOHN); 111, Silent night, holy night (STILLE NACHT)
Recessional: 100, Joy to the World (ANTIOCH)
Postlude: Wir Christenleut' (J. G. Walther)

We're doing something different this year: during Christmastide (which will include next week, Feast of the Holy Name), we're doing, in lieu of the Gloria, the carol, Angels we have heard on high. I guess it's not unusual; when I had subbed at St. Philip's on Christmas Day a couple of years ago, they also used this carol in lieu of the Gloria. I guess it's an Episcopal thing.

Service #3 was the 11.00 pm Christ Mass at the Chapel of the Cross. As usual - it was a glorious service, a High Mass, complete with smells and bells. Oh, and music. Lots and lots of music.

Christ Mass: Holy Eucharist Rite I
Organ and Choral Voluntaries
  • In dulci jubilo (BWV 729; J. S. Bach)
  • Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g'mein (most likely BWV 734; Bach)
  • Choral Anthem: Ding Dong! Merrily on high (G. R. Woodward/C. Wood)
  • Noël, Grand Jeu et Duo (L. C. D'Aquin)
  • Choral Anthem: The Infant King (S. Baring-Gould; arr. D. Willcocks)
  • La Nativité: La Crèche; Les Anges; Les Bergers; La Sainte Famille (J. Langlais)
  • Choral Motet: O magnum mysterium (T. Luis de Victoria)
Processional: 83, O come, all ye faithful (ADESTE FIDELES)
Gloria: S-203 (Missa Marialis; Mode 8, adapted by W. Douglas)
Psalm: Psalm 98 (Ford; Plainchant Mode 7)
Sequence: 91, Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light (ERMUNTRE DICH)
Offertory: Motet: Hodie Christus natus est (F. Poulenc)
Sanctus: S-114 (Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena; H. Willan)
Lord's Prayer: chanted (S-119 in Hymnal 1982)
Communion Hymns: 79, O little town of Bethlehem (FOREST GREEN); 101, Away in a manger (CRADLE SONG); 96, Angels we have heard on high (GLORIA); 111, Silent night, holy night (STILLE NACHT)
Recessional: 87, Hark the herald angels sing (MENDELSSOHN); 100, Joy to the World (ANTIOCH)
Postlude: Toccata (from Symphonie V; C.-M. Widor)

It was heaps of fun singing with the Senior Choir once again, and it was wonderful being with choristers whom I haven't seen on a regular basis. Considering all that Chapel of the Cross has done for me, I'm more than happy to help out whenever I can.

So again: a very Happy Christmas to everyone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting even closer...

Take a look, beyond the moon you see the stars. And when you look around, you know the room by heart...

—V. Degiorgio, D. Schreurs, J. van Wieringen, "A Night Like This" sung by Caro Emerald

Oh. My. Goodness.

Is it really only three days until Christmas? Really, for me, "D-Day" is December 24. On that day, I should already be packed and ready to step on a plane since I won't have a chance to do any packing once all the services are finished.

Speaking of which... one afternoon Christmas Eve service at Carol Woods, one Carol Service, followed by a Christmas Eve service at St. Joseph's, and then the 11:00 pm Christ Mass at Chapel of the Cross. After that, a nap, and then I step on the plane to fly to San Diego.

(Oh, and for those of you who may question why I use the term "D-Day", may I refer you to this site, where they define "D-Day" as The unnamed day on which a particular operation commences or is to commence. So my "operation" is Christmas Eve.)

There is so much to do, so little time in which to do it. Will I worry if I don't finish everything? No. Life is too short to be stressed.

I actually enjoyed sitting down and practicing tonight, though. I didn't really enjoy all the organising and filing... it took way longer than I expected. I still have more practicing to do, but if I sit down and do it over the next couple of days, I should be fine.

I wonder if it should be strange that I seem to be able to practice much better at night. The focus seems to be better. Once upon a time, I had considered myself a morning person. I was able to wake up early in the morning and be super-productive, getting a lot of work done. Nowadays, I can't seem to wake up early and be functional. Perhaps I've become a night-owl. Not my preference... and admittedly, it would be far safer for me if I could manage to practice the organ when it's still daylight outside. Shy, introverted me does not like nor appreciate being approached by those who call the church grounds "home" when it's very late at night, which is why I have been avoiding doing night practice. Unfortunately, I've noticed that my lack of practice has severely affected my playing, but I seem to be able to focus better when I practice at night....

Yes, you can see my dilemma.

People are asking me if I'm looking forward to going home for the first time in 6 years. To be honest, I haven't even thought that far ahead. Let me get through Christmas Eve first. Then, once the last note of the last service has been sung, will I be able to start looking forward to stepping on that plane and spending time with family and friends.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter, really?

Dear Mother Nature,

What happened to winter? I'm walking around central North Carolina in short sleeves three days before Christmas. Temps of 64 F. / 18 C is way too warm for this time of the year. Please may I have winter back?

Lyn F.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Does travel need to be that traumatic?

Earlier today, I helped a friend do the last of his packing before he was to leave for a 20-day trip out of the country. Since he was going to see relatives in two countries, I was not surprised at what he was packing. (Filipinos, when travelling, have a tendency to pack, in addition to necessities like clothes and toiletries, gifts we call pasalubong for relatives, and those things can range from toys for the kids to candies for the women... and my dad used to get tons of cartons of cigarettes for his brothers who were moderate to heavy smokers.) He had even asked me to do some last-minute shopping for him.

When we finally loaded his suitcase into the car, I had the feeling his suitcase would be grossly overweight. It took two of us to load it into his car.

When we got to the airport, I had dropped him off at the departures area while I went off to park the car. I joined him in the ticketing area and noticed he had his bags opened, and he was taking things out of the very heavy bag and trying to stuff it into the second bag. I couldn't help but smirk. Apparently, no matter if you're travelling domestic or international, you still have the same weight limit for bags: 50 lbs / 23 kg. He had significantly exceeded that. In the end, he chose to pay extra to have up to 70 lbs / 32 kg in the bag. Whatever he couldn't fit in, I ended up taking with me back to his place.

I wonder if his stress could have been reduced had he actually planned what he was going to pack and how in advance. I was shocked when he rang me up last night and said he hadn't started packing yet. How can you not be all packed up and ready to go less than 12 hours before you're scheduled to step on that plane to spend a little over 3 weeks abroad?

The last time we did this, it was more or less the same process. He really has a tendency to overpack. He ended up leaving me with an entire box of chocolate... which, I'll admit, I still have floating around someplace.

I'll be travelling across the country myself in less than a week. I know I definitely will start packing way earlier than he did. I'll have to. Once I start playing the Christmas Eve services, I should have been packed and ready to go. I know I won't have any time (or energy) to pack after I finish all services. And yes, I'm travelling on Christmas day. At least I'll be home in time for Christmas dinner with the family.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Commission

If I did the coding right, if you click on the picture, you should see a video of Fr. Roderick opening the parcel I had sent him. (If that doesn't work, try clicking here to watch.)

I had commissioned a drawing of Fr Roderick from my friend, Dave Myers, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Fr Roderick's ordination to the priesthood. (Click here to visit his blog.) When Dave delivered the drawing to me, I was blown away by it. The way he chose to depict Fr Roderick was so... well, right!

This picture depicts Fr Roderick in St Peter's Square, holding his trusty H2 digital recorder. He got his start in podcasting in St Peter's Square back in 2005, when he was there in the last days of Bl. Pope John Paul II's life. His recordings became the basis of a podcast, Catholic Insider.

Today, Fr Roderick, who is a priest in the Archdiocese of Utrecht in the Netherlands, is the founder and CEO of, the Star Quest Production Network, which is a multimedia organization specializing in the production of audio and video programs faithful to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. SQPN produces on-demand audio and video programs, also known as podcasts, and offers a portal for a select number of affiliated Catholic podcasters that share the vision and media strategy of SQPN.

(I also happen to be one of SQPN's podcasters, sitting on the panel of Secrets of Harry Potter.)

I was very happy to do this for Fr Roderick, and wish him many blessings upon his ministry.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A week away...

Where has the time gone? Today was the Fourth Sunday of Advent. In a way, I'm glad there is a lot of extra time in between Advent IV and Christmas Eve. That means I'll have extra time to prepare for Christmas Eve.

I'm pretty sure it's going to go pretty fast, though. I still have so much to do before then, and after the Christ Mass service, I'll only have time for a little nap before I have to run off to the airport to fly home for the first time since 2005. I'm sure I'll see so many changes in San Diego. I'll be happy to see family and friends once again. I'm looking forward to it.

In the meantime... I'll try to get as much done as possible in the days leading up to Christmas. Once I get on the plane, I hope to be able to rest and relax.

But first... sleep. Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Simbang Gabi, Saturday of the Third Week of Advent, 12/17/2011

I think Mother Nature was kind to us this year. Unlike the previous two years, we actually had a nice, clear morning. For the first time in three years, the Filipino Community of Central North Carolina had their annual Simbang Gabi Mass early morning. It was celebrated at 5:30 am at Immaculate Conception Church in Durham. For more about the Simbang Gabi tradition, click here for an explanation, courtesy of the Archdiocese of Manila website. Curious about the guidelines the Archdiocese had laid for the celebration of Simbang Gabi? You may also click here to read all about it. Even though the guidelines are specific to the Archdiocese of Manila, it's a great starting point if you plan to celebrate one or more Simbang Gabi Masses in your parish.

The Mass, celebrated by Fr Ryan Zamora Carnecer, CICM, was conducted in Tagalog. The music was provided by the Fatima choir, which was under the direction of Linda McGloin. The Mass was followed by a reception which featured traditional Filipino food found post-Simbang Gabi.

This year, I didn't have anything to do with the planning of the Mass or of the music, so please excuse the Christmas music in this list. I know, the usual arguments is that it's not Christmas yet and where is the Advent music? I didn't intend to sing with the choir this year, but I was asked to by several choir members, so I joined them. Luckily for me, I knew all the music, so it was all good.

With that, here is the list of music, with attributions as I was able to find them.

  • O Little Town of Bethlehem (ST. LOUIS)
  • We Three Kings of Orient Are (KINGS OF ORIENT)
  • O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (VENI, VENI EMMANUEL)
  • Himig ng Pasko (Apo Hiking Society)
Opening Hymn: Pag-aalaala (MV Francisco, SJ)
Kyrie: Panginoon, maawa ka (TV Vinteres, CsSR)
Gloria: Papuri sa Diyos (Hontiveros)*
Psalm: Psalm 80 (recited responsorially)
Gospel Acclamation: Aleluya (Hontiveros)
Offertory: Balang Araw (MV Francisco, SJ; J Borres, SJ)
Sanctus: Santo, Santo (Hontiveros)
Memorial Acclamation: Si Kristo ay namatay (Anon., traditional)
Concluding Acclamation: Amen (unattributed... something in d minor, though)
Lord's Prayer: Ama Namin (Vinteres)
Agnus Dei: Kordero ng Diyos (Hontiveros)
Communion Hymns
  • Silent Night (O tahimik na daigdig; STILLE NACHT)
  • O Holy Night (Cantique de Nöel, A. Adam)
Closing Hymn: Ang Pasko ay Sumapit (L. Celerio)

* I am aware that during Advent, the Gloria is not sung. However, an exception has been made for this set of Masses. This explanation comes courtesy of Fr Mel Portula, CICM, who is now based in Baguio City, Philippines:
During Misa de Gallo – a nine-day novena before Christmas popular in the Philippines and among Filipinos around the world, "Gloria" is sung. Novena Masses have a unique liturgical character. The "Gloria" is sung on these Masses and the vestment color is white. I believe that since Misa de Gallo is considered a novena, then "Gloria" is sung and white is the color of the vestment, not purple. All Masses during the nine-day novenas follow the same structure and rubric, even the one that falls on Sunday.
So there you have it. It was an issue we had debated back when we first started doing Simbang Gabi Masses here in Central NC.

The next Simbang Gabi in central North Carolina will probably be on December 22, 2012.

A quiet morning

I woke up early to go to the Simbang Gabi Mass at Immaculate Conception Church this morning (it was at 5:30 am. A summing-up post will follow shortly.)

It was a very quiet, peaceful morning. The silence really struck me. It seemed like the world was still asleep at 5:15 am. It was still dark outside; the sun wouldn't rise for at least another two hours. I didn't hear any signs of life: no crickets chirping, no birds singing. Just silence.

It was almost appropriate, I think. In this season of Advent, it's nice to have the reminder to slow down and reflect in the days leading up to Christmas.

I'll end this post with the Collect for the Second Day of Simbang Gabi. This comes from the Society of St. Paul in the Philippines.

Father, creator and redeemer of mankind, you decreed, and your Word became man, born of the Virgin Mary. May we come to share the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share our human nature, for it was your holy will that your Word should take flesh in the womb of the ever-virgin Mary. Look with kindness on our prayers and grant that your only Son, who came to share our human nature, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What was the last handmade gift you gave?

Because I have the empty brain syndrome, I will answer the Writing Prompt of the Day. A list of writing prompts for December's NaBloPoMo may be found by clicking here.

Friday, December 16, 2011: What was the last handmade gift you gave?

This one is an easy one for me. It was very recently. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal what it is yet, and to whom I sent it since the recipient did not receive it yet. All I can say is that it was sent outside of the United States. (I seem to be sending parcels outside of the US lately...)

Those of you who know me know that I like to knit and crochet. (Does the Gromit knitting icon above give that away? :) ) So I can safely say that this handmade gift was either knit or crochet. Silly me forgot to take a picture of the finished product before I shipped it off, so I'll have to ask the recipient to take a picture of it for me.

Naturally, once I've heard the recipient receives the parcel, I'll write another post, explaining the item. But in the meantime, I'll have to keep you in suspense (or suspenders).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Choral Evensong at the St Nicolaaskerk, Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM: ST. NICHOLAS CHURCHWell, gentle reader, I didn’t get a chance to see Casavant Frères Opus 3695 while in Japan. But I did make it to the St Nicolaaskerk in Amsterdam for Choral Evensong! If one day you should find yourself in Amsterdam on a Saturday afternoon, I highly recommend you drop by and enjoy some delightful music in a beautiful setting. (Saturdays, 5pm, by donation.)

There is a website with more information on the various groups that sing at Choral Evensong (in English & Dutch):

Muziek in de Nicolaaskerk – Amsterdam

Choral Evensong for the Eve of the Third Sunday of Advent
Sung by the Collegium van de Cappella Nicolai
St Nicolaaskerk – Amsterdam
Organ Prelude
Introit: Rejoice in the Lord alway – Anon. from The Mulliner Book, ca. 1560
Preces: Richard Shepherd (1626–1669)
Office Hymn: Verbum supernum prodiens II – Sarum Plainchant
Psalm 121 Levavi oculus
Canticles: Thomas Weelkes (1575–1623) The Service “for Trebles”
Responses after the Creed: Richard Shepherd
Anthem: Hosanna to the Son of David – Thomas Weelkes
Closing Hymn: Lo! he comes, with clouds descending (HELMSLEY*)
Antiphon: Ave Maria – John Parsons (1530–1572)
Organ Postlude

* Ordinarily I’d link to but the version there is doubly incorrect (deliberate simplification of the tune and accidental transcription errors). I transcribed a “better” version from The English Hymnal (1906) which I might post here once I’m satisfied with it.

Everything was sung and accompanied beautifully, tastefully and with excellent English pronunciation. I’m a bit thrilled & embarrassed at the same time to say that their English pronunciation (by a Dutch group!) would put many choirs in North America to shame.

I regret that I had to fly home the next day, and thus couldn’t attend Mass. Ah, well – there’s always next time!

And because there are just so many beautiful pictures of this church on flickr, here’s a small sampling:

Church of St. Nicholas
St. Nicolaaskerk, Amsterdam
st nicolaaskerk

2011 Simbang Gabi in Durham, NC

I noticed that people are searching for "Simbang Gabi" in Durham, NC. This year, I dropped out of the planning committee for this Mass; however, I can say this much: they are going back to the early Saturday morning Mass. So the Simbang Gabi Mass will be at Immaculate Conception Church this Saturday, December 17 at 5:30 am. A reception featuring traditional Simbang Gabi fare will follow in the Olive Tree Building.

At this point, that is all I know. Will I be there? Yes, I'll be there, but as a person in the pew and not as one of the organizers or a singer in the choir.

If you're in the area, and you don't mind getting up early for this wonderful Filipino tradition, please considering coming to this Mass.

David Durkop's Music on YouTube

It's interesting what one can find on the internet. I knew my friend, David Durkop, had some of his music recorded by Diane Bish on her Joy of Music program. Imagine my surprise and delight seeing three videos featuring his music! It's a shame he was misattributed. His surname is spelled "D-u-r-k-o-p" and not "D-i-r-k-o-p".

I will embed those three videos here. If you are interested in his music, please feel free to contact me via email or Kathy Parkins at First Presbyterian Church, Durham.

L'Esprit de Joie

Trumpet Tune

Allegro from Concerto in D

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

No more Buzz :(

I has a sad. They killed Google Buzz today. I know, the majority of my friends did not see the fascination with Buzz and thought it was an utter waste of time. But for a corner of the Harry Potter fandom, Buzz was a lifeline. It was a way for us to get together and interact. We shared our joys, our fears, our sorrows, our hopes, our dreams, our accomplishments, our failures... anything and everything in our lives, we shared with each other. One may say there are other outlets: Facebook, Twitter, etc. A whole community of people are mourning Buzz's demise, myself included. It was a wonderful tool.

Some of us are moving over to Google+. Others are trying other social media outlets. One thing's for sure: things just won't be the same without Buzz. RIP, Buzz.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ha! Behind again!

Sigh. So much for blogging every day in December. I managed to miss yet another two days.

Sunday: I really had to exercise the improvisation muscles. To be honest, I never thought I'd be able to improvise well. At all. I don't have the music theory to be able to do it logically. (I know. I'm such a scientist, aren't I?) However, necessity forces me to do it, and somehow, I manage to: 1) make it sound like music; 2) improvise long enough to cover the liturgical action, plus end it in such a way that it actually makes musical sense. Thank you, David Arcus, for giving me the kick in the pants required to make me consider even trying improvisation in the first place. (And David is particularly good at it.)

In the afternoon, I was able to join the NC Pinoy Choir in a caroling event in Raleigh. The picture above was taken of us before we started to sing. The choir is led by the talented Myra Odulio, and the members come from Durham and Raleigh, mainly. It's been a lot of fun singing with this group, and it allows me the opportunity to learn music in Tagalog... plus, it certainly doesn't hurt for me to be exposed to more spoken Tagalog. I tell them to please speak Tagalog around me. I find that the more I'm around it, the more Tagalog I remember, and sometimes, some Tagalog might even come out. I suppose my Tito Paeng (God rest his soul) was correct: if I'm immersed in it long enough, and he had thought 6 months to a year would do it, I'd be able to speak it passably. I already understand it, and it would be a short step from understanding to actually speaking.

We had our last Compline of the semester at Chapel of the Cross, and after the service, the choir members went off to the parlor for some noshes and wine. It was nice to just socialise with the other choir members before we all went off for the Christmas break. We'll be starting up again on January 8, the day before classes start up again at UNC Chapel Hill.

Monday: I really just wanted to take it easy on this day, and so take it easy, I did. I suppose if I did blog, I would have just tried to answer one of the writing prompts.

Tuesday: The day started off in Chapel Hill where I participated in the winter blood drive at the Woollen Gym. I could tell they really wanted people to come for this blood drive: they offered everyone who donated blood a soup cup and a recipe for chili blanca by Cat Cora. I was struck by how quickly and efficiently things went today. I know a complaint was the cold, but then again, it was a rather chilly morning. And the Woollen Gym is a rather large space. But I'm glad I did my part and gave a pint of blood. Now the American Red Cross can stop calling me for at least the next 56 days or so.

A friend of mine, who is resolute in his avoidance of anything social media, is in Spartanburg, SC on a business trip. (He lives in Miami, FL.) I was gob-smacked when he told me he wanted to drive up to Durham to see me. So I told him we'd have dinner at the Old Havana Sandwich Shop in downtown, and then if he really wanted to hear me hack away at the organ, we could just go across the street to First Presbyterian. He actually arrived at FPC half an hour earlier than expected. So we went off to Old Havana. Now fancy this: he's Cuban, and he's a vegetarian. Yes, you read that right. I had the impression that a Cuban who doesn't eat pork is like a fish that doesn't swim. In other words, inconceivable. ;)

Luckily for him, there were vegetarian options.

It was a lovely evening in the restaurant, and I'm glad Miguel had the chance to meet Roberto and Elizabeth.

After dinner, we went over to FPC, where I played the organ for him for about two hours. He had some requests, which I fulfilled for him, and I played a few Advent and Christmas pieces as well. We also talked Catholic liturgy as well. All in all, it was a pleasant evening. And yes, he drove back to Spartanburg. He said he had a meeting tomorrow morning that he needed to get to.

As I told him, I thought he was crazy to drive 8+ hours just to hear me play, but to each his own, so they say.

I spent the rest of the evening composing this blog post organising my foodie pictures on Facebook. I made a new album called "Food, Glorious Food." Have a look... if you don't mind the food pr0n dating back to 2010.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Last of the Roses

We've had an unseasonably warm Fall season thus far. For a while, I could have closed my eyes and imagined I was back in San Diego.

However, for the past few days, the temperature has dropped to more seasonable temperatures for central North Carolina (around the 50s F. by day, and falling to around freezing by night).

During the warmer stretch, during which we had a bit of rain, I noticed a couple of buds on the rose plant in the yard. I thought it was a bit late for that since it would have been past time for me to have cut back the rose bush. I just let it go.

Sometime late last week, I noticed the buds were starting to open. Today, after coming back from work, I decided it was a good time to harvest the flowers and cut back the plant. The picture you see are the flowers I cut from the plant earlier this afternoon.

I bought the plant from the Raleigh Farmers Market... I want to say maybe 4 or 5 years ago? I remembered being charmed by the tissue-like quality of the rose. I wish I kept the name of the plant.

Actually... curiosity led me to do a Google image search on the plant, and I was able to identify it! It's called Festival Fanfare. The Tacoma Rose Society has a page on the Festival Rose which may be accessed by clicking here.

I hadn't seen many pink-and-white variegated flowers like the one I'd seen on that bush, and if I recall correctly, it was the only one there with that particular colour and pattern. The next thing I knew, I was paying the money and taking it home with me.

So now, those two flowers are sitting in a vase in my bedroom. As winter approaches, I can look upon these roses and appreciate them. The trees are barren of leaves, and so, too, is the rose bush after having cut it back. Here's hoping that when the spring comes around, just like the trees, the bush will be awakened from its hibernation and yield beautiful variegated pink and white flowers once again.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mushy Brains

This is my brain on Fridays. Mushy.

There won't be any rest for the weary. So much work to do. So little time in which to do it.

Thank goodness for regular car maintenance. I was unaware that my rear brakes were in need of repair. After I got the car back, I was able to tell a major difference with the brakes. They're much more efficient now.

Earlier tonight, I was at a most delightful organ and brass concert with proceeds benefitting NAMI Durham (National Alliance on Mental Illness). It was a great evening of music for a great cause. I was glad that, despite lots of other musical events going on in town, there was a good turnout at tonight's concert.

I think I hear my bed calling me. It's time to visit the Land of Nod...

Signal Boosting: Dutch Winter Soup 'Snert'

My friend, Inge, who is the author of the Ars Vivendi blog, posted a recipe for one of her favourite winter time comfort foods. It is a Dutch winter soup called Snert. She says, "These are the dark days before Christmas. Here in the Netherlands, these days are typically windy, cold and wet. These are days where I like to bundle up with a hot drink and when I really yearn for comfort food."

It doesn't look difficult to make. I'd say it's thicker than the American split pea soup and appears to be every bit as flavourful, if not more so. Click here or on the picture above for the recipe.

Thanks, Inge!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Not Again! :(

Early this afternoon, my co-worker came by my office to let me know there was another shooting at Virginia Tech. My first reaction was, "Oh, no! Not again!" The people and community surrounding campus has been through so much; they didn't need something like this on top of it all.

A friend, who is a graduate student over there, reported that she was locked in the library. She said it was an awful tense few hours with high stress and hunger levels. Her message during the 5:00 pm hour, "We got the all clear, y'all," came as a relief. On one hand, I'm glad the ordeal was over for them. On the other hand, I was saddened to hear about the death of a police officer. It was just a routine traffic stop, and the shooter (not the person stopped but someone different) shot the officer, fled on foot, and was eventually found dead.

I cannot imagine what it was like for those on campus, especially those who were directly affected by the shootings in April, 2007. Prayers go to the officer, Deriek Crouse, 39, and his family, as well as his friends and colleagues. More prayers go to the community, who had their hearts broken yet again by senseless violence.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Just Another Day...

This morning, as I was driving in to work, I noticed the flags in Downtown Durham were flying at half-staff. I pondered that for a moment, and then it hit me: today, December 7, 2011, is the 70th anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor.

December 7, 1941. Killed: 2,402. Wounded: 1,282. Even though the Japanese had intended it to be a pre-emptive strike designed to keep the United States out of World War II, it actually had the opposite effect. The very next day, the United States declared war on Japan.

And the rest, as they say, was history.

I said a little prayer for those who lost their lives 70 years ago as I passed by the flags.

Not long after I arrived at work, I saw a Tweet that said actor Harry Morgan had died at the age of 96. Apparently, he had been suffering from pneumonia. I grew up watching Morgan portray Col. Sherman T. Potter in M*A*S*H. It was one of my favourite TV shows growing up. You can say I was obsessed. I loved his humour, but most of all, I loved the humanity he brought to the role. He made a really good show even better with his presence.

Admittedly, I'm still trying to catch up with the backlog of stuff left over from October and November. Slowly, but surely, I'll crawl out of the hole. I felt really really bad that the November newsletter for the local section of the American Chemical Society is still not done. I'm getting closer to finishing, though. I felt really bad that there are still some tasks undone for the American Guild of Organists. The task load for that is not as great, but there is still work to be done there. I felt even worse that I've left some authors waiting for a long time for one of the moderated archives for which I admin. Even worse is delaying big time on a couple of beta jobs. With this being Advent, the days leading up to Christmas is full of preparation, especially on the musical end. I'm glad I have a trip home to look forward to.

Tomorrow is another day. It is time to bid good night to this one.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Who, me?

I should have known the day would start out strangely.

After feeling happy that I finally got enough sleep to feel refreshed, I went into work only to be greeted with an email from someone claiming to be a "Reverend."

/rant on

I didn't read the email carefully, but this "Reverend" starts going on about how I will be damned to hell because of some belief or some activity I supposedly did or am engaged in. First of all, "Reverend," you don't even know me. (The email was not addressed to me, personally.) Since when do men of the cloth preach hatred? Second of all, it is not for you to judge but God. I glanced at that email and immediately hit the "Spam" button. I have no time for narrow-minded, hate-filled idiots like this supposed "Reverend." I throw shoes at this person, and may camel's spit contaminate him for eternity. :P

/rant over

On to happier news... somehow, I was at the "right place at the right time." Over at, they were announcing a live-blogging event: it was going to be announced that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be coming to Universal Studios Hollywood, and that the current WWoHP at Universal Studios Orlando would be expanded. I was keeping people on the Secrets of Harry Potter Facebook fan page up to date, and I eventually wrote a summing-up post on the podcast blog at Click here to read it. If WWoHP in LA is as popular as it is over in Orlando, it will definitely give a huge boost to LA's, and even Southern California's economy as a whole. And that can only mean good things for the tourism industry over there.

Back to work for me... still playing catch-up with life...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Catching up yet again

I should note to myself: sleep is important. The lack of sleep from yesterday still affected me today. I think an early bedtime will be beneficial for me.

Explaining the Oopses from yesterday:

#1. Yesterday, I played the 7:45 am Mass at Immaculate Conception. It was the first Mass I attended since the full implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. (I was travelling last Sunday and was unable to attend Mass.) Admittedly, I wasn't sure what to expect. We've been slowly introducing bits and pieces over the past several months. We began with the service music: Gloria, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation since Easter, 2011, and the Nicene Creed since Pentecost, 2011. I'll be honest—I am so very glad we're doing the Chant Mass. It took a while for the people to learn it, but learn it they did, and they sung it very well. The Kyrie was a call-and-response type of thing, and the 7:45 am congregation have always done very well with those types of settings. And of course, people have more or less memorised the Creed by now, so that was no problem. Before Mass, everyone was given a large card with the new responses, music, etc., that was produced by the Diocese of Raleigh. Also, the responses were pasted into the front and back covers of all the hymnals as well. However, the way the Mass began, after the Sign of the Cross, was:

Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with your spirit.

Uh... oops? And the other places where the response would be, "And with your spirit," people reverted to what they knew: "And also with you."

The cantor did speak the responses into the microphone, as did the priest, so hopefully, with those cues, the people will eventually get it.

As for me, I'm glad it's finally implemented. It was nice to pray the words instead of recite them by rote. It gives the opportunity to really pay attention to what the words are saying and to reflect and meditate on them.

#2. The Advent Wreath incident. Members of my choir noticed how low the Advent Wreath was hanging in the chancel. There was talk of raising it, and a couple of my choir members said, how difficult can that be, and took it upon themselves to give it a go.

I'll admit that I wasn't paying close attention; I was scurrying around the choir area, collecting music and such. The next thing I know, I see the wreath on the ground, a choir member holding the chain that had held it up, and another couple of choir members looking rather shocked at the wreath. They ended up going across the street to Whole Foods to borrow a ladder so they could put the wreath back to rights.

At the end of it all, the wreath wasn't raised up too significantly much, but it was just slightly higher than it was before. By the way, none of the candles on the wreath were lit yet, so a burning wreath was never a possibility. Thank goodness for little mercies? :P

I looked at the time and decided we wouldn't have enough time to rehearse the choir anthem (something out of the New Oxford Easy Anthem Book) and so after consulting with the clergy, I decided to replace it with 'O Come, O Come, Emmanuel' and have the congregation join in singing it.

And with that, I'm going to bed. I'm hoping to recover from this self-imposed 'jet lag' soon since I still have so many things on my to-do list that are not getting done due to a lack of energy on my part.

Until tomorrow...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

We has an oops...

It's been a very long day. This will be a very short post with a promise that I'll write more tomorrow to explain some of my cryptic blatherings here.

Oops #1: "And also... with your spirit." And I did, without thinking, exactly what I thought I'd do: slip into responses typical of Rite I ("And with thy spirit"... at the Gospel: "Glory be to thee, O Christ"...). More later on this and my first impressions of the new translation of the Roman Missal. (I do like it, but I can see it will take the people a while to get used to it. And this is despite those lovely cards that the Diocese of Raleigh made available to all parishes.)

Oops #2: Advent Wreath Catastrophe. You'll have to wait until I have more brain cells to explain this one. No candles, fir branches, or holly berries were harmed in the process of the oops, although a choir anthem had to be sacrificed.

Oops #3: So much for posting every day in December. I already missed a day. :P

Time for sleep...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Prompt for 1 December (Gifts)

What was the first tangible gift you remember receiving?

That's a hard one. To be honest, I don't really remember. Ha! :D

If I had to pick one, I'd say it would be my first piano. I don't have a picture of it here, but the one below is a close approximation of it.

It was a Baldwin Hamilton spinet piano. I was told later that, despite the name plate on the piano, it was probably more an Acrosonic ca. 1978 rather than a Hamilton. I guess the Hamiltons were more the studio upright pianos. Those of you who deal with pianos professionally, please feel free to correct me.

I did have a piano teacher way back then. Gwen Gorospe was the babysitter and the piano teacher. My memories of that time were not very vivid, but I did recall that reading music came easily to me, which put me in good stead later on when I didn't have a teacher anymore after Gwen graduated from high school.

I played the piano all throughout middle school and high school. I do remember when I was in... maybe it was high school? I don't remember... some of my band friends had asked me to accompany them on the piano. (I think they were mostly woodwind players...) I know how important it is to have a strong accompanist when you're a soloist, and I only hope I didn't lead them astray.

I stopped playing when I was in college, so the piano stayed in place, unplayed most of the time. I didn't start playing again until after I finished all my education, and then it became a haven for me. By that time, I was learning how to play the organ, and music became my refuge. Whenever I needed a break, or whenever I had some energy I needed to work off, I'd head for a church near me, slip in, and play the organ for a bit. Sometimes, I'd also play some piano pieces I hadn't played in years.

I'll be seeing the old Baldwin piano later on this month. My mum rang me up the other day, telling me my 10-year-old nephew wants to learn how to play the piano. So I'll find some Piano Adventures books and give him a start. I certainly hope my brother and sister-in-law will be able to find him a teacher so he could continue should he want to do so after I return to Durham.

At least I know the Baldwin will be played and not sit around, gathering dust.

Taking the plunge

I decided to try this again for December. Yes, another month of NaBloPoMo. Let's see how I do. Admittedly, I missed a few days in November due to travel, and I might do the same in December. We'll see. It was a good experience to blog every day, even if I felt like I didn't have anything to say.

There is a definite theme this month, so this time around, I'll give the writing prompts a go.

Happy Birthday to the December 1 babies! There are three amongst my friends I can think of... Brian B., Lanny P., and Marianne K. Enjoy your days! Hope you have many, many more to come! :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The end of November's NaBloPoMo

Well, what happened to November? This will be a short post. The Secrets of Harry Potter panel members (Ari, Denise, Jim, and me) recorded another show earlier tonight, and we had a special guest with us. Ah-ah-ah! You'll have to wait to find out who that special guest is! We hope to bring this person back again for another episode. Suffice to say, even though we fangirled and fanboyed him, he also fanboyed us, especially Denise. :)

It was a nice exercise to try to blog every day in November. I just might do the same for December. Unfortunately, I was too lazy to post my music lists, so those will definitely be back-dated when I get around to it.

Oh, and my impressions of how well the people adjusted to the new English translation of the Roman Missal will have to wait until Sunday. I was travelling last Sunday morning and was unable to attend Mass the first Sunday in Advent. Considering I'll be the one behind the Grand Orgue this Sunday, I'm sure to be there. All I have to do is acquire enough music theory in order to come up with a passable accompaniment for the Chant Mass we'll be doing. (I have zero training in that department, so what might seem easy for most is like pulling teeth for me. :( )

That is all for now...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Will you join me in prayer?

The Bishop of Raleigh, Michael Burbidge, has requested a novena on behalf of seminarian Philip Johnson to begin November 30 and go through to December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I've heard of him but have never had the pleasure of meeting him. Before entering seminary, he was in the Navy. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, and has been dealing with this with grace. He keeps a blog, In caritate non ficta, where he chronicles his pilgrimage through life and towards the Roman Catholic priesthood.

I find what he had written back in 2008 particularly moving:

As I deal with a brain tumor, I am not sad that it may eventually cause me to suffer and die. This will eventually happen to all of us, and we must be prepared to face death at all times by remaining in the state of grace. The single worry I face every day is that because of various circumstances - some of which are beyond my control - I may never know what it is like to serve God as the alter Christus I desire with all my heart to be. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine departing this world without pronouncing the words of Christ at the Last Supper, "This is My Body; This is My Blood," before gazing upon Our Eucharistic Lord in the greatest miracle ever known to man. I pray fervently that I may one day have the privilege of absolving sins - even if I only live long enough to absolve one - showing the same mercy that God has so often shown me despite my weaknesses and sinfulness.

Philip is in need of our prayers. Will you join me in prayer? Click here for the Novena prayer.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Last week of November. Now what?

Goodness. I'm still very tired. I guess I haven't quite caught up on sleep yet.

Time continues to march on. Cindy will be back tomorrow, and I'm sure the resident purring machine (i.e., Purrly the cat) will be very happy to see her. Purrly certainly was happy to see me when I came in. She was at the door when I opened it, and she has stayed by my side ever since. When I'm standing, she's winding her way around my legs. When I'm sitting down, she's on my lap. Starved for attention much, Purrly? ;)

November, where did you go? You passed by way too fast.

Happy birthday to my brother, Hermie! He's reached a milestone: the big four-oh. His celebration started last week, and it continues on. Rock on, brother, rock on. :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A new experience in tired

I. Am. So. Very. Tired.

That is all.

Well, okay, not quite. Even though I said I wasn't going to do this, I did it anyway: I left Chantilly at 5.00 am this morning. But I was so tired, and traffic on I-95 and I-85 was heavier than usual... and I ended up just barely making it in time for my 10:30 am service. I'm so lucky I have choristers who are capable of running a rehearsal on their own. (Thank you so much, Joel M., for pinch-hitting for me! And the choir did sound lovely on the anthem. :) )

I am so glad to be home... you have no idea how happy I was to see the "Entering the City and County of Durham" sign on I-85.

Tiredness Gaffe #2. At the 5:15 pm service, even though the priest announced "Hymn 59" for the opening, for some reason, I played Hymn 57. I played three lines of music before I realised, "D'oh! He said 59, not 57!" A quick glance at the hymnboard revealed I played the closing hymn instead of the opening hymn!

So I stopped playing, announced loudly that I started the wrong hymn, the congregation laughed nervously, I flipped a couple of pages ahead, and voilá: back on the right track.

After the service, the priest approached me, and he said, good-naturedly, "I knew I had announced the right hymn. Back in the old days, I worked with a cantankerous old priest who would have rapped his knuckles very hard on a pew and announce in a booming voice to the organist that he is playing the wrong hymn. I didn't do that with you, and I was ready to just announce we'll switch the opening and the closing hymns, but you caught it in time."

And this from a member of the congregation: "I love that closing hymn, and I can see why you wanted to get to it sooner." And he gave me a pat on the back as he walked past me.

It's time for bed. My eyes don't want to stay open anymore. So I'll obey the body and... zzzzzzZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Adventures in Lumpia-Making

Today was the last day we were going to be together in Northern Virginia. T. is on a bus back to New York City, and after dinner, I'll be driving back down to North Carolina. It was wonderful seeing my cousins again, and I hope we'll have the chance to see each other more often.

Today we decided to roll lumpia. Lumpia is the Filipino version of egg rolls. The filling is a vegetarian version using tofu (tokwa) instead of ground beef or pork. Ate S. made the filling before she went off to work.

We were going to do two varieties: fried (lumpiang pritong tokwa) and "fresh" (lumpiang sariwa). We had store-bought wrappers for the fried variety. We decided to try making our own for the "fresh" variety.

We had a lumpia rolling party. Kuya M. started us off, and he showed S2 how to roll one. (It's really more like rolling a burrito.) T. and I joined S2. The picture below shows our efforts before Kuya M. fried them.

And here is T. modelling the fried version:

I tried my hand at doing the fresh lumpia wrapper. I couldn't help but be mesmerised by the guy making it at this stall in the Philippines:

He makes it look easy, doesn't he? It wasn't, really. My finished product, even though it had the right taste, didn't look nearly as pretty as his, plus mine was much thicker. I suspect I didn't use the right pan. I do remember my mother using a an electronic griddle when making it.

How did I make it? Well, when I called my mum this morning, she said there were no proportions. "Just put flour in a bowl, add salt if you want, and then make a well in the middle. Add water slowly until you get the right consistency."

When I cooked the wrappers, I used a 10" pan with a non-stick surface. No oil or butter of any sort. I just heated it under medium heat until the surface got hot, and then just like the guy in the picture, I took the dough in my right hand, rubbed it on the surface of the pan, and when the edges started to come up, I picked it up with my left hand, turned it over briefly, then placed it on the plate.

And that's it. It's something I'll definitely practice more in the future.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday?

After all the excitement of yesterday, we had a very late start this morning. I had intended to make breakfast this morning; after all, I had put the rice on before I went to bed last night. I guess I woke up a little too late; Kuya and two of the three kids already had their cereal, so T. and I ended up having leftovers from last night while discussing what we might be doing for the day.

Kuya had a surprise up his sleeve... it is, after all, Ate S.'s birthday today, and like a good hubby, he wanted a nice surprise for her. So we decided to go visit Tita Edith's grave in Maryland before putting the birthday surprise into action.

Tita Edith was Kuya's mother, and had passed away in 2005 from breast cancer. So actually, this is T's first visit back here since Tita Edith had passed away. We got some flowers to lay at her grave, and we spent a bit of time there. S3 went along with us for the ride, so the four of us were there, and we had prayed a decade of the rosary before we went on our way.

The surprise: a new smartphone. We suspect Ate S. is happy with it, especially now that she can check Facebook more often and request vociferously to remove pictures of herself she doesn't like. ;)

A feast at Todai followed. All in all, it was a nice day, and it also allowed more bonding time for the Yalong cousins.

With regards to S3 (the six-year old)... she had found a ladybug this morning that still appeared to be alive. She decided to put it on a tissue paper and then let it go outside. I told her she did a very good thing by putting the ladybug outside.

Finally, Black Friday. Ate S. works at Walmart, and she had to work the midnight - 10:00 am shift early this morning. She said it was crazy with a capital C from the time she was there until 2:00 am. It was so packed, you couldn't even walk without bumping into someone. After 2:00 am, she said the crowds lessened considerably.

My friend, Sherrye, put it very well in her Facebook status. She is based in Long Island, NY, and it's a post-Thanksgiving tradition for her and her husband to spend the day in New York City. Of course, now that they have a toddler, they have to cut their daytrip short. Now it's an annual trip to FAO Schwarz.

She says:
So, I was wondering where the hell everyone was today. We drove to Manhattan (no traffic), drove down 2nd Ave (no traffic), and parked in Midtown. Had lunch (not busy), saw people on 5th Ave and in FAO Schwarz, and returned home w/o traffic... THEN I found out where they were.... sleeping, because apparently, a lot of morons ran to the stores in the middle of the night. (Emphasis mine.) Toys R Us looked like a tsunami hit it, but had no people in it. Weird culture we have.

I never remembered it being like this in years past. I do remember the sales at the Navy Exchange, and my mom would drag my brother and me with her, where we would be looking for the sales, but I don't ever recall it being as crazy as the Black Friday or even post-Christmas sales can be nowadays.

Time flies so quickly. Tomorrow, T. will be returning to New York City, and I will probably start driving back to NC tomorrow evening as well. I'm glad we're here, spending time together. :)

Catching up

So much for posting every day. Kind of hard when you're travelling. I'm in the metro Washington DC area (Virginia side) spending time with my Yalong cousins, one of whom I haven't seen since at least 2005.

23 November

After I left work, I went straight to Virginia Beach, where there was a Red Ribbon Bakeshop. Here is a little blurb from their Philippines site:

From its store in Timog, Quezon City what started out as hobby-induced business in 1979, turned out to be a proudly Filipino-owned and professionally-run business network. Red Ribbon has grown to over 200 outlets all over the country and 39 stores in the US with locations in California, Las Vegas, Arizona, New Jersey, Washington, Virginia, and New York.

So it was no surprise that I would be asked to drop by Red Ribbon on the way to my cousin's house. They had specifically requested: Ube Cake (A uniquely Filipino treat, ube chiffon cake covered with delectable white cream frosting and ube crumbs), Cake Sansrival (Tempting layers of crisp meringue wafers with creamy butter cream icing and scrumptious nuts), Classic Mamon (Soft, golden crown-like chiffon made with just the right heavenly sweetness and moisture that delicately melts in your mouth), and Pork Siopao (Steamed mini sweet buns filled with sweet, saucy pork (available in packs of 20)). Unfortunately, I was not able to come away with the sansrival because of its delicate nature and special processing needed. So I made a note to myself: call ahead of time, and bring a cooler equipped with dry ice. The cake would need to be frozen in order to be transported without it falling apart.

Now one would ask, "Lyn, you love cooking and baking. Why don't you try to make the sansrival yourself?" Good question. I've tried. Twice. They were both spectacular failures. Perhaps I'll try again in the future. We'll see.

I didn't get to my cousin's place until midnight. S. returned from work after 10.00 pm, and M. would not return from work until at least 1.00 am. It's just as well I was late, then. We ended up staying up until at least 5.30 - 6.00 am, chatting and doing some genealogy research on the Yalong, Sablan, and Miranda families.

24 November

I opened my eyes this morning, and the first thought that came to my mind was, "But I turned off the lights before I went to sleep at 6.00 am!" I rolled over... and realised that the brightness did not come from the lights overhead but instead came from the light streaming through the bedroom window. I noticed I had slept for about an hour and a half. So much for sleep. The old Alison Moyet song, "Where Hides Sleep" ran through my mind as I realised I would not be able to fall back asleep. I uploaded pictures of my Virginia trip to my Facebook account (which you may access by clicking here) and did a bit of knitting (and yes, I brought projects with me). I finally got around to booking my plane ticket home for late December. Could you believe there was at least a $200.00 price differential between leaving Christmas day and the day after Christmas? There was also a $150.00 price differential between leaving Jan. 3 as opposed to leaving Jan. 4... and it would be an overnight flight anyway (admittedly, my favourite kind... it helps that I can easily sleep on planes). So I'll arrive in San Diego on Christmas afternoon and stay for 12 days, 11 nights. I'm looking forward to it!

I ended up emerging from my room late morning and ascended to the kitchen, where I found my cousin rummaging around for breakfast. We ended up continuing our discussion from hours earlier, but we ended up fading a bit, so we decided on what we were going to do as far as the timing of the afternoon was concerned. T. was busing in from New York City, and her bus, was expected in during the 6.00 pm hour. I also spoke with my mum in the afternoon before finally dropping off for a much-needed nap.

It was great to see T. again, and I met her as she got off the bus at Union Station. After going on a soft drink run, we returned to the house and was greeted by the smells of wonderful food cooking in the kitchen. It was a veritable Filipino feast. (I didn't take pictures, but S2 did take a few pictures, which I'll probably "steal" from her at some point in time...) On the menu: broiled tilapia, ginataang labong (fresh bamboo shoots cookied in coconut oil), laing (spinach or other greens cooked in coconut oil... Bicol style is usually spicy, but this one was relatively mild), chop suey with tofu, roasted chicken, and marinated pork ribs and chops. Ginataang halo-halo (a sweet dessert soup generally consisting of saba bananas, sweet potato, glutinous rice balls, simmered in sweetened coconut milk) was dessert. We also had some sparkling apple cider that I brought with me from NC.

After dinner, we Skyped with the Yalong cousins in San Diego, and we chatted for a couple of hours. We announced that M., T., and I were going to try to track the Yalong, Sta. Maria, Sablan, and Miranda families. It was a happy coincidence that T. was constructing a genogram of the Yalong family as she was on the bus... especially since M. and I stayed up all night, discussing genealogy.

The Yalong cousins in San Diego are looking forward to seeing T. and me again for Christmas. It'll be nice to see them all again.

25 November

I'm starting to fade, so I'd best put this post to bed. Thanks for taking the time to read this little summing up post. I think on the plans for later on today, after S. returns home from work (dealing with Black Friday crowds... wish her luck!), will be more relaxing and spending time with each other, nomming on the ube cake from Red Ribbon, and then to celebrate S.'s birthday, eat out somewhere. T. and I will be visiting until Saturday afternoon, when we'll both return to our respective places.

I think that catches me up. So much for blogging every day. And now for a lovely nap. (I'm doubtful I'll be able to get a full night's rest tonight. :( )

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Cheers, and love to all,
Lyn :)

Well, I'm starting to

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Prelude to a holiday

It's hard to believe the Thanksgiving holidays are upon us. I'm planning to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my cousins in Virginia. One cousin will be busing down from New York City, and I'll be driving up from North Carolina. It's been a while since I saw T., so it will be great to see her again. I'm very much looking forward to seeing M. and S. and the kids once again.

For those of you travelling: be safe. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Once Upon a TV Show

After much urging from friends (*cough*Fr. Roderick*cough*) I finally got around to watching the pilot episode of Once Upon a Time. I will admit: I found it intriguing. I was able to see parallels to some very well-known fairy tales. It's very well written and very well acted. I can see why this show has appeal with many people.

Many are comparing Once Upon a Time with Lost. I've never heard of Lost, but then again, I never really was much of a TV watcher. (Must be the influence of those at SQPN...) So I'll leave it to those more knowledgeable to compare and contrast these two shows.

Admittedly, I'm watching more TV now than I did in the past several years combined. I also tried watching Pan Am, but I will admit that it hasn't really caught my attention as much as Once Upon a Time has done. I'll probably have a look at the next episode when I have a chance.

And I'm sure people will encourage me to have a look at Lost. Perhaps I will... one of these days.

In the meantime, speaking of SQPN, go to to have a look at SQPN's line-up of podcasts. It also includes a little podcast with which I'm involved, Secrets of Harry Potter.

Related to this post, do listen to Secrets of Once Upon a Time. It's more than just a recap show. Fr. Roderick, Dave, and Lisa actually do some analysis and comparisons, using the Secrets formula that has worked for SQPN over these many years. Click on the picture below to go to the Secrets of Once Upon a Time homepage. While you're there, why don't you subscribe to their iTunes feed? And while you're on that page, why don't you leave a positive review? Remember: reviews are love.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

More gratefulness

I went to the usual Sunday evening Compline service earlier tonight. It seems we had a smaller than usual group (as well as smaller than usual attendance...) but we put out a good sound, according to a couple of people who spoke to me after the service. (Just as a reminder, the Compline service is attended mostly by college students, but there are also members of the community who attend. Chapel of the Cross staffers have acknowledged that the Compline service has become their "seeker" service, and they do their level best to ensure those who go to this service feel welcomed and that they are part of the community.)

What a couple of them told me, however, came as a complete surprise to me. There was a father (maybe in his 70s) and his son (maybe in his 50s). They told me they were discussing the choir and their sound during the post-service refreshments. For them, Compline is one of their favourite services. The younger man, who loves baking, makes sweets and treats, which are well-received by the students.

So these men pulled me aside and told me that, in their opinion, there are two choristers who they consider "essential" to the success of this group. One of the basses (and a very talented vocalist at that) was cited as one of those "essential" choristers. Much to my surprise, they felt I was the other one. My reaction: "Oh, come on!"

I'm very flattered that they feel this way, but truthfully, there are others in the group who are better sight-singers, and just better overall singers than I am. Yes, I've been singing with this group on and off since 2004, but still... I'm just one part of the whole, and together, we make the sublime sounds we do every Sunday night during the academic year.

After tonight, we'll have another three Sundays before we take a break for the Christmas holidays. I believe we'll be back the second Sunday in January, 2012.

Oh, the grateful part of this post? It truly is nice to be appreciated, and I am grateful to these men for that. There is the American Guild of Organists' slogan, Soli Deo Gloria, and it's true: we do this all for the glory of God. I am grateful that I am able to offer my talents for this purpose.

I'll post my music lists shortly.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A very brief post

I felt like my entire day was off. I woke up feeling very sleepy, but I had promised to take a friend to the airport. So I did that... shared a breakfast with her at a favourite breakfast spot near her home... took her to the airport... then went back home and felt sleepy for the rest of the day. Not a very productive day at all.

I knew there was a reason why I try not to stay up too late... or if I stay up too late the night before, I stay in bed until I have at least 7-8 hours of sleep. Perhaps this is a reminder that I'm getting older. I cannot function on little sleep anymore.

Back to bed...

I fail.

I managed to miss a day during this month of blogging. The NaBloPoMo gods will be angry. (Not really.)

I had a good reason for missing out on blogging on November 18. Er... well, if I were in Hawaii, it would still be November 18 as I write this... they would just have two hours of November 18 left.

Back to my good reason for missing out on blogging. My friend (and very occasional co-blogger) Tyler had a business trip that took him to, of all places, Gastonia, NC. Once he finished in Gastonia, he drove to Chapel Hill, where we met for a late dinner at Whole Foods before continuing on to the Chapel of the Cross for some quality time with the Dobson and Kleuker organs. I told Tyler to take as much time as he wanted to... because of all the travelling he does for his job, he doesn't get the opportunity to practice as much as he'd like, so I'm more than happy to give him access to an organ or two for that purpose.

It was fun listening to him play... and I played through a few hymns as well. (It was a good excuse to practice the hymns I'll be playing in church on Sunday. :) )

We didn't leave Chapel of the Cross until well past 2:00 am. He's staying in a hotel in Research Triangle Park before catching a flight back to Vancouver sometime tomorrow afternoon. So at least he'll have some time to rest before travelling across the country, back home for a few days before he goes travelling again.

So that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.

In the #gratefultweet department: it's really, really nice to be remembered. I received an unexpected surprise in my mailbox earlier today. Kyria (one of my fandom friends) sent me a postcard from England. That is really sweet of her to think of me. Thanks much, Kyria! I hope you enjoy your stay in England, and safe travels upon your return home.

That's it for now. I guess I'll have a couple of 19 November posts... more if I feel up to posting my overdue music lists...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

As we go hurtling towards the end of the year...

As my buddy, Derek Chock, asked recently, "Did anybody else just realize that Thanksgiving is a week from today? My apologies if this is alarming news."

I chuckled when I read that on his Facebook page. Alarming? Maybe so because the time has just flown by. Where has November gone? Admittedly, it has been a very busy month for me thus far, and December will probably be even busier for me.

At least I have a couple of trips to look forward to. I'll be spending Thanksgiving with my cousins in Northern Virginia and Christmas with the family in Southern California. It'll be wonderful to see them again.

So today at choir practice, I spent a bit of time going over the music we'll be singing during Advent. There was a request from the Liturgy Committee to try to slow things down a bit as a reminder that we are waiting in expectation for the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. What better way to remember that than with the wonderful wealth of music available during Advent! It's one of those times when I wish Advent were longer than 4 weeks. So much wonderful music. So little time in which to hear them.

I'll close this post with a YouTube video of a Taizé piece: Wait for the Lord. Blessings upon you all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Time flies...

It's hard to believe that it's been ten years since the first Harry Potter film was released. On November 16, 2001, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone premiered in theaters.

Ten years and 8 films later, the Potter story unfolded on film. I've been looking at the teasers for this film, and it's fun looking through them. I'll embed the videos here. These come from Movies History on YouTube.

Teaser Trailer:

Trailer #1:

Trailer #2:

TV Spot:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A very full day, indeed

It's been a very busy day today... but a very satisfying one.

The Durham-Chapel Hill AGO had a chapter event earlier tonight at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Durham. It was a choral reading session, led by the chapter dean, Daniel Steinert. The featured publisher was Hinshaw Music, based in Chapel Hill. It was a small group, but it was fun singing through the pieces. There are a few that I can imagine my choir singing, so I'd say it was a success for me, personally. I just wish we had more people turning up. Note to self: Tuesday evenings are not a good when trying to schedule an event for a group of organists. Too many people wrote back and said they had rehearsals or some other plans.

The evening's event was preceded by a soup and salad supper. I had hired one of First Presbyterian's members to make the soup and put the salad together. Margot, who runs a catering business, did a great job, and everyone really appreciated the soup.

We also held a used music sale, and those present really dug into the music. I was chuffed that I only had 1 1/2 boxes of music left (having started off with 3 full boxes and one box about 1/8 full). The proceeds of the sale went towards a newly-established scholarship fund.

All in all, it was a great evening. In order to help out the sexton, I washed all the dishes and put all the food away. I'm sure he'll be pleasantly surprised to see how clean I left the kitchen. Having a nice dishwasher really helped immensely.

Now I'm tired tired tired. Onward to the next adventure... after a good night's sleep.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sense of Entitlement?

Earlier tonight, I was walking around downtown Raleigh (and I took this picture whilst walking down Blount Street). Not surprisingly, there were a few people on the streets, asking people for money. One man asked a group of young men for money. I had overheard them telling him they didn't carry any money or spare change. The man seemed to doubt these young men's word and started arguing with them. One of them said, "Well, sorry, but in this credit card world, no one carries cash with them anymore."

I couldn't help but notice when that young man had told the beggar that. "In this credit card world, no one carries cash with them anymore." It's so true. I stopped carrying cash because I could pay for everything with my debit card or hop on-line and buy stuff that way.

I also noticed the man begging for money didn't take no for an answer. I didn't stick around to see how their conversation ended, but I assumed it was not long after I had left them because this group of young men caught up to me at an intersection whilst I was waiting for the light to turn green. It made me wonder where the beggar got his sense of entitlement. There seems to be a lot of that going around.

Earlier today, a rather irate caller started scolding me and demanded to speak to 'only a pastor' after having stated that he was on the verge of being evicted. He had called us two weeks ago, asking for assistance for rent. I referred him to someone else since I generally do not deal with calls asking for financial assistance.

This person ended up speaking in a rather rude manner to the person I passed the phone to, ranting on about how "all [particular Christian denomination] churches should close because they are poorly run and cannot honour the request of those begging for help." I was shaking my head. This man was staying in a hotel and demanded that we and other social agencies pay his bill? He was single had no dependents. In the meantime, there are others who have children to feed, bills to pay, etc., who needed assistance more than this guy. (I know, it sounds mean when I put it that way.) It's almost like he was saying that because we are a church, we are obligated to help him because that's what churches do, throw money at people who beg for it.

Now that was someone with an inflated sense of entitlement. What makes this single man, staying in a hotel, more worthy of assistance than a single woman (or man) with dependents, who were trying to genuinely support themselves, but the money, stretched thin enough as it is, was not enough to cover food, bills, rent?

And then there is a single man who keeps coming to the doors, insisting we have to give him food or give him gift cards to the local grocery store. Same reason: we are a church, and we're obligated to help everyone who comes to the door. Well, I have news for you and all the other people with an exaggerated sense of entitlement: Sometimes the answer is "no."

And sometimes, you will have to accept that "no" answer.

Enough of the rant. Tomorrow will be a busy day. I'm looking forward to an event with the Durham-Chapel Hill chapter of the American Guild of Organists: a choral reading session, featuring anthems published by Chapel Hill-based Hinshaw Music. It should be a good session.

But first... bed. And reading the insides of my eyelids. ;)