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! :)