Merry Christmas to All!!

As I write this, our children are off to the movies in celebration of our family's Christmas boy, our Immanuel's, 20th birthday. I decided to stay home and spend some quiet time to contemplate and meditate on the miracle of the birth of The Christ Child, THE Immanuel (God with us). As I contemplate on this Christmas Story, I am in awe. What a miracle indeed! From the angel Gabriel appearing, to Mary's "yes" (as in Luke 1:38: "may it be to me as you have said."), to the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude and joy leading me to pause from writing for now and savour the joy that seem to be engulfing and embracing me at this very moment.
Merry Christmas to All!!

Babes in Toyland

More Babes in Toyland photos from the dress rehearsal courtesy of Tracy

at the toy factory after Isabella's french doll dance

The Fairies

Isabella's inspiration, Ms. Tara
Ms. Tara is such a beautiful, graceful and inspiring dancer
the darling sheep with their incredible and awesome teacher/artistic director, Ms. Molly.

Babes in Toyland

a huge success!! Absolutely fantabulous show!!

here's a couple of photos from my friend, Tracy. I did not bring my camera to the performance. I got busy with set up and ticket sales. Thanks for the photos Tracy and for being a great costume mistress for Isabella.

here is Isabella at the dressing room as French Doll
with GFF, Sonja, as Toymaker's Assistant
they had a make-up artist create Isabella's french doll look

and here they are after the show as darling sheep

Babes in Toyland

Tomorrow is THE Big Day for Coastal Chamber Ballet and Coastal Dance & Music Academy. The debut of their first ever ballet production, Babes in Toyland. We are all very tired but very excited. This is what's been keeping Isabella and I very very busy these past couple of weeks. Isabella has been hard at work with rehearsals. My own little contribution is making the programs. I finally got done with layout, folding and stapling all 400 booklets (with the help of some of my angel elves:) Tomorrow is the culmination of everyone's hard work. It promises to be a wonderful ballet production. I will keep you posted on this exciting show. But for now, here are some photos I took from today's dress rehearsal.

Isabella is The French Doll in Act I

She is so very excited for this role as she pops out of a big gift box.

here's a photo with her very close friend, Sonja, on the right as the Toymaker's Assistant,

and with Molly, as Mary Contrary.

here's the entire cast of Act I in front of the school

Here is Isabella as a sheep in Act II with Holland as Bo Peep

And the entire Act II cast

Indescribable Title

My husband has been without a contract since June. For almost six months now we have been living off of our savings, maintaining two homes, and supporting 4 children, 2 in College. Despite the seemingly negative situation, by the loving grace of God, I am drawn, even more so now than ever before, to all the blessings that I have been...well, blessed with. Blessings that cannot be quantified nor shaken by the instability of the world around us. Blessings of a wonderful family and friends, of health, of faith, and of the love that binds us all together, near or far.

I am so grateful for all my friends. Most of them are far away from me and yet their love is ever so close. These past few days I have been blessed with wonderful and uplifting conversation and fellowship with friends closest to my heart. Thank you to my dearest friends...angels sent to me....

My loving husband,Russ, has become my closest BFF:) Thank you my DH for trying your best to stay positive and never losing hope. I am so grateful for all your love for me and our kids.

tita Rose, ate Lolit and are very instrumental in my spiritual growth. thank you for all your love and prayers.

ate are my role model, a beacon on a hill...thank you for all your encouraging words, your time and unconditional love.

GFF are my only close friend here in Pismo. I am so glad our amazing Lord God put us is each other's path. Thank you for always thinking about me...we will continue to uplift each other.

ate Cecile...though we are far from each other and busy life happens, I know that you are and will always be there for me. Know too that you are always in my thoughts and prayers.

Paz...thank you for always being there for me and for your love and care to my darling son, Immanuel.

ate dear cousin thank you for thinking about me and sending uplifting emails like this one...

Subject: Blind girl.
It's not so much the story but the underlying message

There was a blind girl who hated herself
because she was blind.
She hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend.
He was always there for her.

She told her boyfriend,
'If I could only see the world, I will marry you.'

One day, someone donated a pair of eyes to her.
When the bandages came off, she was able to see everything,
including her boyfriend.

He asked Her,'Now that you can see the world,
will you marry me?'
The girl looked at her boyfriend
and saw that he was blind.
The sight of his closed eyelids shocked her.
She hadn't expected that.
The thought of looking at them the rest of her life
led her to refuse to marry him.

Her boyfriend left in tears
and days later wrote a note to her saying:
'Take good care of your eyes, my dear,
for before they were yours, they were mine.'

This is how the human brain often works when our status changes. Only a very few remember what life was like before, and who was always by their side in the most painful situations.

Life Is a Gift

Today before you say an unkind word - Think of someone who can't speak.

Before you complain about the taste of your food - Think of someone who has nothing to eat.

Before you complain about your husband or wife - Think of someone who's crying out to GOD for a companion.

Today before you complain about life - Think of someone who went too early to heaven.

Before whining about the distance you drive
Think of someone who walks the same distance with their feet.

And when you are tired and complain about your job -
Think of the unemployed, the disabled, and those who wish they had your job.

And when depressing thoughts seem to get you down -
Put a smile on your face and think: you're alive and still around.


Happy Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful, casual, intimate, and relaxing family Thanksgiving.

We planned on driving to our home by the bay last Wednesday, but I caught a cold. My DH and I were both feeling "icky" Wednesday morning so we decided to stay put. We called our darling middle son, Immanuel, to come drive up here instead. He arrived late Wednesday afternoon and Isabella was ecstatic having all her brothers around her (another one of my heavenly moments:)). I am truly grateful. We stayed up until 2am (I talked them to sleep:)).

We had a late start Thanksgiving morning. My DH prepared the turkey (you know me and cooking don't go very well together not to mention my bird phobia:), and that is a really big bird). Our darling son, Phil, prepared the stuffing. I prepared apple and pumpkin pies (Mrs. Smith's:)). Then we had all the trimmings...mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry, and candied yams. yum! (but I'm dying for filipino foods:)). Then we feasted but not before we said our grace full of thanksgiving for we are indeed, truly grateful.

Though I'm not very good at taking photos, and the fact that my family aren't really camera friendly, I managed to capture a couple of precious Thanksgiving memories....

The boys left for our home by the bay with Immanuel. It's brotherhood bonding time for them. And they'd be able to bring me back some filipino foods:).

All Decked Out

Before we were all decked out....

And now, we're ready....

for Christmas!

Please Come on in....

Deck the halls....
A reindeer on the entry hall.

And an angel that welcomes...
before her Christmas ball, she had a pumpkin.

Deck the halls...

and the walls...

On the dining area wall, a reminder to Give Thanks

Deck the Halls...

fa la la la la...

la la....

la la!!...

Our tree is up!!

A different angle...from where the tree stands...

LA..LA...!!...our 2008 Wishlist...


The Art of Life

And the message?'s all about LOVE.


What we are is God's gift to us.
What we become is our gift to God.
-Eleanor Powell

Christmas Card and Newsletter Check!

I am finally done designing our Christmas card and writing our Christmas family newsletter. I did not get to schedule a family photo shoot as I had hoped to do, but, luckily for me, we have a very nice formal family photo from our cruise this year.

For the last 13 years, a family Christmas newsletter has been an annual part of our Christmas tradition. It used to be included with our Christmas cards. But for the last two years, for "green" efforts, our newsletters were only made available online. This year though, I decided to again include our newsletter with our cards. In as much as I don't like paper clutter, the whole preparation adds to the festivities of the season, not to mention the several older family members having accessibility and navigating issues with the world wide web.

Newsletters is a great document of family "happenings" over the years. I have it filed in one place. Isabella had a timeline project a couple of weeks ago. We took out our newsletter binder and voila...we had her timeline joyfully done in no time.

Here is this year's very simple Christmas card lay-out

Here is the photo pasted on the Christmas card I found for $1.99 for a package of 16!:)

Then inside I attached our newsletter, designed the same size as the card, booklet style.

Now I can enjoy assembling the cards and addressing the envelopes. and decorating. and presents. and food. and family. and friends...ahhh the joys of Christmas!

Joyful Home Schooling for a Day

Isabella got sick last week and was not able to go to school for several days. We got her work from school and spent a whole day home in from 9:30am to 9:30pm (her teacher gives a lot of work...which she loves and welcomes with open arms). But if you really know me, you know that teaching is not my "cup of tea"'s my DH, Russ', department. Unfortunately, both for myself and our DD, Isabella, daddy is at our other home 300 miles away. So, challenging as teaching may be for me, I had no choice. Luckily for me though, I have an angel student. Not only is she an eager, willing and a very able student, every time my patience starts to wear out, she calls for a "recess"...her "too blessed to be stressed" reminder to my angel, indeed. Thank you, Dear Lord, for turning what I thought would be a challenging day to one of my heavenly moments. It was a great home schooling day for both of us. She prepared our "school" in our dining room complete with a white board for me. I was truly a blessed teacher that day...I am {Simply Grateful}

Family Update

I turned 41!

I read somewhere that birthdays is the beginning of one's own personal new year.

So I guess it's time for my own personal new year's resolutions...(stay tuned on a separate post)

for now, a family update...

I had to work in the morning of my birthday at the dance studio. I also worked the previous afternoon so I was kinda tired when I got home. I was pampered by my DH Russ as he bought me lunch and served it in bed. Then he made a sumptuously creative dinner, a combination of 10 different vegetables on a bed of pasta (no name for this particular I said...creative!) We had a very nice and healthy family dinner with corn and salad. And of course, it won't be complete without my favourite chocolatey cake not to mention a happy birthday song and dance number from my DD and the family's dancer. Then there were great well wishes from family and friends closest to my heart. It was a blessed 41st birthday...I am {Simply Grateful}.

P.S. there were no candles on the cake in fear of activating the fire alarm:)

The night before...Happy Halloween '08

Here is our "mooning pumpkin" ...Isabella's idea she got from one of her library books.

It got plenty of chuckles from Trick-or-treaters

Isabella's creative costume she handmade herself. She painted a cardboard and downloaded a creepy font to label it "Monster Gum".

I don't know what Phil is supposed to be. The red cape is supposed to be Ian's as a Spartan but his helmet was not ordered. So Phil used it as a Mexican something instead.

Living a Grateful Life

The season of gratitude is upon us...Thanksgiving is just around the corner. For me, living a grateful life is living defined...not just a season, but a way of life. The photo above is a wall art in my kitchen serving as a daily reminder of grateful living. The Inspired Room has a great list of 20 Little Attitudes of Gratitude. I have my usual top three to share that have helped me cultivate an attidute of gratitude essential to simple and joyful living.

3 Ways to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

1. Journaling

I used to have a dedicated blogsite for what I call my {Simply Grateful} posts (they are now consolidated here for simplification). They are my personal journals of thanksgiving, which are normally entered as bulleted lists, as there are numerous things I am always grateful for everyday.

Here is my {Simply Grateful} list for this week:
  • pumpkins on the pier

  • having the company of DH Russ and DD Isabella at church

  • a wonderful message on marriage (note to self to make a separate post for this topic)

  • sharing in Isabella's joy when we took her to watch High School Musical 3 after church

  • for the grace of being able to find joy in days that may not be as joyful
There are days when we are thrown a "curve ball". It happens to all of us every now and then. It's the enemy's way of trying to steal our joy. But when we are centered or balanced from joyful living brought about by an attitude of gratitude, we can hit even a curve ball. That's when you give the enemy a black eye. That's when you show the enemy you're a powerful woman.

Tuesdays are normally my "creative" day and I look forward to well, doing something it writing or organizing or decorating. I also look forward to attending my body flow class, my holistic workout of choice. Well, this particular Tuesday, our son Ian called from school and the school nurse advised I take him to a doctor as she suspects a pink eye. Most of the day was spent at the Urgent Care and at Rite Aid. So I decided to use the time as precious bonding time with my highschooler. Ian is taller than I am now and yet the pharmacist at Rite Aid thought he's an 8th or 9th grader. She said he has baby face (I quickly reminded him that it is from good genes:) and something to be very grateful for). We had a nice mommy-son time as this particular son enjoys teasing and tickling me. I even got him to do some chores with a smile. I think it was one of my best "creative" days...I think I hit the curve ball way out of the ballpark...and I am {Simply Grateful}.

2. Quiet Time

See my post on Once Upon a Solitude where I shared 3 Inspirations for a Rewarding Quiet Time. I cannot stress enough the importance of a personal quiet time in my life. I can see and feel the difference in my day when I am not able to make time for it. I don't feel centered and therefore I am easily thrown off balance by some of life's "curve balls".

3. Walls of Gratitude

Like the inspirational wall art in my kitchen, I love surrounding myself with reminders of grateful living. I also made an inspiration wall in my office area in our masters bedroom (still in progress), which I placed intentionally as the first thing I see the moment I open my eyes when I wake up in the morning.

This inspiration wall is filled with things that are close to my heart, like memories of precious family togetherness, faith notes post-its, and other things that serve as reminders of a joyful life. It's a great way to wake up, stretch, and say a quick thank you for another day with wonderful possibilities.

Then there's a wall art in my bathroom that says: "Joyful is a Happy Heart" the next thing I see as I brush my teeth:)

And when I go to the kitchen to prepare breakfast there are yet several inspiring wall arts reminding and greeting me daily.

Well that's my top 3 suggestions in cultivating an attitude of gratitude so essential in living a simple and joyful life.

"Smaller with Bigger Soul" Home

"Not everything that can be counted counts,
and not everything that counts can be counted."
-Albert Einstein-

I used to think bigger is always better...until we found our home by the sea. I never thought I would prefer a smaller house. But it was like love at first sight (as with all our homes:)). I remember previewing over 20 properties in one weekend. I also remember 2 homes that stood out from the rest. They were completely opposite was big and exquisite while the other, now our home, is a smaller single level home that nurtures the soul. I am so glad I followed my heart (or should I say led my heart...since my then "bigger is better" mentality was trying to confuse my disposition). By the grace of God I was guided in choosing a home that feeds the spirit. My used to be "bigger is better" perspective is now superseded by a more refreshing and inspiring outlook on our not so big home I now call..."smaller with bigger soul".

3 Benefits of a "Smaller with Bigger Soul" Home:

1. Favors the quality of its spaces over the quantity.

We used to have a 3,642 square foot home that had a lot of wasted and unused spaces. Of the 5 bedrooms, not including the retreat off the masters nor the office loft, we only used 3. Our family love staying together in one room. We also only used 2 1/2 of the 4 1/2 bathrooms. Our formal spaces were only used pretty much when we have company. Then there was the separate third car garage I converted into a craft room (check out photo here) only to find out I felt so detached from the rest of the family.

Our present just-a-little-over 2000 square foot "smaller with bigger soul" home has each space in use every day. It feels so nourshing to the soul to see the whole family at work in every space. Our formal dining room is a conducive study area. The boys room doubles as a play room, while Isabella's room doubles as a dance practice room. Both rooms even work overtime as a guest room when company comes. Our master's bedroom has an area for home office and an area for "retreat".

2. Nurturing and welcoming over impressing and overwhelming

The grand entrance of our then bigger home, with its curved staircase and soaring ceilings spanning 2 levels and more, is designed to impress and overwhelm.

Our now open and inviting home is designed to nurture and welcome. Though the ceilings do not boast of soaring height, its 11 foot ceilings and open floor plan invites a lot of natural light in, bringing warmth to its gleaming hardwood floors that say "come on in". Comfort is born of smaller scale. Whenever I pause and sit down to savour the warmth and beauty of our "smaller with bigger soul" home, I feel its warm embrace anywhere I am in the house.

3. Efficiency

One of the biggest benefit I found in downsizing from a big house is efficiency. There’s less square footage to heat and cool, fewer rooms to declutter and clean. A big house becomes just one more chore to maintain. A smaller home inspires me daily with feelings of appreciation for the richness that abound. A great example of "Less is More". Less time cleaning, more time to enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Looking back now, I can't believe I thought I would not prefer a smaller home. And I can't believe I even thought I would grieve downsizing from our big home for a long time (confession time). Thank God for turning what I thought would be grief to joy beyond words. Our "smaller with bigger soul" home invited me into solitude bringing me to a whole new me.

These are just my own perspective from my personal experience in downsizing.
What about you? Would you prefer a smaller home over a bigger one?

This post has been inspired by Melissa of The Inspired Room and she has some wonderful ideas on Small House? 10 Big Ideas
I consider it a great blessing chancing upon this very inspiring blog. It's a source of inspiration for me and I absolutely recommend it.

Pumpkins on the Pier '08

It's Pumpkins on the Pier once again. Russ arrived early this morning in time for breakfast and the 8th annual trick or treat extravaganza of the City of Pismo Beach.

We took Isabella and she had a grand time decorating her pumpkin.

Meet Mrs. Einstein....her decorated pumpkin complete with glasses.

She entered Mrs. Einstein in the decorating contest

Mrs. Einstein is the only one with glasses amongst all the entries.

Isabella had time for a quick face painting before announcement of the winning pumpkins.

Here is Mrs. Einstein in the winner's table (smiling despite her fallen ear:) as she won most creative in the 9-12 yr. old age group.

And here's proud dad with Mrs. Einstein and darling daughter with spider on her face.

Then off we go trick-or-treating at the shops. It was a very fun morning for us. Our fun day is not over yet... a short break and we're off to Isabella's ballet practice for CDMA's 1st ballet production come December. She had fun practicing as a french doll for Babes in Toyland. And of course we brought Mrs. Einstein with us to show her friends and teachers. They all thought she was pretty creative.