I think the last time I was in France for Easter was in 2000, yup 18 years ago. I was still in school for my MBA and it so happened that France is where we were for Easter during my Marketing in the European Union class. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. This time around, Easter in France was very family-centered where we spent a couple days catching up with Richard’s parents and his brother’s young family. The few days with family is definitely worth it now that the girls’ cousins are a tiny bit older. I’m so eager for them to make memories to last a lifetime.
We also took advantage of the less popular tourist season to visit Versailles, which is only an hour and half away from Normandy. The girls were in awe of everything, not having seen anything like Versailles before. The visit was also timely as Chiara just finished learning about the history of Versailles with her French tutor, Aurore.
Spring has definitely started when we were France. There were a few cold days in the beginning of our vacation but it was about 80 degrees the day we headed back to the US. It was a short visit but traveling with the girls has gotten so much easier now that they are older. I wonder if we can pull off frequent but short visits like that to France more often in the future…
This winter seems to drag on especially this year as we get hit with one Nor’easter after another. What’s weird though is that despite the usual winter doldrums, January and February are just a blur in my mind, perhaps because we spent most of it recovering from the holiday madness and just dealing with the usual stress of school life and activities. Nonetheless, there were birthdays in February (Chiara’s and my nieces’) that came and went. I’m glad that I at least have photos to keep memories fresh.
As with every birthdays now, I find myself musing about the quick passage of time and how I need to appreciate every single birthday that my girls celebrate at home. In a few years, this will not be my reality anymore. So when C asked to have six girls sleep over for her birthday and invite them for brunch to Sugar Factory in the city the next day, I acquiesced. While I knew it would be onerous and exhausting, I also realize that I will miss my girls’ and their friends’ giggles and laughters one day. In a few years, those joyful sounds will be nothing but echoes from a not-so-distant past. So I try to hold on and cherish what I’ve got today.
I would not have have been exposed to Beacon, NY, if not for my sister who got married there a few years ago. About an hour drive from the city as well as Northern New Jersey, Beacon is fun little town that resembles Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens Brooklyn before it became heavily populated by hipsters (no offense, but I happen to have lived in Brooklyn before the millennial invasion, just saying). An artsy bohemian town where you cannot find big box store chains, Beacon is also where the Dia Art Foundation‘s suburban outpost, Dia:Beacon can be found.
Located in an old Nabisco packaging factory, Dia:Beacon has about 160,000 square feet of exhibition space, which is ideal for a lot of large-scale art installations by artists such as Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Richard Serra. I thought it would be a drag to take the girls here since they have limited tolerance for art museums these days but they actually enjoyed their visit perhaps because the space isn’t really your typical museum. After spending a few hours at Dia, I highly recommend walking around Beacon’s town center, which features tons of unique little shops and restaurants that you won’t find elsewhere.
I’m sorry that I’ve stayed away from this space the past several months. 2017 was a challenging year, fraught with personal loss, life transitions and so much negativity in our political environment. I spent most of the time away from here focusing on re-centering my family, counting my blessings while still going about the day-to-day. Honestly, I did not think I was going to go back to blogging. What transpired in the past few months, the struggles and the eventual death of a family friend’s son, made me feel that what I was writing about was so trivial in relation to the sadness and despair around me.
And yet, the past few weeks, I felt an inner tug that was pulling me back here, to write and take photos once more, to feel the joy in the small things and find the beauty in the everyday. I guess I also miss making personal connections here as well as making myself accountable to make the most of my life, to be present in the moment and not to get lost in the dark pathways of my past. So here I am, again, back to blogging, maybe not posting as often as before but still around.
I want to share some photos below of our holiday trip to celebrate Richard’s milestone birthday in St. Lucia. There so much about this Caribbean island that reminds me of my birthplace, the Philippines — the cuisine, the beautiful water that surrounds the island, the fruits, the topography, the vegetation. I love the St. Lucians’ easygoing friendliness and hospitality but what I truly enjoyed is the mixture of British/French culture along with that of the local island. As my oldest daughter Chiara says, “St. Lucia, I’ll be back.”
St. Lucian landmark, the Pitons
La Soufriere volcano
This is not a sponsored post, just my own personal view.
One of the highlights of my girls’ birthdays and other milestone events over the years has been the cupcakes baked by Karen Zorn from Dulce & Petit. She is a local Jersey girl who will work with you on whatever creative ideas you may have for your special occasion. I love that Karen uses high-quality ingredients and accommodates any dietary needs we may have. For Ines’ birthday celebration this past weekend, Karen worked with my request to have cupcakes that are nut and egg-free. Ines was a little hesitant about not having any chocolate in the menu but she wanted to make sure that her friend with allergies would be able to enjoy the cupcakes like the rest of her group. Over the years, Karen and I have worked on creating cupcake decorations that fit the girls’ interests du jour, which means a running-inspired theme for Ines right now.
Here are other ideas and themes that she has done for us:
…Peas in a pod for my sister’s twin baby shower
…Chiara’s grade school graduation cake
….Harry Potter theme
…First Communion Cookie Party Favor
I can’t tell you how many joyous memories are associated with each of these cupcake themes. As I was going through these photos with the girls, I cannot help but smile as we travel down memory lane and rekindle special moments together.
If you want more information on Karen and Dulce & Petit, you can visit her Facebook page. And for you urban dwellers, Karen is open to working with clients based in NYC as well. She is great to work with and always open to collaborating on affordable creative cake themes that taste delicious.
Do you feel like the apocalypse is just around the corner? I sometimes do. I am an optimist at heart and never really liked dwelling on the negative for too long. But, geez, it just feels like we are stuck in this dark period for awhile, with big heavy clouds hovering above us that simply would not go away. From the Vegas massacre and Puerto Rico’s hurricane devastation to taking the knee during the national anthem, our world is burdened with many vexing issues that can make us all feel sad, confused and angry.
Naturally with all these developments, our children, especially younger teens and below, absorb what is going on and internalize family discussions heard at home. They then become our little ambassadors to the world representing the views held by us, their parents. The only problem is that we live in such divisive times where no one can seem to agree on many things. Debates, at least at my older daughter’s middle school, often leads to an “us versus them” mentality, which causes rifts even among the closest of friends.
I am not sure exactly how much I should interfere in my girls’ lunchtime discussions. But there are a few things I do try to tell them. First, I encourage them to hear the other person out and not to get too emotional about the issue. After all, no one likes to feel like they are getting attacked for their personal views. Second, I urge them to seek out people not like them so they will get exposure to others’ viewpoints and thinking. Third, I try to steer them to the causes of the underdog, the vulnerable, those who may not have the voice to defend themselves.
Again, with the polarization of America, it is hard not to offend others these days. I do hope that the foundation we have given our girls to accept others and embrace diversity will have a lasting influence on them as they venture further in life. I hope that they will also always remember that a little kindness and empathy go a long way. What about you guys? How are you handling these difficult times with your children?
It’s only been three weeks since the girls started school and yet I am already beginning to feel a bit lethargic and stressed out from our usual routine. The constant driving to and from activities, the numerous school forms, the different deadlines are enough to make any parent seek those dog days in July when the kids were driving us bonkers from restlessness and boredom. It is easy to feel frazzled and stressed out but we must keep in mind how easy our inner moods and disposition can permeate and affect our kids’ attitudes toward schooling and activities. Our kids are smart and sensitive and they can easily detect when we support or hate certain things that they are doing. So how do we cope with the drudgery often associated with parenting and avoid burn-out? Here are a few ideas:
- Think of the end goal – Remember why you are taking your child to different activities. Is it to help him get more comfortable with Math? Is it to work on his soccer skills? Don’t resent him or the activity because of the time commitment, just focus on why you are doing what you are doing and help your child get there.
- Days are long, the years are short – Another mom said this to me when the girls were little. I had a hard time agreeing to this expression then when I was constantly sleep deprived and pretty much in zombieland 24/7. However, now that the girls are grown and high school is not a distant reality for us, I realize how precious the remaining time I have with them. The girls will be gone one day and this juggling act will be nothing but a distant memory. Just remember to make everyday count!
- Three things – I recently heard this meditation strategy at my older daughter’s school. At the beginning of each day, think of three things that you are grateful for. Then at the end of the day, think of three acts of kindness that you might have done toward someone. Reflecting this way grounds us and helps us remember what is good in our lives and forces us to think in selfless terms.
- Have fun with your kids – Make sure that you have fun quality time with your kids. When you are in the car with them, listen to the music they like. Unplug and tell them not to use their cell phones. Kids are usually more relaxed in the car when they do not have to look directly at us. Start by asking small questions about their day but let them take the lead; they are likely to clam up if you pry them to open up beyond their comfort level. And make sure that you give them undivided attention when they do finally open up.
- Take time for yourself – Regardless of whatever utopian or benevolent approach we take in parenting, we all need to have time away from our roles as parents, providers and caregivers. Make sure to do something just for you on a weekly basis. What were your passions before kids? Do you have new interests you would like to pursue? Remember to always stoke the fires of creativity and individuality that make you vital and happy.
Hope some of the ideas above help. Let me know what your strategies are to cope with parenting juggling act. I would love to hear them!
I always enjoy the first September weekend edition of the New York Times when its Art section dedicates a whole supplement to upcoming museum exhibits and shows. There are endless possibilities of things to check out that I often wish I have an infinite amount of time to go museum hopping and do nothing else. One day, I will have the luxury of time when the girls are grown but for now I’ve limited my list of must-see fall exhibits to six venues that I’d like to share with you.
- Met Museum: Retrospective on David Hockney – An amazing exhibit that has traveled from the Tate in London and Centre de Pompidou in Paris is now here stateside. I saw this exhibit in August in Paris and was blown out of my mind with the expanse and breadth of Hockney’s work. Hockney simply does not stop creating and innovating even in his advanced age of of 87. On view from 11/27-2/25.
- MOMA: Louise Bourgeois’s Unfolding Portrait – Famous for her sculptures, this exhibit highlights Bourgeois’ talent in drawing as hundred of her prints will be on view for the first time at the museum. On view from 9/24-1/28.
- Montclair Art Museum: Charles Burchfield’s Weather Event and Philemona Williamson’s Metaphorical Narratives – Okay, I have to admit I’m a docent at the museum so I am a little biased here. I do love the fact that the museum follows last year’s very successful Matisse exhibit with Burchfield, an artist fairly unknown to us today but was highly popular during his time and was the first solo artist ever featured at MOMA. Last year’s Janet Taylor Pickett exhibit has been replaced by Williamson’s works, also highly vibrant and colorful but mostly focuses on adolescent subjects in large canvases. On view from 9/15 – 1/7.
- Jewish Museum: Modigliani Unmasked – Never been shown in the US, 150 early drawings of Modigliani will be shown in this exhibit. On view from 9/15 2/4.
- Noguchi Museum: Gonzalo Fonseca – A showcase of the Uruguayan scupltor’s small buildings made out of stone. His creations are interesting blend of whimsicality and creativity, all in one. On view from 10/25 -2/12.
- International Center of Photography, Lauren Greenfield’s Generation Wealth – In her first retrospective, Greenfield showcases 25 years of her work in documenting the eccentricities and whims of the uber rich. On view from from 9/20 – 1/7.
Images via (1), (2), (3)
Just want to mention that I was recently asked by the self development secrets.com to recommend a self-help book that has helped me the most in life. You can read the write-up here, where you will also find books that got mentioned the most by other bloggers. And while your on the site, enjoy other previously published posts on how to lead the life you deserve to live, happily and purposefully.
Images via (1) and (2)
And just like that, summer 2017 is over. Every summer feels more poignant now that the girls are older. These days, it seems that I’m always counting how many more years I’ve got with them before they leave the coop. This way of thinking may be a bit harsh and melodramatic but it’s my way of of facing the sad truth — that the remaining time I have with my daughters is brief and I should make the most of now.
The girls started school this week, both of them at the end of a milestone — grade school and middle school. But before we headed back to the rhythm of things and harsh realities, we spent Labor Day weekend in Mystic, Connecticut. To those of you who are familiar with Mystic, the photos here will be familiar with scenes of ships, boats and Mystic Aquarium.
Hope you’re having a great week!
An old Viking ship
Place of worship
Charles Morgan, a true whaling ship that sailed from 1841-1921. Actually got to go inside this vessel!