Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas greetings from the mail!

Yesterday, imagine my delight when I checked our mailbox and there is parcel all the way from Japan! It was from Marj, my online/blogger friend. She sent me a message a couple of weeks ago asking if I wanted to be postcard friends with her. I thought it was a great idea, although I haven't read the mechanics yet. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to see a parcel/mail from her.

Inside was a greeting card of Mt. Fuji and super cute post-its for book marking. Marj and I (and Leah) are Goodreads friends too! And I know, we are all anxiously waiting for the holiday season to relax and finally read some good books.

Inside the card is Marj's message and a cute sticket/stamp of her and Atshusi.

Thank you Marj and Atsushi for remembering us this Christmas season. This is one tradition that I am excited to be a part of.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 05, 2011

balikbayan ngayong Pasko

This video has gone viral on Facebook. And yes, it brought me to tears.

Monday, November 21, 2011

apartment living

We have been living on our current place for 3 years now. I think we've been lucky to get this place although we just got here in US then. It has most of the amenities that we were looking for when we started looking for an apartment. Included with the rent are: heat, gas, water, parking and garbage disposal. We have considerable closet space and a sink with great counter space in the bedroom is an unexpected bonus! There is also a laundry facility at the building basement with 4 washers and 4 dryers. The few downsides are: the building is old (built in the 70's), the appliances are old and pets are not allowed. I would have loved to have a dog specially at the time when I'm not yet working.

Our current rent falls between $750-800 a month. It's a 1 bedroom place with about 800 sq/ft on it. The amount that we pay for rent is not unusual here in the Chicago suburb. Naturally, apartment rent would cost more in the city. I have a friend who pays more than a grand for her place in the city, excluding parking.

When we moved to our place, it was completely bare. Except for a stove and a fridge, it's pretty much empty. Little by little, we furnished the place to what it looks now. Admittedly, when you're starting your own place, you try to find the most inexpensive place to buy home stuff. Inexpensive but of good quality.

Living Room
Our living started really bare. Just an old a/c and vertical binds. Although we'd rather have wood flooring, it's really not an option since most of the older apartments have carpeted floors.
living room bare except for a/c and binds
I've been scouring for inexpensive sofa sets and furnitures online and I've come across Cort. It's a company that rents furniture to offices for a certain period. And then they have clearance centers where they sell these furniture for a really low price. Although they are technically second-hand stuff, you won't be able to tell. Their stuff are well kept and maintained. We bought our sofa set (pillows included), matching side and center table from Cort.
sofa set and tables from Cort
The photo below is taken on our first Christmas here in the US. This was in 2008 and I've taken the picture right after I setup our Christmas tree. We got a couple of home accents to decorate the living room.
taken at Christmas 2008
This is how our current living room looks like now. We've bought a couple of things from then to now. A bookcase to house my growing book collection and a daybed for friends who spend the night over.
how the living room looks now
I just realized that although our place has tons of stuff, it still seem bigger compared to the time when it was really bare. The daybed, tv stand and bookcase are all from IKEA.

Dining Room
Our dining room and kitchen is not much but I'm happy that at least we have an open layout to the dining table. As mentioned earlier, the fridge already came included with the apartment, the dining table we also got from Cort. The wall decor came all the way from Baguio, as a reminder of home.  If I remember correctly, the picture below was taken when we first got our dining table together with the sofa set. The kitchen counter is still mess-free.
dining room/kitchen at 2008
The photo below is the current one. A small book shelf is added to the wall to house Topher's notes for work and our counter space is now bursting with kitchen aides. Oh and our fridge is curently crowded with magnets from places we've been to in the last 3 years.
kitchen and dining place now
The very first furniture that we've bought is our bed. I figured if there is anything that we should splurge for initially, it should be the bed. Peace and relaxation after a hard day's work is priceless. First day at our place, we went to IKEA to buy our bed. It's a good thing that Topher is really handy with tools and putting items together because I really don't have a clue when it comes to assembling pieces.
bed frame
We got lucky that the bedside tables that we've bought from Cort is the same shade as the bed frame that we got from IKEA. Beddings, table lamps and pictures finish off our bedroom.
Picture below is how our current bedroom looked like. Our bedroom is huge, it's almost the same size as our living room. Topher got himself a study table he used while finishing his degree. The dresser across the bed is fairly new, we got it to divide the clothes bursting on the old dresser. We've been joking that a new TV would look really good on top of that dresser. Wouldn't you agree? And I'm planning to hang a blow-up wedding picture there too.
our bedroom now
As much as apartment living had been good for us, we've been planning on getting our own place. At least with paying the mortgage, the money we're paying goes to OUR house. Hopefully we can have this by next year, before my family comes to visit from Manila. At least a 3 bedroom, 2 bath with beautiful kitchen with an island. Master bedroom with huge closet space and a separate bath and shower for the master bath. For now, we need to save, save and save!

With black Friday coming this week, I'm planning to get linens and bedding sets to stock up in case we do get the change to get that dream house.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the undressing of Brandon Boyd

August 21, 2011. We celebrated our 14th (yep, 14th!) anniversary as gf/bf by watching Incubus live. It was our 4th time watching them live and the timing couldn't be any better. Twice we watch them in Manila, 1st was in 2004 at CCP grounds for the A Crow Left of a Murder World tour. The 2nd in 2008 at Araneta Coliseum for the Light Grenades tour. On both occasions, we were so far from the stage, it's like watching miniature Incubus perform.

The concert before this, we watched them here in July 2009 at Charter One Pavilion in downtown Chicago. We were there front and center and it was one of the most awesome concert experience I ever had. Which is why it had been an unspoken agreement between us that if they will be having a concert, we need to be there. Always.Watching the band play is an awesome experience, specially because I knew most of their songs by heart. Yeah, I'm such a groupie. I know.

When we watched them last August, I really thought we wouldn't get a good place at the front. But fate is really good to us that day, we're able to squeeze ourselves in a decent place, though not front but great enough to get decent pictures of them. And of course, sing and dance along with the band.

This post is entitled "the undressing of Brandon Boyd" because on all 4 concerts that we've watched, he started up covered up with jacket and all then by the end of the set, he's already half-naked. Not that I'm complaining, Brandon is always an eye candy. Covered or not. If there is one person that I can get a "pass" for, it would be him. Sorry, TMI here.

So anyway, if you're interested to know the set list from the concert, you can find it here. I posted a couple of pictures below that we took. Or Topher took.

*all photos are copyright images. please do not copy.

Monday, October 31, 2011


It's been 4 years now that I have not celebrated All Saint's Day with my family. It had been a family tradition and still a tradition since Ate Malou passed in 2002 that we get-together at the cemetery to honor and remember all the our departed loved ones.

Ate Malou, Lola (cute) Juling and Lolo Tacio, we terribly miss you all.

O God our Father,
Creator of all the living, we entrust to Your gentle care all those we love who have gone before us;
and have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

cupcakes anyone?

I love cupcakes. And I LOVE them better if they are the center-filled kind. Most of the really good cupcake shops are unfortunately located in the city. So it's only when we drive to the city to get-together with friends do I get the chance to buy them.

Here are a couple of shops that we love:

Molly's Cupcakes
2536 North Clark Street
Chicago Illinois 60614

I love Molly's! This is by far my favorite cupcake store. Their shop is almost always full with people even at 10pm. And yes, they are open 'til 10pm. Their shop is quaint and very homey. There are chairs, benches and tables of course. Cute design on  the bar, instead of bar stools, they have swing-like seats! Really neat. Oh and board games are available for use, for free. So I imagine that they encourage their patrons to stay and linger while finishing their cupcakes.

photo credits: gwiv
photo credits: cupcake crusader

photo credits: molly's cupcakes
I've tried most of the flavors that offer, but by far my favorites are Tiramisu and Boston Creme. Oh man, just looking at these photos makes me crave for one.

Boston Creme
Tiramisu (photo credits: addicted2detail)
More Cupcakes
1 East Delaware Place
Chicago, Illinois 60611

I discovered More Cupcakes a couple of months ago. I personally haven't been to the store, but Topher surprised me with a box full of cupcakes when he went downtown. From pictures on their website, their shop looks really slick and minimal. Attention is purely on the cupcakes.

photo credits: leenaeats.com
shop's interior (photo credits: architectmagazine)
more box
happiness in a box
I'm afraid every cupcake that I would be having, I'd compare it to Molly's. More cupcakes are good, the bread is very chocolaty and the center-filled ones are really good too. I specially liked their Hazelnut flavor, but Molly's still have the 1st spot in my heart (and stomach). More is a fab second.

Crumbs Bake Shop
303 West Madison
Chicago, IL 60606

There are currently 4 Crumbs shop in Chicago and I haven't been to a single one. Yet. This is one of the cupcake shop that are all over the country. From west to the east coast. I got to try their cupcakes twice on gatherings with friends.

photo credits: crumbs.com
Unfortunately, I can't remember anything special when I had them. I'm not sure if they have cupcakes with center-filled ones because the ones we're tried doesn't have them.

best-sellers @ crumbs

Sprinkles Cupcakes
50 E Walton St.,
Chicago, Illinois 60611

Sprinkles' Chicago location opened a year ago, when they opened Topher and a couple of our friends lined up for their store opening. I wasn't able to join them as I am back in Manila at that time. They said that the cupcakes are good and they have tons of flavors to choose from.

photo credits: cupcakestakethecake
photo credits: worldbestspot
Their cupcakes looks really cute and I hope the frosting is good. I'm not for the super sweet frosting.

Had we held our wedding here in Chicago and not back in Manila, I would definitely get my cake/cupcakes from one of these shops. Most probably from Molly's.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

PJ20: Pearl Jam's 20th Anniversary

The 3rd of September 2011 is a cold and rainy day. The start of Pearl Jam's PJ20 tour/anniversary. We drove all the way to East Troy, WI for the show. This is the only venue in the whole United States where they will be performing. Other venues will be in Canada, Mexico and South America.

So it's just our luck that the day we picked to watch them is all cold and rainy. Lesson learned from Lollapalooza, buy/bring raincoats on concerts. You've spend the money buying the ticket, why not spare $3-5 dollars for the rain coat, right? We dropped by a nearby Walmart to get the raincoats, because we're not sure if they would be available at the concert venue (we later found out that they sold them, but it's the flimsy kind. Parang plastic labo)

Me, Topher and Rhandie with our rain coats on
We got there around 2pm but the band won't be performing 'til 9:30 pm. They setup 3 stages on the venue and we watched the other bands/artists while waiting for PJ to rock.

concert schedule
By 5pm, we left the smaller stage and went to the lawn on the Main Stage to catch a good spot. We would have bought tickets off the stage but unfortunately only lawn tickets were available when we bought ours. Bummer. It would have been real nice to have a proper seat while waiting for the band.

When Queen of the Stone Age graced the stage, we were stoked! We've been a fan since they had been on the Q101 playlist. The crowd went wild when they sang Little Sister and No One Knows. If you check the link/video on "No One Knows", you'd see that Dave Grohl played the drums for this song. How cool is that?

It was almost 10pm when Pearl Jam took the stage and oh boy, they did not disappoint! This is my first time watching them in concert and I was blown away. Eddie still have it. They all still have it. It's didn't seem like 20 years had already passed. Honestly, I wish the setlist that played had been more of their hits (which they all performed the following day) but seeing Temple of the Dog unite made up for it. I almost peed my pants when Chris Cornell took the stage with Eddie. They performed Hunger Strike together. You HAVE to watch the video below!

I have to post the following crappy pictures from my phone as a proof that we were really there! It sucks when you can't bring a proper camera for concerts like these. These things doesn't happen everyday, you know.

Below are the pictures from their official concert photo stream. Great photos.

09.03.2011 - Official Pearl Jam photos by Anna Knowlden
09.03.2011 - Official Pearl Jam photos by Anna Knowlden
09.03.2011 - Official Pearl Jam photos by Anna Knowlden
09.04.2011 - Official Pearl Jam photos by Karen Loria
09.04.2011 - Official Pearl Jam photos by Karen Loria
09.04.2011 - Official Pearl Jam photos by Anna Knowlden (more official photos here)
If you're interested to know the setlist they played that night and the following night, you can check it here: Sept 03 setlist and Sept 04 setlist. We should have went to both shows! The concert wrapped up at around 1am and it took us about another hour to get off the parking grounds and head back to Chicago.

We had Pearl Jam hangover for about two weeks after the concert. Listening to their songs over and over and over again. I would love to catch them again live. There's to hoping for another concert next year.


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