Saturday, May 29, 2010

Blast From the Recent Past

below you will find a link to a blog entry i wrote in another blog i used to keep but stopped writing in a couple of years ago.  i wrote this entry at a very difficult time, when so many things were up in the air and i was unsure of where i was going to land next.  i am posting it here because, while it is not as bad now, i again find myself feeling that little nagging push. that little voice inside me is starting to chant again, as if to remind me about a forgotten task, forcing me to remember why i started to take this walk.
(editing this. i forgot that i had put in a special access thing to that blog. i was, at the time, still hiding in the shadows. i'm slowly stepping out so i'm leaving it here for you to see)

this is how i started my spiral walk.


I wear three-inch heels almost every day. I wear these shoes to work as part of my corporate look - polished, sophisticated, woman-of-the-world-striding-confidently image. You can almost tell the mood I am in by the sound they make when I walk – crisp, clickety-click of stiletto points on tile, each click coming faster than the next when I am eager, or excited or working on something that I enjoy doing; an almost soft chick-chick sound in a constant, slow beat when I am thoughtful, or relaxed or turning thoughts in my head; loud, stomping clack-clack-clacks when I am angry, or agitated about something, or worried and rushing to fix things.

I like the way they make my legs look longer, the thin line of the heel attaching itself to the line of my calf gives the illusion of streeetttcccchhh. I love the way my pelvis tilts forward oh so slightly when I stand in them giving the illusion of a come-hither -pose- that’s- not. And when I walk - ooohhh girl, you should see the way I walk in them when I really MEAN to walk. Sashaying with a swish doesn’t even half-describe it. I can almost hear the queens calling me “SISTAH”!

I have worn high-heels to work for almost forever. I stopped for a few months last year – some fluke on my part. But I missed the sound they made and the queens quit waving to me and I missed that too. So I put them on again and strutted, tilted, posed and vogued once more. They felt good.

They also hurt my feet a lot.

I was puzzled over this new phenomenon – they never complained before. I thought they liked being displayed in open-toed platforms. As if that wasn’t enough, my ankles started to make noise too. They would throb annoyingly during the day as I vogued in my open-toed heels or classic 3-inch pumps. At night, they would ache long after I slipped my shoes off. And then my knees started to complain, then my calves started to cramp. Calcium supplements , muscle relaxants and Ben Gay suddenly became part of my grocery list. While I seemed to have accepted the situation as simply something that happens when one gets to a “certain age”, something in my gut told me (yes dear – my belly and I speak to each other a lot!) that it wasn’t that simple.

Last night, as I sat reading, my calves started to throb. I had been on my feet almost all day supervising the finishing touches on a move of four departments in our office from one building to another and a million other little things that took me rambling over the three floors that our office occupies. As I sat there trying to concentrate on my book, the reason for this sudden revolt from my feet and legs against my preferred footwear suddenly became clear – THESE WERE NOT MY SHOES! I was wearing the wrong ones! Not wrong as in the wrong size – but WRONG ones as in NOT the shoes FOR ME. I had been voguing and tilting and sashaying and POSING in shoes that my body KNEW was not for me. I had been faking it – thinking that the corporate life in high heels was a total fit for me when in reality, it was not. And I had done it so well for so many years that I actually fooled myself into believing that this was what I wanted.

I started to cry. As if in sympathy and to emphasize a point, my legs started to cramp big time. I knew why. All these years I had been walking a path that was not mine, in shoes that did not fit. I sobbed louder, the tears coming hot and fast down my face, dribbling randomly on the book that I held in my lap. I was soon bawling softly and I had to muffle them so as not to wake my nine-year old son who slept a few feet away, totally unaware that his mother was wrestling with the ghosts of stilletos past.

The only thing that stopped me from really breaking down was the thought that I now had a reason to go out and get me new shoes. Now, THAT would be an adventure! 

JULY 2008

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You Call this Retiring?

I have always wondered what I would do when I retire.  After working at a corporate job for many years, the idea of not having my life ruled by the clock and deadlines just seems so appealing -- and so unattainable! LOL.  But Jan and Don, a husband and wife team from Ontario, California, showed me that it is possible to retire from the rat race and live the kind of life I dream of.

Jan and Don are behind the Artfire shop On Pens and Needles.  Their shop carries beautiful handmade pens, wooden jewelry and embroidered and sewn items - Don is the artisan behind the pens and wooden jewelry while Jan puts her sewing and embroidery talents to good use by whipping out lovely items from colorful fabric. 

Upon his retirement from the navy, Don took up working with a scroll saw and during one of the regular meetings held by the local scroll saw club of which he is a member, he saw a demo on pen making and tried his hand at it.  Four years later, Don is still making pens and he has never enjoyed himself more.  His skill in woodworking has earned him a few prizes and awards, among them a 1st Place Blue Ribbon and Judges Award of Merit during the Los Angeles Country Fair for his piece "Rose Window of the Notre Dame Cathedral", a beautiful piece showing intricate and precise woodcuts that are so detailed they look like lace.

Jan, the other half of the team, retired from her nursing career a few years ago and as she was no stranger to the needle and thread (she had made her own clothes when she was younger as well as clothes for their two daughters when they were little), purchasing an embroidery machine and the software to digitize and edit designs seemed like a logical step to take.

These two are obviously not the kind to just sit and let their retirement years pass by.  Jan and Don thought it would be a good idea to turn their little hobbies into a small venture that not only allowed them to indulge their creative streak but earn them a little money.  After getting their feet wet selling at small local craft shows and doing the Christmas craft fair round in their area, they ventured into online selling to reach a wider market -- On Pens and Needles was born.

Browsing through their shop you will find well made items that reflect the meticulous attention to fine detail that Don likes to put in his work (his pens are something to see!) and you will be cheered by the colorful (and practical!) creations that Jan designs and makes. Don's wooden pendants reflect the same kind of quality work and skill seen on the workmanship of his pens. Oh - did I forget to mention that he makes these great wooden toys too?

Jan's baby items are adorable -- her flannel washcloths are a riot of pattern and color.

Jan does custom orders for baby blankets as well and says that she enjoys the process of matching up color and pattern to come up with a one-of-a-kind design for that one-of-a-kind angel.

 Always the brave one to try new media, Jan has also ventured into the world of scrapbooking and their shop features some of the scrapbook embellishments she has made by hand.

The shop has been running for over a year now but Don and Jan say that they are enjoying the experience and have never felt younger!  They hope to expand their presence online in the next few years and to participate in larger craft shows in their area.  If you want to see Jan and Don and their great handmade pieces in person, they will be at the Changing Seasons Craft Show, the Crafts Unlimited Craft Show, the Orange Grove Festival and the Ontario Marketplace in June. 

Hmmmm - if my retirement years will be anything like what these two have, I think I'll go check out our company's early retirement package! LOL

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cloth Bazaar - Kamuning Market

"Is this spot okay," the cab driver asked me as he pulled into an empty parking space.

I nodded, paid my fare and stepped out.  It was late afternoon , almost 5:00 p.m., and yet the day's heat had not let up.  I was glad I had tied my hair up into a ponytail and had chosen to wear a cool t-shirt.  Already I could feel the sweat starting to form on my forehead and I swiped at it with a handkerchief (yes, I still carry one).

Kamuning Market, located in one of Quezon City's old neighborhoods, is well known for its section selling clothing material.  Along with Divisoria and Baclaran, this is where designers, seamstresses, tailors and housewives go to find quality, inexpensive material. A whole section of the market is dedicated to selling cloth and the variety is astounding.  I  figured this would be the best place for me to go for the material I needed for my son's school uniform.

Across the street, I could see the squat, wood and cement building that was the main market.  All I could see from where I stood were a few stalls selling terra cotta pots, rice and fruit.  There were no stalls selling cloth in sight.  I had never visited that part of the market before and was, in fact, unsure if I could find it.  I sighed.  I would have to follow my nose again, I suppose.

After taking directions from an old woman who seemed to have forgotten to put her teeth in (LOL), I found myself in a small courtyard surrounded by stalls filled with bolts of colorful cloth.

I walked from one stall to another, asking if they had the material I wanted.  After a few stores, I found a nice cotton material at an even nicer price.  I haggled a bit and the lady who owned the store gave me a nice discount for 10 yards.  She even threw in a yard of muslin that I had asked about.

That purchase done, I was ready to explore.

I had never been to any other section of Kamuning Market except the one that housed the snacks and sweets stalls, and that was when I was a young girl when I came with my grandmother.  In fact, this was the first time that I had come back to this market as an adult.

The cloth bazaar was a visual delight, with the bolts of cloth standing up for display in almost every available inch of space.  Cotton, silk, taffeta, wool, organza, cotton, and a hundred other kinds of material competed with each other for my attention, their colors and patterns enough to make one dizzy.

There were yards and yards of lace and appliqued cloth for sale, gauzy material for curtains hung on the storefronts, the light breeze tossing them ever so lightly, their ruffled edges doing a little dance on the courtyard floor.

Bolts of dark colored suiting material stood upright in their display cases looking like little soldiers at attention, a serious looking bunch of threads if you ask me.  Playful pastel colored cotton with animal prints screamed to be made into a child's blanket or pillowcase. 

A saleslady at one of the stalls gave out an embarrassed laugh when she saw me taking photos, saying her shop was in complete disarray.

Going down a hallway I came upon a stall that sold all kinds of items made from coconut shell, coco wood and abaca twine.  I went crazy when I saw the huge assortment of wooden and coco shell beads, some unvarnished and plain, some painted in the brightest colors.

Aling Elening, the lady who owned the stall, told me that people came to her shop to buy materials for costumes with a native or tropical theme.  She even showed me some plain, uncolored abaca fibers which she said are made into witches wigs for Halloween!

Of course I could not resist those beads.  Aling Elening helped me pick the best ones, shooing me away from those she called "Class B".  After wrapping up my purchases, she dug into a large plastic bin that stood in front of the stall and fished out a large anahaw hand fan.  She handed it to me, smiling broadly as she said: "This is for you.  Use it -- you look like you're about to melt."

I walked out of Kamuning Market as the sun was setting.  Stalls around me were starting to close for the day.  A woman selling fruit loudly announced that all her stuff was at 50% off.  A man who sold charcoal, his wares tied securely to the side of a wooden cart, washed his inky hands in a dipper of water, cleaning up before leaving for home.

I walked back up the small street that led to the main road, one hand clutching the bag that held my purchases, the other one fanning myself furiously with the large anahaw fan.  After so long, it was nice to visit Kamuning again.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


there are days when i feel i'm not really all here. when it feels like there is a vast distance between me and those i call family and friends.


sometimes it feels like i am living off-center - going through the motions as expected but cut-off from the core, from my higher being.  separate from the person that lives and breathes and feels pain and laughs and dreams inside me.

on days like this i prefer to be left alone. but there is no such thing for me - there is work and family and a million other things that one must attend to, that one must cater to.

i disconnect. i function but i'm not there.

(artwork: "Disconnect", original collage, S. Festin, March 2007)

Got Quilts?????

I check Twitter and there she is again - VaBeachQuilter (also known as Kim) tweeting a new item, retweeting someone's item, introducing a new shop or artisan.  Her tweets come several times a day and I wonder how she manages to do this on top of her running a guild on Artfire (Shops with Less Than 10 Sales), managing two blogs, running two online shops and couple of business pages on Facebook.

I wonder if she saw this coming when she started quilting?

A little over ten years ago, Kim never thought she would be immersed in the world of machine quilting let alone marketing and promoting a business on the world wide web.  She had been happily cross-stitching when she succumbed to her aunt's proddings to try quilting.  Since then, things were never quite the way they used to be.

Her initial foray into this craft was via a beginner's paper-piecing class. Kim marvels at how she was able to make quilted pieces without even knowing what a quarter inch seam was done.  She paper-pieced for about three years and then took another class that taught her more techniques, along the way magically learning how do a quarter inch seam.  Learning  new techniques was like switching a bike with training wheels for a big, bad bike -- Kim just vroomed away.

A three year stint (haven't you noticed that her significant number for quilting is 3?) in a quilt shop helped her hone her skills further and soon, the quaint little hobby managed to invade her bedroom closet, the hallway closet, sewing room and even spaces in her house that she never knew existed.  It was then that Kim realized she had to do something.

It was at that point that she started selling her creations at craft shows, her quilts attracting buyers of every age. In January of 2009, Kim thought of trying the world of online selling and she set up her first shop on Etsy. This was followed by another shop on Artfire which she set up in April of the same year.  Other online shops were set up in quick succession on Made It Myself, eCrater, Zibbet and Funky Finds but her Artfire shop is by far the most popular and most successful among them.

Her talent and skill as a quilter plus her insistence on only producing the finest handmade work,  have attracted the attention of celebrities such as MLB players BJ and Austin Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks, respectively.  The brothers commissioned Kim to make a quilt for their parents and grandmother. Michael Cuddyer of the Minnesota Twins so loved the quilt Kim made for his baby that he asked her to make one for his parents too. A duo quilt she made for Yvonne Upton (BJ and Austin's mom) which showcased the teams her two sons played in earned a mention in an article by Seth Livingstone of the USA Today Sports Edition.

Over the years, her palette has changed from the country/primitive colors she so loves to include vibrant, bright colors and patterns.  She has also expanded her product line to include novelties and other items that she would never have thought of making before.  Her Artfire studio is chock-full of a variety of items from wallets, to notekeepers, cozys, quilted napkins and placemats, pieces for babies and toddlers, pillowcases, aprons and even bagel and bread warmers!  She has also started a new line of applique cats and farm animals and fruit applique table runners and placemats (applique is a new addiction for Kim!) There is a section that showcases items with an NFL theme and you can browse this section to see if she has anything that has your favourite team on it.  If she doesn't, you can always have it custom ordered - yes, she accepts custom orders!

While not a full time job, Kim says her earnings from selling online have enabled her to take her family on short trips and allowed her to give them a special Christmas last year.  On most days, she spends 8-10 hours sewing - and that is on top of the 2 -3 hours she spends marketing and promoting and doing other online work. Evenings find her busy doing the detailed and precise handwork necessary to finish her pieces.  She's enjoying herself so much that she says she doesn't see this as a job but more of a fun way to let her creative side out.

For those of you who would like to see Kim's pieces, she will be participating at the Virginia Beach Christmas Market during the 2010 Thanksgiving week-end.  It's a pretty big event and over a thousand shoppers are expected over the three-day period it runs.  If you can't make it there, or are eager to see her work, head on over to Kim's Artfire studio, VaBeachQuilter.

Ooops - there goes another tweet from Kim. I am amazed.  Where does she get the energy?????

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

National Elections

The past few months have had the Philippines in a dither with everyone getting ready for the national elections.  Efforts to switch from the manual voting and counting system were made via the introduction of an automated system which met with a LOT of criticism (from how much they cost to concerns about the system getting hacked) and many hours were spent debating its pros and cons. Then there were the usual controversies about the candidates -- in mid 2009,  former President Corazon Aquino (widow of President Marcos' enemy number one, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino) passed away and before we knew it, her son Benigno, Jr., had been chosen by the Liberal Party to run for President, a decision that was graciously accepted by then Liberal Party Presidential bet Mar Roxas (who opted to run for VP).

Issues were raised against one of the front runners, Senator and Former Speaker of the House Manny Villar - whose main business was property development before he ran for and won a seat in the Senate.  Mr. Villar's cloudy past, littered with rumors about illegal deals and midnight partnerships, served as fodder for the gossip mills and points of attack from his detractors.  His main tagline, that of having grown up in poverty in one of the most depressed areas in the country, proved to be his undoing as evidence pointing to the opposite was unearthed.

To add to the "fun", ousted President Joseph "Erap" Estrada, who was the subject of People Power Two and who was succeeded by the current President Gloria Arroyo, gave in to a senior moment and conveniently forgot that the people threw him out once and filed his candidacy for the highest post in the land.

I figured things could not get any weirder.

Today, May 10, people trooped to the polls to vote amid reports of election-related violence in the provinces, power outages in some areas and the delay in the delivery of the voting machines to some precints.

They should've packed lunch.

For many, it was a long 4-hour wait before they could finally cast their votes.  The lines were long, the process tedious and the election personnel confused and flustered.  My mother, who at 73 insisted on her right to suffrage, was fortunate to have breezed through owing to the fact that she was a senior citizen.  My sister-in-law was not as lucky.  She spent the entire morning and half the afternoon waiting for her turn in a hot, breezeless public school classroom causing her to say that she was no longer exercising her right of suffrage but her right to suffer.

I walked the streets in our neighborhood this morning, my mind occupied not with the election results but with what was going to be done about the election posters and campaign materials plastered onto every available inch of space like this

Note that many of these banners and posters were not printed on paper but on PLASTIC, the campaign people probably thinking that would be better material to protect it from rain that never came.

I am not worried about who will win -- having lived through several presidential elections, I hold very little hope for change.  I worry about the tons of plastic that will be taken down from walls, posts, and all kinds of surfaces when this is all over and done with.  I wonder where they will dump them and how many drains they will clog.  I worry that these plastic posters will be the cause of another massive flood when the rainy season finally kicks in by July.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Feeling the Heat

It is unbearably HOT here in Manila. I won't even dare check how high the temperature is.  It has been the hottest summer I ever experienced -- and I think it will be worse next year.

Airconditioning doesn't help much. You have to get out of your room sometime, right? And the few minutes you spend away from the artificially cooled air is enough to reduce you to a melted puddle.  I have picked up the habit of carrying a little folding hand fan with me wherever I go.  Water is my best friend and I think I must have drunk 3 or 4 liters of it today.

Weather like this makes me want to run off to the beach -- and stay there till the rainy season starts.

Oh to be back in Boracay, water a glistening aquamarine, the sand dazzling white and fine like sugar

Or in Laiya, Batangas, chilling under the shade of a nipa hut

Or taking a  long, cool drink while relaxing in one of these swing chairs

Just to sit still and let the cool ocean wind blow around me, the sound of the waves a soothing song to a tired mind and body
Water please.

Bead Love

And so it was that I found myself lusting after all things that glittered and shone.

I could not find anyone in Manila who offered lessons so, as with all other crafts I have taught myself, I looked to the World Wide Web for help.  I was surprised at the wealth of information and instructional material on so many websites.  Pretty soon I was looping loops, dangling dangles and beading beads like crazy.

My work progressed from the very basic stringing and looping projects

To the more advanced coiled wire and beads

And later, to more avante garde, representational designs

A few months after I started making jewelry, I discovered that I had made enough of these glittering accessories to make Marie Antoinette envious.  I also discovered that I was running out of space to keep them and that wearing four or five bracelets to an arm made me feel like I was lifting weights.  With a deep breath and lot of courage I gathered up a few pieces to show to my friends.  I did not intend to sell them and was caught flatfooted when they asked how much they were for.  I thought they had been so used to my giving them away that they would never think of buying them from me!  But they did - and they told me I should consider making pieces to sell.

The following week, I sent a few pieces to my husband's office. He came home that night with an empty bag and a list of custom orders.  When those were done, I received another custom order, this time from my husband's boss' partner who is a well-known television host, who wanted several bracelets to give away for Christmas.

Halfway through finishing that custom order, I began to think that maybe there WAS something to this hobby gone wild.
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