Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Taking a Walk in Santa Monica, with Cecilia

Even though 2014 isn't here, I'm living up to my New Year's Resolution to exercise more.  Here are pictures of my neighborhood in Santa Monica, taken during my walk yesterday.

You'll see some houses, a golf course, a nursery, Santa Monica, High School, and Bob's market.

Note the gorgeous weather --- aahh, December in Southern California. We've been having warm weather and a sweater is hardly needed during the daytime. It does get chilly at night.

Monday, December 30, 2013


New Year's Resolutions of some friends:

Sunday, December 29, 2013

NEW YEAR: Vietnamese Tet and the Kitchen Gods

We were lucky when we visited Vietnam a couple of years ago, it was Tet, the Lunar New Year. It was a privilege to witness the country preparing for this big holiday. There was a largess of food, flowers, trees with yellow blossoms, colorful decorations from Hanoi in the North all the way to Ho Chi Minh in the South. People traveled back to their ancestral homes. And those at home were busy scrubbing and cleaning every part of their houses.  The ancestors' altars were spruced up and fruit and incense offered there.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Thinking about God and Life as a Teenager, from "Cecilia's Diary 1962-1969"

I'm sharing excerpts from my diary. These sections have to do with God. I never felt religious then, nor now, but I can see from re-reading these excerpts that as a teenager I thought of God a lot.
December 9, 1966
I ask these questions to myself because I need to know the answers:
-     Why did God create me?
-          Why did He create men, things, the universe?
-          How is God real?
-          What comes after death?
-          Is heaven or hell real?
-          Is there hell?
-          Isn’t it rather unfair for God to allow people to go to hell?
-          Does evil exist?
-          Is the church a true church?
-          Are her teachings true?
-          How come there are so many superstitions?
-          What am I supposed to be? What does God expect of me?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cecilia's Mini-Reviews of Holiday Movies

Mini-Reviews of Movies:
I'm rating these from 1-5, 5 being the best:

Inside LLewyn Davis -
I've enjoyed movies by the Coen Brothers so I had high hopes when we saw this one. The movie disappointed me. The music wasn't bad, but the main character is a loser from start to finish.  The events in the movies, for eg. the trip the main character takes with the John Goodman character, don't hang well together.   I give this a "3-."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fiction by Guest Blogger LYSLEY TENORIO, "The View from Culion"

Dear Readers,
Our Guest Blogger is Lysley Tenorio, author of MONSTRESS (Ecco/HarperCollins).  His stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ploughshares, Manoa, The Chicago Tribune, and The Best New American Voices and Pushcart Prize anthologies. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he is a recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award, a National Magazine Award nomination, the Nelson Algren Award, the Edmund White Award, and fellowships from the University of Wisconsin, Phillips Exeter Academy, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Born in the Philippines, he currently lives in San Francisco, and is an Associate Professor at Saint Mary’s College of California.  Visit his website at www.lysleytenorio.com.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Reflection: The Holy Family as Refugees

In church today, Christmas day, I thought of the refugees in the Philippines, those displaced from their homes that were destroyed by supertyphoon Haiyan.  I hear there are many of them in Cebu City as well as in Manila.

Christmas Eve at the Brainards

Christmas Eve at the Brainards - Merry Christmas!

Read also: Yuletide Wish, Rappler - http://www.rappler.com/brandrap/46566-whip-it-yuletide-wish-filipino-women

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, from the Brainard Family

Monday, December 23, 2013

UPDATE Seymour My Cannibal Plant's Flower & Christmas Jokes

 Seymour, my cannibal pitcher plant's flower is now in full bloom.  My earlier blog entry showed the flower just starting to bloom. Now the stalk is taller and the flower has three colors: red, green, and purple. It looks something like an orchid.  It's much prettier in reality.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Three things to do in Cambria, Central Coast California

 There are many activities one can do in Cambria, Central Coast, California. The little town has great shops and restaurants. Cambria is close enough to San Simeon so one could visit the Hearst Castle for instance. One can also take a tour of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. Etcetera.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Getting into the Christmas Mood at Cambria Pine Lodge's Christmas Market

Cambria in the Central Coast of California (with population 6,500) caters primarily to tourists. When we visited in the Fall, they had a Scarecrow Festival.  This Christmas season, it has several events including the Cambria Pine Lodge Second Annual Christmas market.

Camping Days and Outhouses - Montana de Oro, San Luis Obispo State Park

Photo courtesy of Hilary Walling, who says, "This is my best photo from the Colombia/Ecuador trip.  We happened upon this group of darling little pre-schoolers being taken out for a 'parade' with their instruments, when nature called to this one little guy!"

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cats with a Plan (re the Christmas Tree) - A One Act Play

Act 1, scene 1: Two brother cats are conversing as they watch the birds outside the window

Tesla - So, Bro, here's my plan -
Che - Plan? What plan? I hate plans. I'm a Spontaneous-kind-of-cat.
Tesla - And that's what gets you into trouble, Bro. When you act at the spur of the moment, in other words when you're not thinking, that's when they get their Disciplinary water bottle to squirt not just you but us. 
Che - You're always blaming me. It's not like you don't get into trouble too.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Syria War: Doctors Targeted by Assad Regime

The alleged murder of Dr. Abbas Khan made me aware that doctors are targeted by the Assad security in Syria.

Dr. Abbas Khan, a British citizen of Indian background, was a 32-year old orthopedic surgeon who had gone to Aleppo as a medical volunteer. He was arrested for not having a visa, jailed, forced to hurt others, and was tortured himself. His family did not know of his whereabouts for six months. His mother flew to Damascus and found Abbas Khan emaciated and in poor health. Abbas Khan was able to give his mother some letters which outlined how dire conditions were in jail.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Creative Writing: Two Important Rules

TWO IMPORTANT RULES IN CREATIVE WRITING (from Fundamentals of Creative Writing, by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard)
RULE #1: SHOW DON’T TELL – One of the things you’ll hear a lot in the literary community is the dictum “Show, Don’t Tell.” Don’t tell me about how sad or happy your life is, SHOW me. Don’t tell me what a terrible person so-and-so is, show me how this person looks, how he/she walks, behaves; how others react to this person, so I make that conclusion. Don’t say the woman is beautiful, show me her hair, her eyes, her teeth, the curve of her ankle perhaps, whatever it is that makes her beautiful. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Seymour My Cannibal Pitcher Plant Has a Flower!

Do you remember Seymour, my Cannibal Pitcher plant in my kitchen?  I'd posted pictures of him catching a fly last October

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cooking with Cecilia - Pancit Bihon Guisado, a Filipino Rice Noodle Dish

I've kept this tattered copy of Philippine Cookery and Household Hints for many years. It was given to me by the mother of one of my good friends who unfortunately passed away when she was in her mid-twenties.  Tita Loring Victorino must have sensed the book would be a perfect gift for a young woman who was uprooted from her native Cebu and transplanted in California. Indeed the book has been very helpful to me, especially when the internet was not available.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Palm Tree Christmas Tree - Oh, My!

Palm Tree Christmas Tree - Oh, My!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Shakespeare's Macbeth and North Korea's Kim Jong Un

We studied the tragedy Macbeth in high school, and this Shakespearean play impressed me so much that decades later I can still quote passages: "Out damned spot..." or "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow..."

Recent news from North Korea brought this Shakespearean tragedy back to my mind.

The events in North Korea seem medieval or Shakespearean at best. The most recent is this: the North Korean leader turns against his uncle who had mentored him after his father's death; the leader has the uncle arrested in a humiliating way; leader denounces uncle  as a traitor "of all ages... worse than a dog... despicable human scum, and has him executed by machine gun.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Poem by Guest Blogger, JULIA STEIN - "The Woman Disappears Bit by Bit" - re Iraq War

Our Guest Blogger is the Los Angeles poet Julia Stein, who is also a novelist, playwright, critic, and teacher.

Julia shares her poem, "The Woman Disappears Bit by Bit," which is part of her fifth book of poetry, What Were They Like?, a collection of poems that look at lives― Iraqi lives, Afghan lives and U.S. lives― caught up in the Iraq and Afghan wars. The last poem imagines peace. 

Stein’s poems were inspired by Whitman as well  as Sumerian myths by way of Hemingway.  

Julia Stein's powerful book, What Were They Like?  protests war and the effects of war on the victims and perpetrators alike. Underlying the vignettes depicting the different parties affected by the war is a firm belief that poetry and literature can provide healing.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013



Today, I'm thinking of Nelson Mandela who rose to the occasion  presented to him by Fate and who became bigger than life -- a true hero.

On the other hand there's Philippine President Noynoy Aquino who had the opportunity to be a true leader when super typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda struck the Philippines. Here was a man who had not prepared his people for the unprecedented typhoon; a man who went on to blame the local governments for the destruction in Central Philippines. Aquino even bickered over the death estimate as being too high. After the Amampour CNN interview of Aquino, the officer who gave the 10,000 death count was fired from his job.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan: Basketball in the Midst of Haiyan Ruins


We had moves we didn’t know
We had. Our bodies spun
On swivels of bone & faith,
Through a lyric slipknot
Of joy, & we knew we were
Beautiful & dangerous.

(From Slam, Dunk, & Hook by Yusef Komunyakaa)
Read also
Guest Blogger Luisa Igloria's "How Is it Possible to Think of Literature in Times of Calamity"
Luisa Igloria's Poems on Haiyan
Childhood in the path of typhoons
Jews in the Philippines - 1940 and 2013
Northern Cebu still needs help
Filipino filmmaker Peque Gallaga rants against Philippine Officials
The Anderson Cooper, Korina Sanchez, President Aquino Debacle

This is all for now,

tags: Philippines, typhoon, supertyphoon, Haiyan, Yolanda, basketball, sports

Presenting the World's Largest Hematoma from Blood Draw


Ms Yu from the Laboratory of WLA Kaiser on Cadillac for giving me the World's Largest Hematoma from a Blood Draw. Ms. Yu worked on me twice, and she punctured me four times because the first needle puncture was always a failure. All four punctures developed hematomas, but the one showing in the picture is the largest!

I think Ms. Yu should consider another career, perhaps in a butcher's shop!

Read also:
Cecilia's Design for a Better Hospital Gown for Dignity and Modesty

All for now,

tags: venipuncture, blood draw, blood drawn, medicine, laboratory, health

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cecilia's Design for a Better Hospital Gown for Dignity and Modesty

Hello -- whoever designs hospital gowns, listen up, we need something better than what's out there!

Saturday, December 7, 2013


December 7, 2013

Dear GB,

The members of the Abs Team felt that since I’m the largest internal organ, I should write to you. 

We are all distraught at how things turned out and want you to know that we feel terrible that you had to go. I in particular feel your absence. All my life you had been nestled in my underside, working in close tandem 
with me. Remembering our close partnership makes me weepy: I made the bile and passed the overflow to you; you stored it; together we squirted the juices into the stomach. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

To Everything There Is a Season - Picture of Cochin, India

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

King James Version (KJV)
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela Answers my Question on Violence vs Nonviolence

Dear Readers,

I was saddened to hear about revolutionary and politician Nelson Mandela's death. Like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Mandela has always represented to me Non-violence resistance, a subject matter that I oftentimes ponder - read my blog entry on "Who Was Right Mahatma Gandhi or Che Guevara, A Question of Violence vs Nonviolence.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Unforgettable Fountains from Around the World

 Large or small, fountains add an attractive element to a garden or house and create a lovely ambiance to a place. Fountains appeal to man's senses via sight, sound, and touch (since these helped provide "air conditioning.") A fountain can turn a dull garden or wall exciting. I've seen small gardens in Charleston, South Carolina turn absolutely charming by their use of fountains.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gargoyles and Foo Dogs, Protectors

I love gargoyles! They're creepy but also whimsical.

The word "gargoyle" comes from the French word "gargouille" meaning throat. Gargoyles are rain spouts in the fantastic forms of creatures -- animals, man, a combination of both, or some figment of the mind of some medieval artist.

CREATIVE WRITING: Explosion and Drawing as Writing Exercises

"Explosion" is a word used in creative writing. This basically means expanding your writing.  For  example one can intially write: "She went up to his flat." You could rewrite this to give more details, making your work "explode."  For instance: "She went up his modern flat."  And making it explode some more: "She slowly went up to his modern flat at 8 in the morning."  And so on.

You can get bits of text and make it grow.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fiction by Guest Blogger, LINDA TY-CASPER, "In Place of Trees"

Dear Readers,
For a change of pace, I have a Guest Blogger, the highly-acclaimed Filipina author, Linda Ty-CasperHer numerous books are generally historical fiction, including The PeninsularsThe Three-Cornered Sun, Ten Thousand SeedsDread Empire, Hazards of Distance, Fortress in the Plaza, Awaiting Trespass, Wings of Stone, A Small Party in a Garden, and DreamEden. Linda shares with us "In Place of Trees," a short story set in the Philippines, immediately after World War II.  
~ Cecilia

Linda Ty-Casper
Copyright 2013 by Linda Ty-Casper, all rights reserved

He came out of the sun, onto the porch, with the shadows white on his dark face. "Where's your father, Boy," he asked, without telling me who he was, not making way for the woman who stood behind him on the lower step, a large man's watch on her right arm.
            "He's not here," I answered, staring at him, challenging him to know my name.
            "Your mother?"

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day - A Time to Catch Our Breath

Thanksgiving Day is a big holiday in the US and Canada. In the US it's celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, in Canada on the second Monday in October.

This November 28 my nuclear family will join other members of my husband's family to share in a big meal with turkey, ham, lamb, assorted vegetable and salad dishes. There will be pumpkin pie, pecan pie, leche flan, and other desserts. The children will race about; the grownups will eat and drink and talk and laugh. Someone will organize the gift exchange for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013



by Luisa A. Igloria

Ghazal for the Dead: In Tacloban

Processed but not identified: scattered by wind,
splintered, battered where the flood left them in Tacloban.

The dark is a cave is the mouth of God or the unfathomable—
O for sleep without such helpless waking in Tacloban.

How many baubles and stolen billions will bring lives back? Ask
the former First Lady, who attended Holy Infant Academy in Tacloban.

The mayor was lashed to a coconut tree. The mayor was the coconut in the tree.
The tree was in a ballroom. This is not about the oral tradition in Tacloban.

In the midst of calamity, would you have time to worry about your shoes?
Through the waters, a typhoon victim bore a general on his back in Tacloban.

Why were the military first on the scene? Why did it take so long for relief
to arrive? The dead are past blame, the dead are past games in Tacloban.

The actors and actresses turned politicians flash smiles at the camera
while the living vomit with grief, hunger, dysentery, in Tacloban.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan: "How Is it Possible to Think of Literature in Times of Calamity?" by Luisa A. Igloria, Guest Blogger

Our Guest Blogger is Luisa A. Igloria, Professor of Creative Writing and English, and Director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University. She is the author of Night Willow (Prose Poems), forthcoming from Phoenicia Publishing (Montreal, Canada: spring 2014); The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013)Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, university of Notre Dame Press)Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, 2005), and 8 other books. Since November 20, 2010, she has been writing (at least) a poem a day, archived at Dave Bonta’s Via Negativa site.

Not just about Haiyan:
How is it possible to think of literature in times of calamity?
Alongside the massive outpouring of support from various emergency organizations worldwide, several poets and writers began publicizing calls for contributions to disaster-themed anthology or book projects. Most stated they would donate all publication profits to relief and rehabilitation efforts; others announced they were simply interested in providing venues for "expression and healing."

But why even consider/make/include literature or art when there is the painful and more urgent work of rebuilding among those who have lost family members, homes, livelihoods, the very sense of any purpose and optimism for a future which seems to have no other shape but dread?

Creative Writing: Your Writing Work Space (In My Case, Where My Cats Hang Out)

Writing Work Space is important. Think of it as the place where you meet your Muse. This is where your creative juices percolate or where you allow the right side of your brain (the creative side) to flow.

Different people have different work spaces. J.K. Rowling wrote in coffee shops; E.B. White worked in his living room. While in Havana, Ernest Hemingway preferred standing up in the bedroom of his house.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Creative Writing: Journal Writing and My Pink Lock and Key Diary

 At a young age, I started writing diaries primarily for self-expression.Diary writing or journaling allowed me to practice my writing; it taught me how to "flow." It was non-judgmental, which meant I could write about anything freely. It was a place where I could "think things through."

To those interested in keeping a journal, my suggestion is not to use expensive notebooks because these can intimidate you and keep you from writing freely.  The other thing is that people around you should respect your journals and not read them.  

There's one more thing: There is no "correct" way to journal. You can write about anything at all. Some people like to keep a faithful account of what they did that day, including their shopping lists. Others like to write about their feelings, why they are depressed perhaps.

Typhoon Haiyan: Volunteerism Strong Despite Disruptions by Government Agencies by Guest Blogger Melissa Salva

There's another controversy brewing in Manila after typhoon Haiyan -- a turf war that disrupted a wonderful volunteer effort in assisting Haiyan refugees who arrived Manila.
Melissa Salva, a writer in Manila whom I know, had emailed of the volunteerism she and others in Manila did: 
"Jeric and I have been volunteering since Sunday. My last trip was yesterday morning when I drove a family of six (one of the four kids was a nine-day-old infant) to Batangas. The operation was going very well, with the system fine-tuned everyday to make it safer and more secure for all. That is, until some kibitzer stepped in and put a stop to the volunteering effort."
The Los Angeles Times had written about this wonderful volunteer effort yesterday, an article written before the disruptions.  Read Philippine Typhoon survivors get a warm, even festive welcome
Here is our Guest Blogger, Melissa Salva, who comments on this "turf war." Read also her article in Coconuts Manila.
I took the picture of Melissa at our writers' retreat in the Philippines last July.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Los Angeles, California: Storytelling at the Historic West Adams area

The City of Los Angeles is large and sprawling, with different districts and neighborhoods: downtown Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, the Westside, and so on. Since I live near the Westside, I haven't explored all the districts.

Creative Writing: The Importance of Sensual Writing

For over a month now, I've focused on the disasters that struck Central Philippines: the 7.1 Magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu, Philippines, last October 15; and super typhoon Haiyan that devastated a wider portion of Central Philippines, including the islands of Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Capiz, and others, last November 8.

This morning I'm going to take a break and  look at an aspect of Creative Writing -- "Sensual Writing." I'm not talking about sex, dear Readers, rather I'm referring to writing that engages the readers via the five senses. The writer allows the readers to see, smell, hear, feel, taste.

Sensual Writing ties in with a Rule in Creative Writing which is: Show, Don't tell. The writer is giving details so that the Readers can more actively participate in the "fictive world" of the writer.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Philippines Typhoon Haiyan - Aftermath Update as of November 20, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan Aftermath Update:
1. President Aquino - Having incurred the wrath of many Filipinos following the inaction of the government after Haiyan struck, Aquino declared he was personally taking charge of all relief efforts. He set up camp in battered Tacloban and he has also visited other hard-hit areas in Leyte and Samar islands;

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

TYPHOON HAIYAN: Jews in the Philippines - 1940 and 2013

A BABY BOY NAMED ISRAEL was born two hours after the Israeli Rescue Mission became functional in Northern Cebu, Philippines, last November 15, 2013. The parents, Emylou and Audrin Antiqua, said they named their baby Israel "out of gratitude."

One week after super typhoon Haiyan devasted large parts of Central Philippines, 150 medical members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) set up a field hospital in Bogo, Northern Cebu, an area badly hit by Haiyan though largely ignored.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan: International Aid in the Philippines - Pictures

The destruction wrought by Haiyan has seared our hearts and minds with incredible sadness. But there's some beauty in this darkness when I see how people all over the world have stepped forward to help Filipinos. Here are some pictures showing the worldwide response to the crisis in the Philippines.

Thank you - Salamat to those who have helped the Filipino people!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan: Northern Cebu Still Needs Help & Israeli Medical Mission in Bogo

While international attention has focused on the islands of Leyte and Samar, the Northern part of Cebu, which was also in the path of Haiyan and equally devastated, has been largely ignored.