Monday, March 31, 2014

Garden Pictures from the Philippines and Vietnam

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sphagnum Moss Almost Killed My Orchids

This is an update on my orchids, whom I'll call "The Girls."  I had bought six of them and re-potted them along with one I had at home. I watered them with mild fertilizer once a week; I misted them at least once a day for humidity. Then yesterday, I noticed that two of them looked sick. The leaves were wilted and one leaf had turned yellowish. 

I Googled the problem and quite a lot of people blamed the Sphagnum Moss that's wrapped around the orchid roots as the culprit. Orchids do not want to be soaking in water! They want good drainage!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Santa Monica City's New Tongva Park

We finally visited the new Tongva  Park in Santa Monica, which opened just last October. It's across the City Hall and near the Santa Monica Pier and beach.

The park is quite lovely, with fountains, playgrounds, and quite a lot of plants and trees, as to give the feeling of being lush.  There were also State Rangers and police around, which is good, as far as I'm concerned. The park is near the Palisades Park and the rest of the "downtown" section of Santa Monica.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Creative Writing: Conflict Problem in My Fiction and Solution

The following may get too technical, dear Readers, but my key point in all of this is that Conflict is essential in storytelling. Conflict makes the work sparkle; it makes the characters move and talk in a dynamic way.  Conflict can be internal or external pressures on the characters. A "happy" character will not do very much for you; but a character with problems will.

I'm using my own work to illustrate what I'm talking about. Don't be too concerned if you can't figure out the story. It's from my novel-in-progress, so it's long and complicated. All you need to know is that Jose is afraid of Borja. Now read on about the problem I had in writing my draft and what I did:

 Here are my notes from my Notebook, as well as excerpts of my drafts:

March 26:
I'm working on the part where Jose goes to Culyo Leper Colony and it went flat. The characters started yakking just to talk. What happened?
- No real tension
- Contrived
- No thread tying this with his "mission"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Creative Writing: Before You Write, Try Clustering

One of the activities I like to do before I actually sit down and write is "clustering."  It jostles the mind, loosens up ideas so they float up and you are able to catch them, as if casting a net in the sea and capturing fish.  What you get are seemingly random ideas/thoughts. Welcome them. Again, there's no right nor wrong here. Think of  "clustering" as playing, and then you're on the right track.  Don't "think."  Just let it rip.

Make a circle in the middle of a page, and write a word in it. Usually this word should be related to what you want to write about, but if you don't have a topic as of yet, you can jot down the first word that pops into your head. Any word, no matter how silly.

Now, without thinking, "catch" the other words/ideas/thoughts that surface. Draw a line to the main word, create a circle and write that word inside that outer circle. That word will bring up other related words/ideas/thoughts - write those down as well to "catch" them. One thought spurs on another thoughts, and so on.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Creative Writing: How Long Should Your Novel (or Short Story) Be?

Dear Readers,
Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a writer whose novel manuscript was 200,000 words. His literary agent told the writer to cut his work.

I gasped, thinking of how horrible it must be for him to hack his work. I asked if he could make a sequel instead, as in Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, and Book 4 -- for indeed 200,000 words can make four short novels. No, this person said. He had to go back into his work and throw out huge sections.

But why? I insisted.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Creative Writing: Leonardo Bercovici Legacy "Get into the Head of Your Character"

My teacher at the Writers Program of UCLA Extension, Leonardo Bercovici, used to talk about "getting into the head of your character." When he said this, he would sweep his hands by the sides of his head, to emphasize that you should inhabit the character's mind. You would then see, hear, smell, taste, feel, think, remember --- in a way BE that character.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Creative Writing: Make a Date with the Muse

Today I want to suggest that writers make a date with the Muse. This means you set aside a specific time to write, otherwise you never get around to doing so. Sometimes people talk about their writing projects  but don't structure their lives to allow time for this.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

NOT SO FAST Messrs. Putin, Assad, and Kim Jong Un!


Just because the world is focused on Malaysia Airlines 370 doesn't mean you three are off the hot seat!

Read also:
Muslims Condemn ISIS
Shakespeare's Macbeth and North Korea's Kim Jong Un
Assad is Responsible for the carnage in Syria
Syrian Revolutionary Poem & Destruction of Khalid binWalid Mosque

tags: Russia, Putin, Crimea, Ukraine, North Korea, Syria, Assad, Kim Jong Un, Malaysia Airlines

This is all for now,

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pictures of Beautiful Women from Around the World

I'm thinking about the concept of beauty and how each culture has its own idea of what beauty is. Here are pictures I've taken of women from different countries. They are so different and yet each one is charming. 

The woman in green was our tour guide in Burma (or Myanmar). She had been an actress (or wanted to be). She struck this pose for us, which I managed to catch.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Beauty Tips: No to Botox, Yes to Face Yoga and Makeup

I have some friends who get botox and fillers done on their faces. I'm terrified of having poison in my system. Did I ever mention my Glutathione incident? I was trying this lotion with Glutathione from the Philippines to get rid of blemishes. The stuff was so good, I started slathering it on my face.  A few weeks later, I developed what I thought was severe asthma. The situation became worse especially at night. I was literally struggling for breath. I thought I had heart failure. The doctors checked me but couldn't figure out what was wrong. Fortunately, one night as I started to apply the lotion on my face, I had an epiphany that the Glutathione was causing the problems. I stopped and immediately got better. (I Googled and confirmed that Glutathione causes difficulty in breathing for some people.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Growing Orchids: Remembering my Mother and Taking the Plunge

My mother used to have orchids which she hung on an arbor between the main house and the separate kitchen with the cooking hearth. She used coconut husks with charcoal as the growing medium for the orchids. Her orchids were wonderful, with long sprays of flowers. Now and then she'd  put eggshells around the orchids, and thinking back, it must have been to provide additional nutrients, calcium perhaps.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What Are my Cats Doing on my Laundry?

What are my cats on doing on my laundry?

("Who me?" one cat said.)

Read also

tags: cats, kittens, pets, home, family

This is all for now,

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Would You Donate a Kidney? - Appeal for Raquel Balagtas

Please consider giving a Gift of Life!

Appeal for Raquel Balagtas

We, the High School Class of '64 of St. Theresa's College Manila, are appealing for your help on behalf of our classmate, Raquel Villavicencio Balagtas. We are especially appealing to those based in the United States because Raquel is a US resident.

Raquel, a Carmelite tertiary, was unable to join our class for its Golden Jubilee Celebration in February this year because she is suffering from chronic kidney failure, stage 4. Because of this illness, Raquel is  requiring  a kidney transplant.

All the members of Raquel’s family have been rejected as potential kidney donors, and Raquel has asked her classmates to help her search for a kidney donor.  She is married to George M. Balagtas and they have 5 sons.  They lost their 3rd son, Gino, at the age of 17 in 1987 from asthma.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Praying for the Passengers, Crew, and Families of Malaysia Airlines 370

It seems fantastic to think that a huge plane can simply vanish.

I've been in airplanes where scary things have happened. When we were in Brazil not too long ago, the plane was landing and suddenly, the pilot aborted the descent. It was frightening, and all I could do was pray.  It turned out the pilot decided the runway was too slick -- it had been raining --- and he wisely judged it would be safer to wait.  (That was the official version, anyway. It could have been some other reason.)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cruz Luncheon - Maryknoll Get Together, Southern California 2014

Seated l-r: Cecilia Brainard, Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal, Maria Ciocon, Lucy McGinley
Standing l-r: Ollie Yujuico, Lorna Cruz, Tina Heiter, Esther Parker, Med Villanueva

 Some graduates of Maryknoll College, Quezon City, Philippines got together at Lorna and Raul Cruz's lovely home at Thousand Oaks, Ventura, California. The annual winter visit of Tina and Andy Heiter from Switzerland usually inspires the reunion.

Filipino American Literary titles, A List Compiled by Barbara Jane Reyes

Barbara Jane Reyes has compiled what she says is "an attempt at a somewhat comprehensive list of literary titles, which she originally created as a Filipino American bibliography in August 2006." Here is the link to her site.

Thanks Barbara for including some of my works!

The group picture below shows Barbara Jane Reyes, seated, far left, and I'm seated on the right.

Read also
This is all for now,

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dim Sum in Chinatown, Los Angeles

We had Dim Sum in Chinatown, Los Angeles, at the Ocean Seafood Restaurant, 750 N. Hill Street, LA, CA 90012.  Our favorites include: siomai, siobao, roast pork, fried shrimp, shrimp with candied walnuts, spare ribs with black beans, assorted dumplings, and others. 

Pictures that Made Me Smile!

Friends emailed these pictures to me. They made me smile and I hope you enjoy them too.

Shipping Children in the US in 1913

Apparently in the United States, it was legal until 1920 to mail children via parcel post.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Leprosy: The Island of the Living Dead, Culion Leper Colony, Philippines

You are probably wondering, dear Readers, why I am writing about leper colonies. The first blog entry, a few days ago was about Carville Leper Home in Louisiana, and now about Culion Leper Colony in Palawan, Philippines.

The answer is simple.  I have a minor character who's involved with a leprosarium, and therefore I need to be an expert on the subject matter so I can write about it convincingly.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

See some similarities? Assad and Hitler

See some similarities?

Read also
tags: Syria, Syrian, war, revolution, Bashar Assad, Assad, as-Assad, Adolf Hitler, Hitler, genocide

All for now,

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Superb Eden Canyon Wine with my Quiche!

The writer Nieves C. Villamin sent me three bottles of Eden Canyon Wine. My family and I tried the 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon last Sunday with my homemade quiche and a glorious salad - and oh, my, the meal was superb.

Eden Canyon Winery, located in Paso Robles, California, is owned by a Filipino American family (Nieves et al); it has won numerous awards, including a Gold Medal for its 2010 "Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon", Bronze Medal for its 2010 "Freedom from the Press" Cab, and a Bronze Medal for its 2009 "Jolie" Bordeaux style wine.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Introducing my Cannibal Hanging Pitcher Plants, the "Sirens"

My cannibal pitcher plant, Seymour, is either hibernating or dying. I hope it's the former. He had a flower in December and it hasn't fallen off. I've thought of cutting it off, but since it doesn't look withered, decided to leave it alone. He developed some brown leaves, which I cut off. He looks shrunken.  Since it's no longer cold, I put him outside to get some sunshine and fresh air, and maybe catch some bugs.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Guest Blogger - Makeup by Swapna: "Blue Smokey Eyes with Nude Lips" Look

Our Guest Blogger is Swapna Pawar, a young engineer and a ranked tennis player who is also interested in cooking and makeup artistry. 
The following describes how Swapna created the "Blue Smokey Eyes with Nude Lips" look. 

Remembering the Birthdays of My Father and Mother

I feel terrible that I forgot my parents' birthdays!

My mother's birthday was on February 18; and my father's was on March 8.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Leprosy: The Miracle of Carville, Louisiana Leper Home

Imagine that you discover white spots on your skin. Imagine that the discolored skin has no sensation. Imagine going to the doctor; the doctor takes a skin sample and checks it under the microscope. Imagine the doctor informing you, you have the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae, the same bacterium discovered in 1873 by the Norwegian doctor, Gerhard Armauer Hansen. In short, you have leprosy or Hansen's Disease. Imagine.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bloggers and General Public Protected by First Amendment

First of all, to those who don't know, the Founding Fathers of the United States stated in Amendment 1: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble; and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Guest Blogger:RASHAAN ALEXIS MENESES shares her "Themes of Love & Labor"

Our March Guest Blogger is Rashaan Alexis Meneses!


            The more I write, the more I want to write. It’s a curse in some ways. The backyard outside is blooming. Calla lilies pushing buds through furled green leaves, purple mallows spilling with their hibiscus-like flowers, birds scratching messes into the mulch that needs to be raked and swept, and still I can’t pull myself away from the desk, even with the sun streaming in obscene, full California force. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Israel's IDF and its Medical Missions - More of this, World!

My head has been reeling with the tragedies in the world, and so I'd like to focus on something beautiful for a change.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Excerpt from My Novel-in-Progress, "Christmas Eve"

I'm sinking back into my novel, folks. It's like Time Travel. I have to go far away in time and place.

Here's an excerpt of a chapter from my novel-in-progress that was accepted for publication by the journal, Tomas 3 (University of Santo Tomas, 2014). The journal should be out soon.

Thanks Ralph Semino Galan for accepting my work.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Writing Exercises Based on Picture of "Two Vietnamese Women"

I took this picture at a museum in Saigon. I'm sorry I don't have the artist's name because I like it a lot. I love the colors and composition. There's something sultry and exotic about the image. It takes me away to another time and place.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cecilia's Recipe: How to Make Gugo or Gogo Shampoo

In Cebu, Philippines, where I grew up, we used to wash our hair with Gugo or Gogo shampoo. Rectangular sheets of Gugo bark were bought at the wet market. We soaked a bark sheet overnight in a basin with water, and the next day, we used the red-brown liquid as hair shampoo or rinse.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Vinaka, Fiji, for a Wonderful Time!

I'm back in California, dear Readers, and I hope I didn't bring the rain with me, because it's pouring in Southern California right now.

We drove 2 1/2 hours from the Fiji Palms to Nadi International Airport, had to wait a spell for our flight, and then it was ten hours in the air through cyclones -- the pilot warned us to have our seat belts on at all times.