Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Personal Essay: This Time Last Year, by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

This Time Last Year
Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

This time last year, I was recovering from surgery.

For about seven years, I’d been experiencing stomach pain which I had thought was acid reflux. I addressed it by avoiding rich foods and by taking probiotics. Last year, over the holiday season, the abdominal pain visited me again, only it was more intense, and I had accompanying nausea and chills. I had to go to the Emergency Room. This medical emergency came as a surprise because I’ve always been a healthy person, and the hospital was an alien place to me.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Baking Burned Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm baking Chocolate Chip Cookies today.  I have an order to make burned cookies - yes, burned.  It's a favorite in my husband's family.

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Retrospective - Second Half of 2014 - #CeciliaBrainard

Happy New Year!

This is a continuation of my retrospective in pictures of 2014.
Here is part 1

July 2014
In the Philippines some writers and I had a lovely writers' retreat in Palawan.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 Retrospective - First Half of 2014 - #CeciliaBrainard

I'm reviewing what happened in my life in 2014. Here are some pictures taken during the first part of the year. Here is the link to the second half of the retrospective.

January 2014
These were taken in the Philippines, a few months after Cebu was devastated by an earthquake and Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

True Story: The Ghost of Ermita, Manila, by Lucy Urgello Miller

Lucy Urgello Miller

Before Christmas I had a lively discussion with some people about ghosts and I had a couple of blog entries about that subject matter. Lucy Urgello Miller had mentioned that she had a ghost encounter when she lived in Ermita, Manila. I told her that my family had a house in nearby Malate in Manila, where we also had a ghost, a St. Paul nun. After World War II, my parents returned to their house in Manila, which was, along with the rest of bombed Manila, in ruins. The decomposed body of a Paulist nun was found stuffed in a barrel, a victim of the war. They buried her where they found her, in the yard. Many people, including our servants and my own brother, saw her ghost flitting by windows or near the area where she was buried.  Whenever she was seen, my mother used to race over to church to have Masses for the dead said for her.

I asked Lucy if she wanted to write down her ghost experience and she did. It is published in this blog with ther permission.  Thank you for sharing, Lucy ~ Cecilia

Friday, December 26, 2014

Brainard Christmas Pictures - #Christmas

Christmas is a busy time of the year for us. We have Christmas Eve dinner, which is followed by Christmas caroling and a white elephant gift exchange.

In the morning, we gather to open gifts. Even though we don't encourage it, the children do get a touch of "avarice" over gifts. One of the older children was getting sad when the younger ones had many gifts, and he had few packages -- until he opened the last package which was a computer that he wanted.

In the afternoon, we visit my mother-in-law, where her other children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are also visiting. I'm guessing there must be around 50-60 people in there. I try to sit quietly someplace or else I feel like the woman in A Passage to India who freaks out in the Marabar Caves.

I'm sharing some pictures taken this Christmas. You can make them bigger by clicking on the pictures.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Germany: A Stroll Around Heidelberg by Manny Gonzalez

Merry Christmas!
I'm sharing with you an article by my cousin, Manny Gonzalez. This is 
reprinted with his permission. It first appeared in the Philippine Star. A resident of Whistler, Canada, Manny Gonzalez is a Director/shareholder at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Mactan, Philippines. He travels extensively and enjoys reviewing the hotels and restaurants he's visited.

I had the chance to visit Heidelberg last October and am sharing some of the pictures I took in this picturesque German place.  I hope you enjoy this article. ~ Cecilia

A Stroll Around Heidelberg

By Manny Gonzalez

 As I have sometimes been known to claim, you can tell a lot about a city by the shops or facilities that are over-represented in its downtown area. For example, in Lyons, there are a lot of lingerie shops, from which I concluded that wives there are eager to please. (True!) In Jackson, Wyoming, I saw lots of art galleries but few restaurants, suggesting that the townspeople are rich and thin. (True!) In Hong Kong, there is one jewelry store every 10 meters, proving that the husbands there are (– oh, yes, just remembered that this one led to death threats, so let’s move on, but what I said was also True!).

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Roast Turkey for Christmas Eve - #Cooking, #Food

I was hemming and hawing about whether I'll fix a roast or turkey for Christmas Eve, and on Monday I decided on a roast. That would be Monday, December 22.

I drove to Costco and the crowd there was unbelievable. There was absolutely no parking. I went around several times until I finally gave up. I went to Smart and Final where all the nice roasts were gone. I settled on a turkey.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Retro Pictures of the Brainard Family - #CeciliaBrainard

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
The Brainard Family

I'm sharing some family pictures taken through the years. Oh my!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Some Brainard Holiday Pictures - #Christmas

Here are some pictures taken over the weekend, including a couple taken from our rooftop deck, and Doug Noble's Christmas party. Aside from seeing old friends, I was happy to see Doug's patio, decorated in the Mexican style, with decorative items from San Miguel Allende, Mexico, where we had vacationed not too long ago.

 To followup on my earlier question on whether I'll send Christmas cards or email E-cards, here's the answer -- I sent out a few cards. Even though E-cards can be cute, there's a somewhat impersonal feeling to them. At least, one puts more effort with hard copy Christmas cards. I'm sorry trees ....

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cecilia's Movie Review of "Mr. Turner"

We saw the movie, Mr. Turner, a two hour and forty minute film about the English seascape painter from the 19th century.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pope Francis' Forthcoming Papal Visit to the Philippines

Pope Francis will be visiting the Philippines from January 15-19, 2015. He will be there to comfort Filipinos devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda and earthquake that hit the Visayas or central part of the Philippines last year. This site has a lot of information about the Pope's Apostolic Visit of Mercy and Compassion. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Keep Calm Six Days Until Christmas!

Six Days Until Christmas! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ghostbusters of the Philippines: Tony Perez and the Spirit Questors

Tony Perez

My mind is still on spirits and ghosts and I thought I'd let you know about Tony Perez, a writer and professor at the Ateneo de Manila in the Philippines, who is famously known as a "Ghostbuster." Tony Perez also works or worked at the US Embassy in Manila. I met him years ago when I did a USIS book tour in the Philippines, and I recall that when we were in Zamboanga, the hotel rooms that I, Tony, and the other USIS representatives occupied, had ghosts. Tony and I felt them (but that is another story).

In 1995, Tony Perez started the Spirit Questers, and the group  had the mission of providing their services to reach out to spirits who had not been able to cross-over. I'm pasting an excerpt about them from the Inquirer:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

True Story - The Ghost Children in Amboise, France

To follow up on Ghost Stories, I'd like to share something that happened to me several years ago when my husband and I visited Amboise, France.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

True Story: A Ghost Story, from Joan Cuyugan Bohlmann

I had an interesting chat about ghosts with Joan Cuyugan Bohlmann. She and I can "feel" supernatural presence.  I promise to write about my own experiences, but I have Joan's permission to share her story about "The Pink Lady Ghost."  

I hope you enjoy it. And if you have a ghost story yourself, email it to me,

From Joan Cuyugan Bohlmann

Here is my ghost story that I promised to send you. There have been many instances of seeing a ghost but this one stands out.

Monday, December 15, 2014

3rd Brainard Literary Soiree and Christmas Party

For several years now, instead of a regular Christmas party, my husband and I have hosted a literary soiree. Aside from the eating and socializing, we have a literary reading, with friends sharing excerpts of their work.

Thanks to those who shared their work at yesterday's celebration: Marilyn Alquizola, Carlene Bonnivier, Patrick Culbertson, Akemi Kikumara, Paulino Lim, Doug Noble, Julia Stein, Hilary Walling. The Readers shared their poetry, fiction, as well as personal essays.

The pictures show:
Top: Seated, l-r: Akemi Kikumura, Carlene Bonnivier; Standing l-r: Cecilia Brainard, Patrick Culbertson, Hilary Walling, Doug Noble, Paulino Lim, Julia Stein, Marilyn Alquizola.

The Christmas Season is rolling along quickly! Ten days to Christmas, folks! I hope you are enjoying the holiday season.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Holiday Cheer with Maryknoll Friends in California

I had lunch recently with Maryknoll College chums, Lucy Adao McGinley and Maria Navarro Ciocon. We were Communication Arts majors at Maryknoll College, Quezon City, and have remained friends since college days. The above pictures shows l-r: Cecilia, Maria, and Lucy.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Guest Blogger: Manny Gonzalez Reviews San Francisco Restaurants - #SanFranciscoCalifornia

The City of San Francisco, California, is one of my favorite cities. This was the second city of the United States that I visited (after Honolulu), The minute I caught sight of its steep hills and Victorian houses, I fell in love with it straightaway. I lived there for a while and have many pleasant memories of this beautiful city.

I am delighted to share some reviews of restaurants in San Francisco written by my cousin Manny Gonzalez. These are reprinted with this permission.  A resident of Whistler, Canada, Manny Gonzalez is a Director/shareholder at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Mactan, Philippines. He travels extensively and enjoys reviewing the hotels and restaurants he's visited.

These reviews first appeared in TripAdvisor.Thanks to Manny Gonzalez for sharing these reviews in my blog.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Philippines: Christmas and the Nochebuena - #Christmas

When we were children in the Philippines, Christmas gift-giving wasn't emphasized. Celebrating and eating were, and the highlight of our Christmas festivities was the "Nochebuena" which was the gathering after Midnight Mass.  Those Midnight Masses were usually High Masses that went on forever, and I recall nodding off in church and feeling absolutely miserable. But by the time the Mass ended and we were in my aunt's place for Nochebuena, I bounced back to life. My aunts and uncles and a multitude of cousins were there, and there was feasting and playing until almost dawn.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Philippine Parol Christmas Lantern - #Christmas

In the Philippines, when we were children, we used to make the Parol, or the star-shaped Christmas lantern, a traditional Filipino Christmas decoration. We used bamboo sticks and tissue-thin colored paper that we called Japanese paper.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Cards Versus E-Cards - #Christmas

I am at this moment trying to decide whether I'll mail out (hard copy) Christmas Cards or email E-cards. I remember going through this dilemma when I had to decide if I wanted a Kindle or not (I did get a Kindle and appreciate how practical it is when travelling).

Christmas Cards seem more personal than E-Cards, although I've been seeing some nice E-cards by Jacqui Lawson.

Christmas Cards involve the destruction of trees; they entail more work and cost in terms of production and mailing. Frankly, after Christmas, I toss them away because I simply don't have storage space for Christmas Cards.

The idea of limiting the destruction of trees (from which paper is made), is very attractive to me.

Further, the greeting card industry makes so much money -- do I really want to support them?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Out Shopping, Check Back!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Typhoon Hagupit Weakens, Spares Philippines

The slow-moving Typhoon Hagupit or Ruby weakened into a tropical storm, and while it killed some people and destroyed homes, spared the Philippines from the kind of destruction wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda last year.

Psalm 86:13
For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.

Meanwhile, Southern California is expecting much-needed rain this coming Thursday and Friday.

This is all this Monday morning, have a great week!

Read also
Super Typhoon Ruby or Hagupit Will Make Landfall in Philippines
Typhoon Ruby or Hagupit Could Make Multiple Landfalls
Fiction: Typhoon (1912), by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Tags: weather, Philippines, Cebu, Manila, Ruby, Hagupit, typhoon, storm, hurricane, supertyphoon


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Guest Blogger: Celine Conejos Reviews Restaurants in Geneva, Switzerland

I am delighted to include reviews about some of these Geneva restaurants by our Guest Blogger, Celine Conejos. 

A Philippine Diplomat's wife, Celine Conejos is a permanent resident of Makati, although she currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland. She reviews hotel, restaurant, and attraction sites in TripAdvisor under the name of Coellum. She says this of herself:

"My father was very fond of traveling. He passed on his wanderlust to me. I enjoy traveling and planning for my trips. People close to me benefit from this. My children have many good memories of happy vacations together. At present, I live in Geneva temporarily. Being in the heart of Europe gives me many opportunities to see new places."

 The following reviews first appeared in TripAdvisor and are reprinted with Celine Conejos' permission. I look forward to posting more of her reviews about other places in my blog. Thanks to Celine Conejos for sharing her reviews.

La Faviola - 4 Stars
Rue Jean Calvin 15, Geneve, Geneva 1204, Switzerland 

Photo of La Favola
This is a small restaurant in the Old Town. This is my third time here and the quality remains the same. For our starter, my husband and I shared a ravioli with truffle shavings. This is normally a main course but it is perfect as a starter when shared. My main course was spring lamb. It was tender with a delicious gravy. My husband had Osso Buco and this was also good. For dessert, I had cake with chocolate fondant served prettily on a glass plate.

Each time I have eaten here, I have enjoyed both the favors and the presentation of my food. It is a rather pricy place though.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Philippines: Typhoon Ruby or Hagupit Could Make Multiple Landfalls

Ruby or Hagupit made landfall in the Philippines at 9:15 p.m. on Dolores, Eastern Samar. Because the Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands, the typhoon is expected to hit other islands as it makes its way through the archipelago. Because Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda had devastated the Philippines last year, Filipinos have been particularly afraid of Ruby. In preparation for Ruby, over half a million people were evacuated from coastal areas.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Super Typhoon Ruby or Hagupit Will Make Landfall in Philippines

Super Typhoon Ruby or Hagupit is barrelling its way to the Philippines and is expected to make landfall this weekend. Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda had devastated the Philippines 13 months ago.

Filipinos are asking for prayers.

Here are some links:

Read also
Updates re Typhoon Ruby 
Cecilia Brainard"s "Childhood in the Path of Typhoons" - CNN
Jews in the Philippines - 1940-2013
A Northern Cebu Couple's Story of Survival

Tags: supertyphoon, super typhoon, storm, typhoon, Ruby, Hagupit, Cebu, Visayas, Tacloban, Central Philippines, #supertyphoon, 

Literary Cats Reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

My Literary Cats are at it again!

They've gotten hold of the book, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

They're excited about Christmas coming up and have been bugging me to start decorating the house They want the tree up so they can play with the breakable decorations; they also love climbing into the middle of the tree -- what fun!

To those interested, here's a summary of A Christmas Carol.