Monday, March 31, 2008

Grace and Favor (And Why You Should Listen to Your Mom)

Even before Raine was born, we were told that she would be a child of grace. And like most things of grace, Raine was definitely undeserved. I mean, how could two such grumpy people like The Hubby and myself produce such a happy, sunny child (though there are times when Raine is acting up that I scream inside my head--what did I do to deserve this? I'd scream it out loud but the neighbors might think I'm weird--and this is an entirely different topic, the stresses of motherhood)?

Aside from the grace, we've also experienced God's favor. The Hubby got a new, well-paying job that gives me the option not to work so I can focus on Raine. I also got several opportunities for my writing that still allowed me to work from home. Sort of. We discovered that The Great Aling Lourdes also makes a fantastic babysitter for Raine, so I can leave them together without worry. My mom visits us regularly, and so I get additional motherhood coaching, someone to have decent adult conversation with while The Hubby us at work, and another babysitter! The blessings go on and on.

So it's little wonder that when we celebrated Raine's first birthday and her dedication, it was filled with grace and favor. Take the venue and the food. When we started planning, my mom said in that cheerful, optimistic voice of hers, "Let's have it catered by Mario's!" And I just rolled my eyes and gave a snort. Like, hello,mom. Mario's is fine dining and expensive and we're working with a small budget...

I mean I love Mario's. Growing up in Baguio (where the original Mario's is), going to Mario's was such a treat. I remember my mom would save up so we could eat there on special occasions. And then she'd give us lessons on fine dining, like which fork to use, and how to tip the waiter (short side story: when I was about 10 years old, I got a summer job peeling potatoes at a french fry factory. With my pay, I treated my mom to lunch at Mario's. When I got the bill, my mom stopped me from counting out the exact amount and told me to give a larger bill so I had change to leave as tip). So I know the food is good. And I know that they're pricey. So I didn't even put Mario's on my list.

I started making the calls of different restaurants and caterers. It was frustrating. My main problem was I had grand visions and a small budget. And since it was March and I started party preparations late, the places with the reasonable prices were already booked (grad season!). Two and a half weeks before the party date, I finally asked my mom if we could try Mario's. "Ok," she said, "I'll call the owner." And she did. And we ended up in Mario's Kitchen, Tiendesitas. We had a fantastic brunch (they were fully booked in the afternoon), the food was great, the place looked classy, the service was good, and they worked with our budget. The churros were a hit. Lesson learned? Even when you're older and you have a kid of your own, mother knows best, oh me of little faith.

Then there's the cake. I've always loved Claycakes. Even way back when I was planning my wedding, I had my eye on Claycakes, but I never asked because they looked too expensive. Then during my Masigasig stint last year, I sort of met Karla Magbanua, the 'sugar artist' behind Claycakes. She was so nice and really down to earth. I really wanted a Claycake for Raine, because I wanted something unique (all Karla's cakes are unique--she interviews her clients so she can come up with a design that really reflects them!) and because I knew only Karla could make a Rainey cake topper the way I imagined it. But the budget held me back. Finally, my mom stepped in again. She told me that it can't hurt to ask. And so cringing with embarrassment, and prepared to be shot down, I called Karla. And God's favor was upon us again.
Karla was beyond accommodating. She was even enthusiastic! The design of the cake she created was based on Raine's giveaway book (a story I wrote--more on that later). It was perfect. The Rainey cake topper was really like Raine in her classic sitting-down-and-beaming pose. And it was scrumptious. I mean days after the party, it was still good! And the yummy, chewy icing was so mindblowing. But beyond the cake, I was really touched by her effort. She even went to Mario's to do an ocular, and explained to the staff how to serve the cake. So lesson learned? Again, listen to your mom. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Secret Passions

I can't help it. Whenever I see perforated paper, I simply have to tear it. I do it slowly, making sure that it tears only along the dotted lines, savoring each little millimeter that daintily gives way, until I have two separate pieces with slightly ragged edges that match. I hate it when--due to faulty perforation or some wrong move of mine--I don't have perfectly ripped paper, when tiny chunks of paper mar the perforated edges. And folding over multiple pieces of paper so you can tear it in one go--sacrilege!

In public, I surreptitiously tear tickets. You're supposed to give in the entire piece, so I gently work the middle part, leaving the pieces of the ticket connected only by the last two perforated dot things at each side. I love those receipts generated by dot matrix printers--continuous forms are pure delight. And after I tear off the hole-y edges, I fold them into an origami chain. Each and every time. No matter where I am. Or whether I'm running late. I have to, otherwise some cosmic balance will be disturbed.

At home, I eagerly wait for my Readers Digest subscription. Not only because I read the magazine from cover to cover, but also because they are masters of perforated things and beyond.

If any of you subscribe to RD, then you'd know that they have this yearly raffle, and you have to send in some form that you tear off from their letter. Oh joy. More than that, you have to put stickers on the appropriate box to guarantee your raffle entry. Even better are the stickers that indicate your choice of BMW color, or whether you'd like to take your 15M in one go or over 5 years. Sometimes they have this rub-off portion, which reveals the secret number that will let you win an additional P250,000. Of course, most of the time they're also peddling something, like vegetable cookbooks and trivia books and the best romantic songs of the century all on one CD! And since I love reading brochures (and RD brochures are always well made), I enjoy that as well. It's nearly orgasmic.

The peddling I love best is when they send a whole catalogue, which comes with a sheet of product stickers and you have to tear off the product you choose and stick it on the order form. I tear the entire sheet and neatly lay out the stickers on the table as I contemplate which ones I'd like to order. Sometimes The Hubby helps me. If I'm feeling generous, I let him choose his own product (the order form is limited to maybe four items). Then we discuss our winning options, whether we'd like to receive the check privately or at a big party in a posh hotel (my choice--might as well get a free dinner out of it as well). Then I tear, sticker and scratch away. I put everything in the "Say Yes!" envelope, making sure all my documents are complete and I seal the envelope. Then I put it in my recycling bin.

I wonder why I never win in that RD raffle.