hearst castle

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Watching the elegant set design of Downton Abbey reminded me to share these disposable camera photos from our visit to Hearst Castle last December. Located high on a hill overlooking the ocean, this castle is indeed majestic and lovely, especially with all it's festive Christmas decor. I really regretted not having a decent film SLR with me because it was too dark to take photos inside (flash photography is not allowed). However, I did manage to take these photos of the castle from the outside. My favorite was definitely the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean while looking out from the outdoor pool.

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If you ever want to take a trip down California coast from San Francisco, I really recommend visiting Hearst Castle. The views alone are so worth it. And make sure to buy the tickets in advance because it does sold out quickly on weekends and holidays.

Learn more about Hearst Castle and its history here.

legion of honor

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Everywhere, things snagged me. The visible world turned me curious to books; the books propelled me reeling back to the world. -- Annie Dillard

So true. Although right now, I have a cold so I'm resting at home trying to take it easy and drinking lots of tea. On the bright side, I just finished watching the entire Season 1 of Downton Abbey (I know, I'm terribly late for the party!). I couldn't get into it months ago and fell asleep trying to watch the first episode but now I'm totally loving this show and it's characters. Do any of you follow it? Who are your favorite characters?

Also, the photo of me above was taken in front of the Legion of Honor Museum. It has 2 of my favorite things that's making me happy lately: a red dress with a Peter Pan collar and this backpack, both I got for myself last Christmas.

there's a certain slant of light

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Downtown San Francisco, December 2012

This kind of winter afternoon light continues to fascinate me. It's glorious.

I'm currently reading this fantasy novel by Laini Taylor and came across a lovely quote:

“Happiness. It was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety and pure sunbeam comfort. It was all those things, intertwined with the heat and the thrill, and it was as bright within her as a swallowed star.”

// Title is taken from the opening line of this poem by Emily Dickinson.

the fault in our stars

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Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.


-- T.S. Elliot, excerpt from
'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock'

When the main character from John Green's novel The Fault in Our Stars recited this poem to a certain boy, he told her quietly: I am in love with you. It was also in that precise moment when I realized that this book is very special and it will surely break my heart.

The Fault in Our Stars is about Hazel, a 16-year old with a terminal cancer, and Augustus, a cancer survivor whom she met in a support group for adolescents. Both witty and smart, their initial conversation led to an exchange of their favorite novels, which inevitably led to friendship and falling in love.

I must admit, I was wary of this book and its hype so I put off reading it for months. But last weekend, I looked at its blue spine from the towering stack on my nightstand and decided to pick it up. A couple of hours later, I was simultaneously sobbing, laughing out loud, and trying to control myself lest my neighbors will think I've already gone crazy. It's that good.

What resonated in me about The Fault in Our Stars were the characters' emotional trajectories. Dying and cancer, especially at such a young age, is very difficult to deal with but John Green penned his story with the right balance of humor and sensitivity that it never feels overwrought. In fact, I was laughing more than I was crying while reading it. Their days may have been numbered and yet these characters always found something to laugh about.

One of the main criticism I read with this book is that Hazel and Augustus were too clever for their age and their dialogue seemed pretentious. I see where this critique is coming from but having worked with children and teens for years now, I know of 16 and 17 year-olds who can discuss philosophy, metaphysics, and Forever 21 (or their favorite comic book) in a single conversation. Which brings me back to why I love these characters in the first place - their thoughts, hopes, and fears all felt very real and true to me.

But why should you read this book? I'd like to quote Augustus when he said, "You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world...but you do have some say in who hurts you." 

Yes, this book did hurt me. Deeply. And I'm so grateful for it.

the other half

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Words aren't enough to describe how much I love this John Lewis advert, so I took a couple of screencaps instead. From it's brilliant storytelling, gorgeous set design, and this cover song by Paloma Faith, it could easily pass for a short feature film. I also like the message that while many aspects of our lives have changed throughout the years, what's really important remain the same. You can watch the entire video below.

And oh, how cute are these two? I totally want to steal her entire wardrobe. That red hat!



Video credit: John Lewis Never Knowingly Undersold 'the other half' by Adam & Eve/DDB

song of the day: rosé



Rosé by the British band The Feeling.

I am in love with this song. It's the closest thing I found to describe a sunny winter day in San Francisco. Just today I was walking outside on my lunch break and I was almost overwhelmed by the light that greeted me. Such gentle, delicate light. As if the sun is reaching out to atone for our unusually cold days lately. And it is very cold. Or at least for someone like me, who grew up in a tropical island and spent the last 9 years in California.

So how is January treating you guys so far? Chilly weather aside, the year is off to a great start for me. I've already read 4 books and 1 novella. Don't ask me how that happened but I'm on constant reading mode lately. The only downside is I'm reading way past my bedtime, you know how that goes, 2 a.m. and you're still trying to finish the last 50 or so pages. When it comes to a good book, sleep is often an afterthought.

I've also started keeping a daily to-do list of (at least) 2 things that makes me happy. Something like: write a letter, take a nap, walk to the library. Just little things. And I must say that it really does make a difference at the end of each day.

Currently reading:
Seamus Heaney, Seeing Things
John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

first days

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My first days of 2013 were filled with beautiful lights - fireworks by the bay to welcome the new year, multicolored reflection of stained glass windows on a church floor, afternoon haze and sunsets along the Pacific. When I was growing up in the Philippines, we had this belief that whatever you do on New Year's Day will set the tone for the rest of your year. And so my mom would make sure we cleaned the entire house on the 31st and my siblings and I are on our best behavior (read: helping with household chores, saying our prayers, eating healthy).

Even if I don't believe in this tradition anymore, the sentiment continues to stay with me. There's something to be said about starting over and feeling hopeful about making positive changes in your life that makes New Year's Day special. One thing that I did for myself was spend a quiet hour inside Grace Cathedral where I wrote my wishes on a postcard and meditated along the labyrinth. Ironically enough, the poem that I memorized at the beginning of 2012 was Burning the Old Year, which couldn't have been more apt for the rough year that I had.

But onwards to 2013! I just know that it is going to be a good one. Like I said in my previous post, I chose Orkney/This Life by Andrew Greig as my poem to welcome the new year (if you haven't yet, have a listen here).  I also came across this wish by the famous author Neil Gaiman and thought it's so beautiful I want to share it here, a wish for all of you and for myself:
"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself."
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My dear friends, here's to a wonderful 2013! あけましておめでとう。