can't stop shooting.

I've been taking a lot of pictures lately. I don't know why, but for some reason, everything feels new again.

I'm pretty sure this has to do with having had moved into our new apartment. It wasn't a big move, and it wasn't what we had planned on. The original plan was that we would only move if we could afford an actual house. Two years ago (and I didn't write about it here because it broke my heart so much), we found a relatively inexpensive house with three bedrooms, two full baths, and spacious front and back yards, but backed out of it at the last minute (after our application was approved and everything, and the lease agreement was right in front of us to simply sign) because the timing didn't feel right. Well, we moved to this apartment completely on impulse, and I admit that in the beginning, I feared it would be a mistake -- it's more expensive than the old apartment but still small and not a house -- but the past few months of living here have been very, very good. Every now and then, I would look around me and actually feel happy.

The light helps. I think I've always been partial to the light in the fall and winter, even though (because?) it disappears so quickly in the day. Big sliding glass doors also help, and having a view of mostly trees (as opposed to rooftops and satellite dishes). And the patios! I knew they would make a difference, but had no idea the kind of difference they would make. Even though these days it's too chilly to stay out there for too long, I love how the patios remain extensions of our living space and allow me to tend to my plants better. I love our home. It's not at all big and fancy -- and I admit that, from time to time, I find myself wishing for big and fancy, or at the very least an additional bathroom and bedroom -- but it's enough for us for now. Sometimes more than enough.

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that this change, no matter that it was small, was just what I needed to feel inspired again. I've been productive and diligent, and contentedly so, which is a big deal for me. I know that I have the tendency to become incredibly sad (and it's quite possible that I am going through a manic phase of a depression, which is depressing to even consider, ugh, so forget I said that), so I am thankful for the nudge that moving literally a few steps gave me.

I feel that I am emerging from a photographic rut, even though, ironically, after everything I've read and learned and thought about photography, I return to practicing it the way it started out for me -- as a means to preserve my joys that I know are fleeting.

asha, photographer. lunch - naan & palak paneer sisters asha & yumi afternoon light white pumpkin doing what he does imo, dusk at 4:30 couch at night yumi & asha back patio, fall evening edition selfie shmelfie


los angeles, pilipinas

This was my final project for my large format photography class at PCC. I really struggled with large format but I did what I could. I feel like this will be my last photographic project in a while, and perhaps my last one for school. Right now, it seems to me like I am done.

The following are pictures of the matted prints. They are 11x14-inch silver gelatin prints, which are too big for me to scan with my photo scanner. The 4x5 negatives are also too big for my scanner. So, here we go, pictures of prints:

Baywalk, Roxas Blvd. Divisoria Talipapa, Binondo Iskinita Intramuros Jollibee, BF Homes Paranaque

The title of this series is Los Angeles, Pilipinas. The photographs are entitled, respectively from top to bottom: "Baywalk, Roxas Blvd," "Divisoria," "Talipapa, Binondo," "Iskinita," "Intramuros," and "Jollibee, BF Homes ParaƱaque." We were also tasked with writing an artist statement. This is what I wrote:
This photographic series is an examination of place in the context of immigrant experience and memory. Having moved to the U.S. twice -- first, as a teenager, not by choice, and later, again, as an adult, by choice -- I remember the Philippines vividly, but also, with a mixture of nostalgia and anxiety. These are photographs of places around LA (home, but not quite) that are reminiscent, though are clearly not, of Manila (once home, but no longer). These images communicate a state of dislocation and paradox that is symptomatic of immigrant consciousness: a sense of being this but not this, here but not here.
It resonated with the people in my class who were immigrants or children of immigrants. "That looks like a place in China/Korea/Mexico!" they exclaimed, which felt really good to hear. I had originally written another paragraph for the artist statement but decided to scrap it because I didn't want to spell out too much of my intent -- which was just as well, because they got it. Of course, some didn't get it. "It all looks very homey to me," said my teacher (who grew up in Los Angeles and is white). "Without the artist statement, it's really just a bunch of pictures of random places," observed another classmate (also white).



I have always been a striver, a junkie for A’s and accolades. I had planned on degrees and titles, but the gift that motherhood gave me was that it shrunk my time down to the essentials. In the meager hours of the day left at my disposal, I knew that, more than graduate school and an academic career, I wanted to be left alone to read the books that matter to me, to sit with my thoughts.

What I really do every day is think. I watch the world bleed, my kids grow too fast, my parents age, and I try to find the thread of meaning in the madness. I scribble in my journals, searching for sense where there is no sense, connections when life seems random and pointless.
I can relate so much to this essay, I could've written it! Except, in my case, motherhood and housework have made my ability to write more lucidly rusty. (And that last sentence is evidence of that. Haha.)

It's so true that what I really do every day is think, although my thoughts aren't always so coherent, at least when I try to write them down. (This must be from lack of practice. So I'm making a conscious effort to practice.) I've come to realize that my favorite activity in the world is thinking. My second favorite is making -- as a kind of guilty response to all the thinking that I do. (Haha. I must make my hands useful too. That song by the Indigo Girls always comes to mind: "Gotta get out of bed / get a hammer and a nail / learn how to use my hands / not just my head / I think myself into jail / Now I know a refuge never grows / from a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose / Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose.") Still, nothing gives me more pleasure than to have a quiet house all to myself, with all my chores done, to sit down and read and (try to) write and make sense.

The other day, I came across this article -- it's a review of the long poem Bribery by Steven Zultanski, which I haven't read, but now plan to -- and the following passages really stood out to me:
... [M]any of us live in a constant state of anxiety, and whatever rage we may have about our situation is complicated by feelings of guilt about whatever forms of privilege we have (even if we don’t have many others) and by the sense that we are cogs in the imperialist machine, or by the fact that we eat meat, or use too many plastic bags, or drive cars. We are told that we have the ability to change the world by consuming less or donating money or supporting small businesses, and all of us necessarily have to fail at doing these things most of the time just to get through life. It is, on the one hand, obvious to everyone at some level that we do not have any real power. Yet we nonetheless buy locally, start urban gardens, click on Upworthy articles about young women who go for a year without making any garbage, and otherwise accept the fantasy that we have any control over what is happening. The dual sense that many people in the U.S. have of powerlessness and personal responsibility exacerbates anxiety and creates intense feelings of guilt.
When we read news from a Facebook or Twitter feed, we often read articles that are calibrated to make us feel outrage. We are supposed to be shocked and angered by each terrible thing that happens. And when we are not, it makes us feel even guiltier. Sometimes we repost, performing outrage for our Facebook friends and Twitter followers. But... we do not usually feel outrage, we usually just feel more and more anxious and guiltier and guiltier. It is difficult to muster outrage everyday. If we process all of the news together, then we are left with an intense sense that things are very terrible, but that they were certainly really bad in the past, and that they might get a lot worse in the future. We perform surprise and outrage; but what we experience is a constant low-level depression.
My god, yes.

This article ultimately led me to another article (which it cites), "Six Theses on Anxiety and Why It is Effectively Preventing Militancy, and One Possible Strategy for Overcoming It" from the Institute of Precarious Consciousness. (Please read this article! It's brilliant.) My siblings and I -- and before that, my dad and I -- have spent hours talking about the evils of this capitalist world and how complicit we are in it and what is there possibly for us to do?? Well, "Six Theses on Anxiety" provides an interesting analysis and suggests a method of resistance which is modeled after feminist consciousness-raising in the 1960s and 70s.

Oh, the wheels in my mind are turning.



This post is more than a month late. But, anyhow, here it is.

Nacho turned thirteen this year. He is taller than me now, and almost as tall as Imo. Sometimes I can't help but stare at him just because I can't believe that I grew this boy. He catches me staring and gets annoyed but I let myself stare because, darn it, I am his mother. He is always telling me to leave him alone. I try to give him his space but of course I won't leave him alone! I've become that mother.

For his 13th birthday, he invited some friends to watch M. Night Shyamalan's most recent movie, The Visit. Imo and I took them, first to In-N-Out for dinner, then the movie. (We left the girls with Mom; it was a PG-13 movie.) I originally thought about just dropping off Nacho and his friends at the theater because I know this age and how as a parent you have to let yourself be in the sidelines. But Imo (and I agreed) didn't feel it would be safe, so we went along, where, save for our roles as drivers and payers, we were pretty much extraneous to the entire affair. We ate at a separate table, weren't part of the conversations in the car, etc. Which I didn't mind, but my heart ached a little. Imo and I quietly watched and listened (and laughed and rolled our eyes). They were silly but were also making pretty valid jokes about Donald Trump (haha) and exchanging smart observations about the movie we had just seen, etc. -- they were literally young adults and that's amazing to me.

getting ready for a serious picture

I am bracing myself for what the teenage years will bring, and I am worried about a million things with this boy. But how wonderful, how absolutely miraculous it is to witness all this -- to see him become, to watch him grow up.


container gardening 2015

When we moved to this new apartment, I promised myself that I would try to be a better gardener. I'm not much of a gardener to begin with. I like plants, and I like having fresh herbs, and I would acquire some and try to keep them alive, until I could no longer. I realize now that I keep killing plants because of one or more of the following reasons: 1) inattention; 2) lack of information (I don't bother to read up on how to care for them); 3) insisting on keeping them in a certain spot even after I see that they're unhappy there (I suppose this is a combination of no. 1 and no. 2); 4) giving up (I don't bother trying to nurse a dying plant back to health -- it's too depressing, also because of no. 2). I've been trying to change these attitudes so now I have plants in my care that are thriving -- or at least look like they are! Haha. I have killed a few new ones, sadly, since moving here. But I've also saved a few from impending death and planted many little ones from existing plants. I am trying my best!

One of my first gardening projects when we moved here in the summer was to mount this reclaimed wood planter on a balcony rail and fill it with little pots of succulents. The succulents are getting bigger! I'm seriously considering filling the entire planter with cactus soil and transferring the plants directly in it.

From an evening in July: planter mini-project From a morning in November: succulents

I've also had to move the money plant in the corner there because it was getting scorched. Since moving it in the shade, it has grown more leaves! The plant I replaced it with is a canna "bengal tiger", which does better in the sun -- except that there were incredibly hot days from July to September when I had to put an umbrella over it because its leaf edges were starting to burn, and the flowers that were starting to bloom dried up before they opened. Sigh.


Anyway, I've recommissioned an old kitchen cart as a potting bench and I love the convenience of it. A couple of months ago, I experimented with taking leaf and branch cuttings from some old succulents (that were looking unhealthy from neglect and leggy from lack of sunlight in the old apartment), letting them callus, and then planting them in little pots.

recently planted succulent cuttings

Below are two tiny plants (echeveria) growing from two leaves that I plucked from the mother plant! I am crossing my fingers they continue to grow:

little succulents from leaf cuttings!

I had no idea how easy, in theory, succulents were to revive and/or propagate. I had a pot of string of figs by the window in the bathroom that started to shrivel up after a few weeks and it made me so worried! I tried to rescue it by moving it to the patio where there was more sun, but its little fig-shaped leaves continued to shrivel up! So I took drastic action and snipped away all the rotted/dried/shriveled up parts and simply stuck the healthy cuttings back into the soil and let them be. I would check up on it every week until I noticed new growth! I am hopeful it will survive. I can't wait to have those strings cascading down the sides of the pot the way they used to.

reviving my pot of string of figs

I did a similar rescue method for a pot of blue chalk sticks (bottom left plant in left photo, below) that was starting to develop root rot (because of all that rain in October). It's looking much better now.

plantsnew hanging plant/er

So, because the string of figs wasn't doing well in the bathroom, I replaced it with a spathiphyllum/peace lily (right photo, above) which requires only moderate light and is supposedly impossible to kill! However, I'm beginning to think that that bathroom corner is cursed, because the peace lily then began to develop root rot! I was able to save all but one stalk of it -- I had to throw out pretty much the entire pot, soil and all. We'll see what happens with the lone peace lily stalk that is currently recuperating on the bathroom windowsill.

Below are several more of my indoor plants: bird's nest fern and maidenhair fern by the kitchen window, a snake plant by the couch in the living room, and a fiddle leaf fig in a dining room corner. I am very ambitious. LOL.

kitchen windowsill plants snake plant from mom & lola nancy finishes up this corner.changing afternoon light & fiddle leaf fig

I feel duly encouraged, though, because the plant that I've had the longest (a dracaena marginata that is eight years old! and always seemingly on the verge of death, haha! it's been so forgiving of me!) sprouted a baby! See there, at the base of its trunk:

my oldest plant

I am also having luck with my potted herbs, from which I've been getting a steady supply for cooking! I have oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary.

potted herbs & lantern rosemary

I used to have a pot of lavender as well, in that spot where the rosemary is in the picture above. It perished, unfortunately, from the rains (again). It literally drowned. It was so pretty. Here is a picture of it, during happier days:

a pot of lavender
In memoriam. (Haha.)

Here's my potting bench today. I recently planted arugula -- found it at the 99cent store, and I really should've gotten more, oh well -- and also planted some jade cuttings (from a huge plant in front of our building, haha).

my potting bench, newly acquired/planted arugula

So far, so good.


i am wearing a sweater.

Only a few days ago, temperatures were in the 90's and now it's 54 degrees! On Monday, it was so dark by 6 p.m. Although that was expected, it was still completely disorienting, especially because it also rained! Traffic on the freeway slowed to a crawl, and Imo and I were late to pick up Asha from her 5th grade musical rehearsal. The school was practically empty -- add to that the fact that it was wet and dark outside. (Thank god a parent had stayed to wait with her.) I love fall, and I was so ready for it after such a hot September. However, these transitions are still a little unsettling. In the car, on our way home earlier this afternoon with the skies already dim, Asha said, "I don't think I'll ever get used to the dark!" Which were my thoughts exactly, but I said to her, "Oh you will," which was the truth, because we do, eventually. We learn to live with the darkness at 6 p.m., without constantly thinking it's so darn late!

Anyway, it definitely feels like November, even though it came so suddenly. We are finding a new daily rhythm and enjoying moments of normalcy before the holidays arrive.

Here are some gratuitous photos:

switcheroo & morning light
In the morning these days it's the living room that's bathed in bright white light. I love how the quality of light changes with the changing seasons. Oh, and we switched some furniture around. I like that the chaise lounge is no longer in the way of the sliding glass door.

happiness in a vegetable crisper
My love affair with vegetables continues! Our CSA deliveries resumed in September (I put them on hold for the summer) and each delivery means there is happiness to be found in my fridge for the next few days. Veggies are rainbows that you can eat!

purple daikon -- with purple fireworks inside!
There was a purple daikon radish in our last box and it was beautiful!

cooking sinigang
I added it to pork sinigang, along with watercress (in place of kangkong or our usual spinach) and multi-colored heirloom tomatoes.

Prettiest sinigang I've ever made, if I may say so myself.

Nacho is always on the computer these days, which worries me. I hope it's a phase.

And the girls, well, they've been watching lots of baking videos on YouTube lately, and listening to Sabrina Carpenter.

making a diorama
Also, it's Yumi's turn to be making dioramas this year. I am happy to report that dioramas no longer stress me out the way that they used to. Haha.

9. looking out the window in the kids' room
From the kids' bedroom window, there's a tree that's in bloom.


halloween 2015

I am happy to report that this year has been our best effort at Halloween so far! Bear with me on this one -- I have a ton of photos!

Early in the month, I sewed these for the girls,
the girls' halloween costumes

my version of these dresses:

After a failed internet shopping search for similar dresses (that were also inexpensive), I convinced myself I could actually make them myself. I didn't have a pattern, but I figured I could pull from previous sewing experience. I don't have a whole lot, but I know the construction of a simple baby doll dress, and how to measure, and what shape fabric pieces I needed to cut and how to put them together, etc. (I've come to learn that sewing is essentially putting together an inside-out 3D puzzle!) What I was unsure of or couldn't figure out on my own, I looked up on YouTube. Needless to say, these dresses came together pretty quickly (the hardest part was the peter pan collars!), I even got to customize the sleeves to fit plaster casts (sigh). All in all, I spent only $25! Win.

Then, we got to go to the pumpkin patch and carve pumpkins the week before Halloween. It was just the neighborhood pumpkin patch (sadly, our go-to farm, Lombardi Ranch, closed their pumpkin patch this year because of the drought), but that's still better than not being able to go at all, which was what happened last year. I don't even remember why we didn't get any pumpkins last year! I remember Yumi being so sad at missing out on the pumpkins so I swore to myself there will be plenty of pumpkins this year!

Here are the cousins at the pumpkin patch, minus Nacho, who this year was, sadly, TCFH (Too Cool for Halloween): cousins at the pumpkin patch

More photos at the pumpkin patch:
bubs & cooc & their pumpkinsbubs & cooc & their pumpkins wagon, pumpkins removable headmonster with removable head isaiah is afraid (Isaiah was so scared of the head-removing monster. Hahaha!)

We went home and got to work right away on some jack-o-lanterns.

asha carving her pumpkin cooc doesn't want to get his hands dirtybubs getting a handful of pumpkin innards bubs & pumpkin innards imo, carving pumpkins since 2009. joms carving bubs'

The grown-ups did most of the work, because cutting tools, and little kids, and one-armed older kids. Ha! But we all enjoyed the fruits (fruits, get it? harhar) of our labor that evening.

pumpkins-turned-jack-o-lanterns the kids' designs, the parents' hard work. haha. (Pumpkins above designed by Olivia, Yumi, Asha, and Joms for Isaiah, respectively.)

isaiah & jack-o-lanterns

The only downside to our diligence was that those pumpkins were moldy and rotting after five days! They didn't even make it to Halloween. Ah well, they were great while they lasted!


We knew that Halloween was going to fall on a Saturday this year, which, this year, was also the last day of Daylight Saving Time, which meant that we would get to turn our clock back that night and gain an extra hour, which meant we could party longer! So party we did.

It was actually Asha's idea to have a party, and I must admit that I was hesitant because parties are A LOT OF WORK. I was pretty noncommittal about it until, uh, five days before Halloween. The internet is a crazy place for party ideas, which makes it simultaneously inspiring and anxiety-inducing. I wanted to do so much all of a sudden and it made me start to panic. But Nyan and I agreed on a menu, then we went shopping for party decor and groceries on Tuesday and Wednesday. I cleaned the apartment like a maniac the whole day Friday, baked witches' finger cookies at midnight, went to bed at 2 a.m. and woke up the next day with my body aching. But I went right back to work. Nyan and Ben arrived at around 2 p.m. to help with the rest of the preparations. We decorated and cooked and set up the back patio for an outdoor movie.

witches' fingers in my fridge web designer webs As you can see, I cleaned the apartment only to have it covered in cobwebs!

brown paper bag lanterns patio table equipment check for the outdoor movie

We had such an awesome little party! It was A LOT OF WORK, but, man, I think our efforts paid off, even though we were pretty much our only guests. Hahaha! We had black and orange pasta (a caprese salad with squid ink pasta), mummy pizzas c/o Ben, dumpling brains c/o Nyan (which I forgot to take a picture of -- ugh, I suck -- she even bought a gigantic beaker to serve them in), dirt pudding with worms c/o Kat, witches' fingers and witches' brew (green [kiwi strawberry punch] for the kids, amber [rum and ginger beer] for the grownups) with eyeballs!

witches brew more halloween food! eyeball punch

We all wore costumes (except for Nacho). Joms and Kat were Deviled Egg (a devil and an egg), Bubs was a pirate, Isaiah a candy corn, Nyan was Julia from 1984/Rosie the Riveter, Ben was Shaggy, I was the Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night, Imo was a vampire, Asha and Yumi were, well, the Grady girls, Baby Bear was a mummy. We took the kids out to go trick-or-treating twice, with a food break in-between. We came back to sort their loot and to eat more food and to watch scary movies. The kids watched Coraline in the back patio; the grown-ups + Nacho watched Cabin in the Woods and El Orfanato (best. scary. film. ever.) in the living room. I had so much fun, even though I was also exhausted! I'm so ready to do this again the next time Halloween falls on a Saturday! Haha.

trick or treating trick or treating part 2 trick or treat! nacho emerges for halloween candy bookshelves with alison vampire/magician mumbear spider in a web

Anyhoo, here is the only decent picture I have of the girls as the Grady twins from The Shining (and Asha refused to get into character): the grady twins from the shining

And here they are walking towards a house to find someone to play with: they want to play


Here's an iPhone photo of the girls where they are both in character. Also, in the background is Nyan's beaker of bloody brain dumplings!

the shining