Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Conversations That Count #100simplybravedays #day22

The past few days, I have been blessed with deep, meaningful conversations. Perhaps, the universe knows this is exactly what I am craving. Two Wednesdays ago, sweaty from a Zumba class, I dragged my gym bag and body to the shower room. There I saw my high school classmate, Myran. It has been more than 20 years since our high school graduation. Apart from momentary hello’s in the gym, we never had a chance to really catch up. But fresh from the shower classmate and sweaty me immediately bonded as we talked about parents and family. In minutes, tears were rolling down our eyes. A few days ago, over dinner, a friend and I caught up over a Caesar salad and two plates of pasta. Surrounded by trendy bags for sale in a café cum boutique, our talk turned serious. Lost in conversation, we didn’t even notice the restaurant was just waiting for us to leave. All the other customers had gone, and the waitresses were raring to mop the floors. Yesterday, a personal trainer was loading up on a high-protein meal after the morning workout next to me in the gym.. Before I knew it, we were talking about life. Today, I found myself hugging my dentist after a check-up. The conversation with her was much longer than the time spent in the dental chair. But I didn't mind one bit. Neither did she.

Close friends know that this extrovert talks to pretty much everyone. In minutes, I can get a stranger to open up about their lives. You can ask Larry the fruit vendor who gave me overripe bananas or the American sex therapist I met at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok waiting for connecting flight. I think of it my gift to make people feel at ease to share their stories. It is also gift to open up to share your story to another soul. Not everyone cares to listen. While there are billions of people in this world, we often don’t connect with the people around us. It is a comforting feeling to be heard. It is a powerful moment, when you sit next to your friend thinking, “Wow, you too feel that way….”, or “You mean it’s not just me feeling this way.”

"Can we just stop and talk a while? "

Our stories are sacred. Handle it with care. Opening up with our stories takes courage. But it is a powerful connection when you do to the right people. It is gift. I find much comfort in chatting with Isabel, my friend in Singapore. We often have exchanges on Viber or Facebook messenger. We always end our chat saying, “Thanks for listening.” Today was no different. I said thanks. It made me feel better. After the exchange of LOL’s and emoticons, and countless words between two writers, some how we both feel better after a chat.

While we say we crave food, or alcohol, I think deep down many of us simply crave honest, authentic conversations. It need not be an exchange of profound thoughts, but just a safe zone to open up, release the knot in our chest, and be heard. These conversations are like the universe giving you hug to let you know all shall be well. So dear universe, thanks for the wonderful conversations. And I’m giving you a great big hug, saying, "back at ya!"

Copyright.MaidaPineda2014.Follow me on Facebook/maidastouch, Instagram/themaidastouch and Twitter/themaidastouch

Monday, September 22, 2014

#100simplybrave-Day 6- LIFE ISN’T FAIR

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The shower is the perfect thinking place for me. As I lathered my hair after a sweaty booty shaking Zumba class this morning, I gained some clarity. “Life Isn’t Fair,” were the three words in my head. Nothing else. It is a reality I’ve known. But right that moment in the shower, it was a crystal clear realization. Life isn’t fair, and it won’t ever be. Feeling a heavy burden on the shoulders, I was terribly upset yesterday. I struggled with why life isn’t fair. Why don’t people contribute more or help out? But it just is. LIFE ISN’T FAIR. That’s the reality. As I washed away the shampoo from my long locks, I realized the sooner I accept that life isn’t far, the less I will struggle. My load will be lighter, because I won’t be fighting the currents of life’s reality. Yes, the actual work won’t be lighter, but my baggage will be less.



By the time, I left the shower, I was refreshed in body and in mind. It is a tough love message from the universe, but yes, life isn’t fair. The sooner I accept that, the closer I will be to living my best life.

--end- Copyright. MaidaPineda 

Follow me on Facebook Facebook/maidastouch  , Instagram/themaidastouch, and Twitter/themaidastouch

Surviving Storms - Day 3- #100simplybravedays #maidasimplybrave100

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Today, I woke up to what seemed like a never-ending caravan of ambulances. I thought I could hear sirens from an ambulance, only to realize the horn alerted people residing at Marikina River to evacuate. I live in a condo unit up on the 32nd floor overlooking the Marikina River and C5. I recall at about 2am, I woke up frightened by fierce lighting and thunderstorms. But in the morning, the view from my condo was simply sheets of rain. I could no longer see the buildings in the horizon. 

The view from my window when I woke up about 7am, looking out to c5


After the mandatory cup of strong espresso to make my brain function and bowl of oatmeal, I got in touch with my parents to check if they were ok. They said they were fine. They had moved the cars to higher ground. But after a few minutes I got a panicked call from my mom, telling me the water was rising. Today, is the same day Ondoy happened five years ago. I was in Singapore at the time. Yet, I will not forget how terrified my sister and mom were as water entered our home, damaged our cars, appliances, and lost many of our things. Thankfully, they survived Ondoy.

Mom was visibly frightened. When she saw the water outside the gate, she knew it wouldn’t be long for the street to be impassable. I told them to go to my flat soonest. She said what about the flooded areas. We plotted a way for them to get to my condo, and told them to leave the house right away. In the meantime, a few friends prayed with me for my parents to get safely to my flat. As a single woman residing alone, I quickly worried about what food to serve my parents. Living solo, I stock up my flat with healthy food: lean meat and veggies. I don’t have canned food stored. What if we lose power, I thought. I don’t usually have bread ready. So I quickly got in the lift and did panic shopping in 7-11. It was the IT place to be. It was barely 9am and the store was packed with fellow shoppers. There were no eggs. But crackers, bread, and canned goods were all available. I then realized they were short in staff too. All their staff were working their second shift, for the other employees could not get to work with the floods. The cashier told me he was likely to stay for a third shift since the third shift too were from flooded Marikina. I told him, I was shopping for my parents, who had to flee their home due to the floods. The kind cashier told me, “Sana makarating sila dito” (I hope they make it here). I was touched despite his long work day and non-stop customers he still cared. Thankfully, my parents made it to my flat. Both were shaken, but just relieved to leave the family home just in time. It was pretty bad. My parents are both senior citizens, and the last thing I want is for them to be stuck in the flood.


Typhoon Mario I snapped from my flat

Marikina River over 19meters high, overlowing as seen from my flat window during Typhoon Mario


As I write this tonight, my studio is a haven for my parents. I am now on an airbed, as they sleep on my bed. I live across the mall. I braved it twice today to buy food for me and my two evacuees. As I stood in the long line in McDonald’s, I was impressed the hardworking crew serving despite a mere skeleton staff minus many absent employees who could not make it to work. The security guards and maintenance men and women continued with their work. They worried about me, when they saw me leave the condo without an umbrella. On Facebook, I marvel at the resilience of the Filipino spirit. A former colleague in advertising, woke up to a soaked car and floating refrigerator. Yet, her spirit was steadfast. She still managed to post her triumph killing  flying cockroach. She also posted how she plotted to save the dog left outside in the rain by her neighbor. The Philippines is a veteran of one too many typhoons and floods. We have learned to deal with it. But more than just living with it, we've learned to become a helping hand to others. We open our homes. We serve soup to warm their bodies and feed their spirits. We offer a safe dry haven to others.

Experiencing Typhoon Mario today is a perfect reminder of how to survive storms in our life. They are inevitable. But we have to face them courageously. But as we face our own storms, we still try to be there for others facing their own storms. That’s how it goes. They’ve said the Filipino Spirit is waterproof. I believe that. I also believe tomorrow will be better. The howling wind and strong rains will end. The sun will come out tomorrow. And we will all be dry and soaking up its warmth.

Goodnight.1:30amSept20

CopyrightMaidaPineda2014. Follow me on Facebook/maidastouch and Instagram/themaidastouch and Twitter/themaidastouch

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Be Kind to Yourself -Day 2 #100simplybravedays #maidasimplybrave100

--> Last night, I fell asleep in tears. I bumped my car on of all things, a parking post in my condo. After a long day, I did one last errand then drove home. My parking spot is deep down in the intestine of the building, five levels down. When I first moved it, it was a dizzying task to drive down to park my car. But last night, somewhere between the third or fourth zigzag down the bowels of my building I thought, “Wow, I’ve gotten a hang of this parking business.” With my plate full of family responsibilities on top of my work commitments, plus settling into a new place, my mind was thinking of my 101 things to do. I recall thinking of how to tackle two errands for my folks, then bam, my car’s rear hit a post. I did not maneuver the last turn properly. I parked my car at my designated slot, looked at the damage, walked up to my flat, made a phone call, then cried. I felt the heavy weight of the responsibilities on my shoulders. The stress finally got to me. Apart from a scratch in January of this year, thankfully I have not had any accidents with my car. My folks and two dear friends comforted me before I fell asleep. I awakened feeling a bit better, but still blah. I hit the gym in the hope of happy endorphins boosting a good mood for the rest of the day. It was my favorite Zumba teacher, who always manages to make me smile, laugh, and burn the calories. He and I talked a bit after class, but somehow he couldn’t shake my bad mood away. I didn’t really want to talk too much to him or anyone else for that matter for I knew it wouldn’t take much for the tears to flow again. Talking would instantly become tears. With that knot in my throat holding back the tears, I tried to go on with my day. I showered then buckled down to work. But my best friend Rissa knew me too well. Being friends for more than 30 years now, she knew I need a friend. She called to talk, and just like that the tears flowed. It didn’t matter that I was out in a Starbucks café crying shamelessly. Somehow, talking and crying to Rissa was exactly what I had to do. She asked what I was doing for the day and the night, then reminded me to for some Maida time.

Dark Chocolate Macadamia Cookie to cheer me up


I then decided I to spend an hour or so just to do the most pressing tasks for the day. The rest of the day was spent being kind to myself. First, I indulged in a Dark Chocolate Macadamia cookie to cheer me. I love macadamias and chocolate never fails to make me happy. I chose to be kind to my aching back with an hour-long massage a few steps away from my residence. It meant not dealing with traffic or cost, just pampering my body. I then took the time to finally do the list of home repairs needed to be done by trusty handy man: from installing curtain rods to finally putting up my favorite painting, to tackling little details to make my flat feel more like home. Then, it was a comforting drive to meet up with friends for dinner. As it rained, I caught up with a dear friend who happens to be one of my favorite Jesuit priests. As the raindrops fell so did the stories of real life events in the past few weeks.  By the time we reached the restaurant, I was in a much better mood. I felt relaxed. Wearing a dress I had not worn in years, but I fit in again after shedding 16 pounds, I felt good. But I felt even better seeing Mike, a friend visiting from Sydney and the rest of the gang of friends I had known for more than a decade now. Tonight, I ate freely whatever my heart desired. There was Paella, Gambas, Salpicao, Calamares, and Callos. I ate with much gusto, using the spoon and fork, as Filipinos normally do at home. The food was great, but it was even better to be surrounded by old friends. We laughed heartily at Viber messages from dear Angeline, Mike’s wife in Sydney. Her presence was so strong, as if she were right there digging into the paella with us. We ended the night stopping by a wake for our dear friend Mona’s mom. While death evokes sad emotions, in this wake, we laughed and indulged in Mona’s sister’s Gigi Custaroons and Cupcakes.

Guilty pleasure: McDonald's Twister Fries

Paella from Calderon in Kapitolyo, Pasig

Smiling at the end of the day!

Today, this is what I’ve learned: Shit happens. Sometimes, you feel like the world is weighing down on your shoulders. There will come a day when you don’t feel quite right, and you feel like you can’t soldier on. On days like this, BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Give your self that cookie to cheer you up. Go to your favorite café. Talk to your best friend. Get a massage. Ask for help. Do one thing to make your life better. Surround yourself with friends. Friends can make a difficult load more manageable. So next time you wake up feeling like crap, take a day of from being brave. And do the best thing to revive your brave soul, be kind to yourself. No one knows better to do it than you do!

CopyrightMaidaPineda2014. Join me at on Facebook and Instagram/themaidastouch and twitter https://twitter.com/themaidastouch



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Do You LIKE you?

Today, I embark on a little project I call #100simplybravedays #maidasimplybrave100



I began the year with the word BRAVE as my battle cry. Brave is my word for 2014 and how apt it has been. I will end the year with the best Christmas gift to myself: a commitment to living simply brave. I have several goals I wish to achieve like hitting One Million steps in 100 days, or losing ten pounds, but there are goals which I wish to privately keep to myself. One of the gifts of this year the call to live with less. Moving from spacious three bedroom flat to a studio, I realized I lived with so many things I don't need. I am called to purge. So for the next 100 days, I am committed to live with less, to live simply, to collect experiences not things, and to one thing everyday that scares me.

saw this shared by a friend on Facebook and it captures who I want to be in the next 100 days


While I had been a professional writer for over 16 years now, I don't have an opportunity to bare my raw self everyday in my food and travel articles. So here's the scary thing I will start doing for the next 100 days, I'll bravely share intimate thoughts and feelings on this blog. Many times, I write for myself and keep them in my laptop for no one else. But I'd like to freely share my thoughts and feelings this next 100 days. I do hope you journey with me as I try my best to be simply brave.

Let me start by sharing this piece I wrote in late July called, "Do You Like You?"




Colbie Caillat’s song, “Try,” has been playing in my ear on repeat for about an hour now. I’ve played been playing it earlier today too, several times yesterday, and a couple of time more the day before. “You don’t have to try so hard, you don’t have to give it all away, you don’t have to try so hard, you don’t have to bend until you break, you just have get up, get up, get up, you don’t have to change a single thing, you don’t have to try, try, try, try, try…. You don’t have to try, try, try…”  The refrain sings over and over again. “Take your make up off, Let your hair down, take a breath, look at the mirror at yourself, do you like you?”

We live in a world of likes. Our days are spent going through newsfeeds on Facebook and Instagram, where the currency is measured in LIKES. We count friends, or followers, or fans. The preoccupation with being liked is so immense. I am calloused freelance writer, who has gone through numerous rejections from editors. Yes, it takes many No’s before I get a published article out to magazines. How I wish my editors not only like me, but love me! How I wish they not only like every single idea I pitch, but love it.

We all want to be liked. Many of us are guilty of checking if people liked our posts and our photos on Facebook. I am guilty of it. While it is human nature want to be liked and belong. I recall being in Prep. I wanted to be friends with two girls Patricia and Angelica, but they didn’t want to be my friend because I did not have Little Twin Stars Pencil box or Sanrio stuff. My little five-old-self walked away feeling rejected. Since then, I had always preferred down-to-earth, grounded friends not preoccupied with brands. It has worked well for me thank you.

But unfortunately, the opposite of LIKED is not rejection. One wise quote I said, “One of the most freeing thing we learn in life is that we don’t like everyone, everyone doesn’t like us, and that’s ok….” –David Bohl. You don’t have to try so hard to be liked by others. News flash, not everyone likes caviar, or foie gras, or even chocolate. The same way not everyone likes McDonald’s, Coke, or even loom bands. No matter how popular or expensive something is, it doesn’t mean we should like it.

This is what I love about the message of Colbie Caillat’s song. We don’t really have to try so hard to be liked. She asks do they like you, but the more important question resonating with me is “When you are all alone, by yourself, do you like you?”

It is a tough question to answer. We fill our lives with noise. We are at a loss if we don’t have TV, or music to numb out our feelings. I lived in Singapore, with an American teacher, who refused to have a TV. When I moved in with her, it was a new experience to be without a TV, but a liberating one. I turned to books more. While I like music, I am quite happy to be without any music playing. A Filipino chef was alarmed my flat was so quiet when he visited. But minus the hum of the TV, radio, music, and the internet, without other people’s thoughts, when we are all alone with ourselves do we like ourselves?

The real you is who you are when you are all alone.  Three years ago when I moved back to Manila, I was living by myself. Unhappy with many things in my life then, I would ease my sorrow with popcorn, pancakes, cake, and other guilty pleasures I could whip up all alone in my flat. I was alone after all, no one could see me doing it. But the sad answer to the question was, “NO!” I didn’t like me. Since last year, I had become committed to actively learning to like myself. I took active steps to live the body I had been given, to enjoy my own company, and to better myself.

I recently learned if you liked your own company, you can never be lonely. Ours is a society of belonging, of social acceptance, of groups, but seldom of being alone.  We seek social approval. We want to be liked. But how will we even press that like button, if we don’t know who we are.



---end---

July 25, 2014. 8:19pm

CopyrightMaidaPineda. Follow me on Facebook/Maida's Touch and on Instagram/themaidastouch and twitter https://twitter.com/themaidastouch

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What's your word?


2014 rolled in, with the first month of the year already over. For many, they have forgotten their new year’s resolutions already. I have the habit of writing resolutions at the start of every year. I love beginnings and am thrilled by the prospect of a brand new life. I go crazy and buy several planners.  At the start of every year, I think this year would be different and I would finally be organized. I will finally stick to my resolutions, and I will live my best life. This year I resisted the urge of buying many planners. Instead of writing resolutions this year, I wrote goals instead. I sat down and looked at things in my life I wanted to change and improve. I returned to it several time to fine tune my goals and clearly state them to the universe. I listened to some talks too and learned that intentions are better than resolutions.

But more lasting than a resolution is having a word to live this year by. For days, I kept thinking what my word is. I started thinking about my word on the last few days of 2013. Words kept coming into my head, but didn’t feel right with my heart. 2014 came, with days rolling by and still no word for me. But on January 6th, as I drove home from the gym sweaty from a Zumba workout, I turned on the radio. My word came to me. Brave. Sara Bareilles was playing on the radio. I recall hearing the song when she performed it on TV for CNN Heroes in late December. There she was singing amidst amazing people, who followed their heart and did good to help communities around the world. It was a powerful message for me. 


But as I negotiated Manila’s traffic that afternoon, I said, “That’s it.” With certainty, I knew in my heart, my word is BRAVE. The lyrics struck a chord with me, especially these lines:
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 "Bow down to the the mighty,
Don't run, just top holding your tongue
Maybe there's a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in,
Show me how big your brave is!"
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Why brave? I have written one too many lists of my dreams and my goals. But this is the year to finally do them. It is time to sit down and write my third book. Something, I’ve been meaning to write for years.  It is the year to travel to places I’ve always wanted to visit. It is time to do finally shed off the stubborn pounds that weigh me down. It is time to finally tackle the growing mess in the spare room in my flat. It is time to become more adult and responsible with certain aspects of my life. And, it is also time to brave to create, be bold, and have fun. It’s time to paint again and cook for friends. It is time to live again with courage.It is time to get out of my own way.


With clarity, I prayed to :

BE BRAVE
…to live my story
to enjoy being alone
to travel the world
to be the hero of my story
to write my own unique story
to speak and honor my own authentic voice
to celebrate my reality
to love
to be a good friend
to be a good sister
to be a good daughter
to be the strongest, fittest I had ever been
to live with less
to become what Maida’s Touch is really about—delicious inspired journeys
and to let God love me, deeply!


I asked a few friends too what their word is for the year. For one, it is wellness. He commits to eating right and running thirty minutes daily. For another, it is hope. For another, it is freedom. He boldly started his own business. It is a freedom from corporate life, even if he does know how much he will earn this year.

I have been playing Sara Bareilles’ song Brave everyday. On most days, I play it a couple of times. It has become my anthem. More than listening and singing along to the song, it is time to honor my words and be brave. I am challenging myself to do one brave thing each day.

I hope you too find your word or shall I say your battle cry for the year. Let’s make each day count. We can do this!  

MaidaPineda.2014.  
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Homeless for the Holidays: A Christmas Story

I realized the first Christmas story was about a homeless husband and wife. Mary and Joseph were turned away at an inn. Far from their home, Mary gave birth in a stable.

Mary & Joseph were homeless for the first Christmas


Working as a travel writer, I often find myself alone in a foreign land. Part of my adventure is finding my home away from home. Seven days before Christmas I give thanks to people who have opened their homes and hearts to me this year.

There are friends like Isabel who always keeps her home in Singapore open to me. She loves her neighborhood so much. It has rubbed off to me. Her beloved Tiong Bahru is now my adopted home in Singapore. While I enjoy the market ,the restaurants, cafes, and curio shops in her hood, what I enjoy the most is our unending conversations till the wee hours.

Isabel's Tiong Bahru Neighborhood

In Sydney, Ange and Mike opened their home to me, with lovely Bella following me like Mary's little lamb. Opening one's home means sharing intimate bits of your life, for that I am most grateful.
Bella's wine and cheese welcome 

But there too are strangers who have made foreign places feel like home. I have said this before..."you don't choose places, places choose you." I visited Indonesia three times this year. The Indonesians feel familiar to me. They exude a warmth just like Filipinos do. As a travel writer, I am blessed to be invited to stay in fabulous resorts. In Bali, there is no shortage of many fantastic resorts all over the island.
Indonesian Hospitality at Santika Nusa Dua

One unique place in Bali is Tugu Resort. The owner is one of Indonesia's largest antique collectors. So impressed with his vast collection, his daughter Lucienne kindly extended an invitation to stay at their Bali resort. Each villa is tastefully decorated with antique pieces. Given a choice my heart sighed at one villa. Painted with green walls, it was the perfect kind of cozy and elegant. There was a plunge pool. But my favorite details are the door and the orange bathroom. I could spend my days writing here everyday I thought to myself. I then realized this is my dream home.

my favorite villa at Tugu Bali 



In June, I was wowed by what Ayana Resort had to offer. With its amazing Rock Bar, the waves crashed below me as I watched the sun set from this elevated bar voted the best by top travel magazines.

Rock Bar at Ayana Resort in Bali 

But my joy was getting a special cocktail from the bartender who spoke fluent Tagalog. He was an Indonesian who worked in a bar in Ortigas for years.

A Tagalog speaking bartender at Rock Bar concocts me a special drink


The resort’s amazing thalassotherapy pool was something else. Imagine marrying the joys of a day in a pool and varying pressures to ease your aching muscles from head to toe.

But what felt like home is Ayana's sister property, newly opened Rimba Resort. I loved living in a sustainable environment using wood from old boats and natural wooden sculptures for wall art.
Rimba's sustainable interiors using old wooden boats 

bamboo chandelier & old boats in Rimba resort's lobby


In Ubud, my friend Anna not only pointed me to the direction of her favorite guest house, but also gave me specific directions where to go for the best coffee and free wifi when I was cramming an article.

At home amidst the vast antique collection in Tugu Lombok

In Lombok, I was all by myself in this island to explore what it had to offer. I found great beaches to soak up the sun, resorts perfect for families and lovers, but the best gem was finding authentic culture of the island. French resident and gm of The Santosa kindly shared his family's favorite place to eat Lombok food.

feeling right at home at Tugu Lombok's antiques

Stephane (the GM of the Santosa) and his sons share their favorite resto serving Ayam Taliwang

In Yogyakarta home was a hotel, which was once a sultan's palace. The hotel staff at Royal Ambarrukmo made sure I felt like royalty. They treated me as guest of honor to their royal high tea and the royal dinner, with the traditional service fit for a sultan.

at Royal Amburrokmo Lobby

feeling special at Royal High tea at Royal Ambarrukomo at Yogyakarta
The traditional procession to bring the food and tea for Royal High Tea 


A wise priest once told me, "Home is where you're at." My neighbor Lory makes me feel right at home when I'm in Manila. Hearing her voice call out from her third floor garden balcony
"Maida!!!" as I get off my car is my cue for us to catch up with eachother's lives. Home is telling my mom the joys and trials I am facing or showing dad photos from my travels. Home is sharing a simple meal of okra in an Indian canteen with my best friend Rissa whom I had known since I was 8. We don't need fancy restaurants just good food and endless talk about eachother's lives.

Tonight, I am at home with my solitude in the company only of words. I ask myself: Have I made this world feel a bit cozier, warmer for someone this year? Did I make someone feel more at home wherever they are physically or in the state of life they are in?

Give thanks today feeling at home where you are at or feel even more grateful for feeling right at home in your own skin.

I realize we will never be homeless in this world, with the love of God and the loving kindness of people everywhere. Thank you to every single person, who has made this great big world feel warmer and like home wherever I go.

Wishing you a merry Christmas, the best of the holidays, and a blessed 2014!

Christmas 2013  at Manila Hotel Lobby
*This post was written a week before Christmas, but with my laptop being repaired and the series of holiday events & traffic I only got to post it today!

copyright. Maida Pineda 2013