Archive for the ‘house & home’ Category

blue as next to best

When people ask, “What’s your favorite color?”, I am not among the many who wonder, “Yeah, what is my favorite color anyway?” or “Do I even have one?” or “Hmm, let me see…pink, maybe?”

Nope, not me. I am convinced — or rather, have convinced myself — that GREEN is my favorite color. You see, long ago, I had stood in front of the mirror and permanently hypnotized myself: “Look into my eyes, Lara. Your favorite color shall be green!”

Also, that my maiden name is “green-yo” helps me to remember that fact in my lucid moments.

Which makes it not surprising that (A): last weekend’s blog post was full of IT.

And (B): the prominent features in this blog are green.

And (C): my wedding motif was this.

And (D): one can find green objects EVERYWHERE in our kitchen. (No, I don’t mean those extra-terrestrials.)

And (E): I just HAD TO acquire this…

…even when I have never EVER splurged on jewelry, and never EVER will again.


In case you’re now confused about how the title relates to the actual blog post, everything that’s been written above the red line was actually just an introduction; a heavy one compared to the body below, but an introduction, nevertheless.

What I was intending to showcase here was my second favorite color.

I (also) love BLUE…

…on sparkling lake waters,

…and when they turn a deep shade in the seas, contrasting with the lighter sky,

…and in those “blue-moments” in winter afternoons where everything you see, literally, is blue!

But most of all, I love the blue in this man’s eyes.

They just stand out…pop!

And it’s true what the song says: I get lost in his eyes ;-)

In fact, I loved his blue eyes so much that I just HAD to marry him.



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These are wonderful finds from an online art gallery in Kristianstad:

And these are framed posters of Lena A Linderholm’s art:

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‘Raindrops on roses’? Oh definitely! But ‘whiskers on kittens’? No way. Puppy breath and paws are more to my liking.

And here are a few more. These were taken today.

lazy, sunny saturday mornings

budding tulips

and jaakko,



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looking forward

img_0173Delsbo, October 2007

I Look Forward to the colors and chill of Fall,
for it is The Prelude to Winter,
when Christmas and the new year will Finally be spent
at Home, in The Philippines.



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There’s a good reason why I haven’t watched Snowdogs or Marley and Me, otherwise well-reviewed, excellent-themed movies. But I heard that a dog dies in each of these films, so I opted never to watch them. I don’t think my heart can take it. I easily mentally substitute dogs in film to the ones my sister and I have.

Cherie and I have four. Or rather had four, because we lost one yesterday — our eldest, Pavlov. He died of kidney failure, at a little past 9 in the evening, Philippine time. This handsome Japanese spitz was part of our family for twelve years. He celebrated his last birthday in May.


When I moved to Sweden two years ago, I feared then, yet hoped otherwise, that I won’t see him again, so I kissed and hugged him for a longer time than I did the other dogs. Yesterday as he lay dying, my sister put the phone near his ears and I cried my final goodbye. I could write about him now, when the tug at my heart doesn’t feel as heavy as yesterday. I pity my sister, who faithfully cared for our sick dog, and who wasn’t spared from the pain of watching him slowly die. I admire her devotion and strength, that she endured to stay with him, for hours and hours, until the end.

January 15 2005 004

Pavlov was a gift from my father’s best friend’s family. They named him after the Russian psychologist who used dogs to prove the “conditioning” phenomenon. Before he was given to us, he had his first brush with death when a large trunk fell on him. He was just a few weeks old then. He miraculously survived but was left with an uncontrollable shaking of the head. We are grateful that this gradually disappeared over the years, and would manifest only when he got excited or focused on something.

When Pavlov was a few months old, before he could be vaccinated, he got sick of parvo. I really thought we would lose him then, but Cherie did not lose hope. One night, she made us lay our hands on him and ask the Lord for healing. We got our second miracle. The next morning, his health immediately improved. We became more careful after that and took him — and later, the younger dogs — to the doctor for regular care. Pavlov stayed healthy and gave us years of wonderful memories.

We will most miss him:

  • shaking his head when he’s focused on something;
  • pushing the food tray with his nose before he eats;
  • drinking his milk in the morning;
  • sept16-014greedily eating sweet bread in the afternoon;
  • running up and down the stairs;
  • sitting always at our feet during meal times;
  • getting “violently” excited over car trips
    and sticking his head out of the window;
  • gnarling at Yayay when it’s time for his bath
    yet becoming overly-playful immediately after she dries him;
  • barking loudly at anyone who arrives;
  • scratching at the door, and would not stop until you let him in;
  • jumping onto beds
    and trying to jump back again after you push him away
    or giving you that intent look, asking that he be allowed back on the bed;
  • January 15 2005 023licking our faces to greet us good morning;
  • standing by the ac and letting the cold wind blow on his face;
  • getting angry when we pretend to attack Cherie;
  • coming over to us when we pretend to talk behind his back;
  • happily hopping on the grass in the school campus;
  • lying contentedly while the younger dogs lick his ears;
  • chewing on toilet paper cartons;
  • playing hide-and-seek;
  • following us everywhere in the house;
  • and welcoming all of us, with that uber-excited wag on his tail, every time we come home.

Pavlov wasn’t merely our “dog”, he was our “baby”. Mine and Cherie’s. But it was very evident that he was more hers than mine. He was loyal and fiercely protective of her. I had his attention only when Cherie was absent. He loved her more because it was she who loved him most.


We thank God for the gift of loving a dog. Pavlov made our memories even happier and moments even sweeter. He brought my sister and I closer, and brought out kindness and compassion from those who loved him.

Dec29 2004 001





Good boy, Paffy.

Mommies love you.



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III. The Cast of Characters


Upon arriving in Nivala, the entire brood (sans Annu and Aleksi because they had summer jobs) was tasked to paint the family home. It was a wonderful feeling to work together as a family and I can imagine how proud Isa and Äiti must have felt, seeing their grown kids’ families, bonding over conversations, paint, play and hearty meals.








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After two days of painting, we were free to laze around the town, visiting family and friends.

P1000474Guess where we were at!

P1000537The cows were huge (!!!) and curious. I was a bit scared — can you tell?

P1000485We visited the cemetery with Äiti to water the flowers in the graves of their dead relatives.

P1000536With Maire and Arvo (Jaakko’s dad’s eldest brother): Maire recently celebrated her 80th birthday and guess what her husband got her? A brand new laptop! Although, she said she was simply hoping for a “rollator”. Now, they are both learning to send emails. Lesson: “It is never too late to learn new tricks.”

P1000362those beautiful finns, fooling around with the new cam




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A day after we returned to Ljusdal, Leena and Antti came a-visitin’, having driven along the same route we took, and will continue on to Stockholm and then to a ferry to Turku in Finland.

P1000724Leena and Antti are true-blue nature-lovers.

P1000709While having fika on top of Avholmsberget, surrounded by the chatter of people in the other tables, Leena asked, “Do you hear the blackbird singing?” Only she and Antti heard it!

P1000700Here, Leena is in her element: examining local growths and checking to see if they are included in her book of flora and fauna of Scandinavia. Also, she doesn’t know the Swedish word for “sparrow”, but she sure knows it in Latin! You’re amazing, Leena-darling!

P1000729Do you see any resemblance? Jaakko and his sisters take after their mom, while Antti and Ilkka look more like their dad. Antti is about 195 cm tall (over 6’4″ !!!), which makes him the tallest man I have ever met.

P1000730After a few hours of shopping around town and finding the perfect clothes for her, Leena exclaimed, “Ljusdal rocks!” I agree!

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A day after they left, Joy and Marcus arrived by train from Norrköping, in the south. I had gotten to know Joy when I became a fan of her engaging and intelligent blog. We formally met last summer when Jaakko and I passed through their city during our tour of the south.


P1000790In Gröntjärn (translates to “green small-lake”), Jaakko prepared the fire for grilling the sausages…

P1000789…while Joy shaved some wood as grilling stick. It was Marcus, though, who made the perfect one, with two twigs sticking out from one, creating a “V”, which functions effectively like a fork. (Sorry, no photo of that!)

P1000775In Orbaden (known as “Hälsingland’s Riviera”), the water was so cold that my feet instinctively recoiled after dipping a toe in. It wasn’t a wonder then that we didn’t see grown-ups swimming that day, only the little ones. I wonder if their physical resistance was born out of their stubborn will just to play in the water. They are kids, are they not?

P1000772Joy wrote a wonderful feature about their trip here and displayed more photos here.

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Every time I travel back to my home city of Iloilo, as the plane makes a turn above the strait between Guimaras and Panay and descends for landing, looking out from the small window to the vastness of sky and earth, I would silently sing this hymn* I learned from childhood. It seems appropriate to share that song now, as I found myself singing it again, during these two weeks of comings and goings…
Jaakko and I, among family and friends, in our part of the North.

For the beauty of the earth, for the wonder of the skies,
For the love which from our birth, over and around us lies.

For the gift of human love — brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise!


*For the Beauty of the Earth, by Folliott Pierpoint, 1864

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an unexpected present

in Swedish, “en oväntad gåva”

This morning, my husband and I woke up to something unexpected. This bright beauty bloomed right in time for my birthday today and Jaakko’s tomorrow.


Unlike most people in my family, I do not have a green thumb. In fact, in our former apartment, all of our house plants — save one pitiful yucca — died. When a friend gave us this plant as a house-warming present last October, I did not have the heart to tell her that she had just given it a death sentence.

This banana-look-alike barely survived the winter; it hardly grew new leaves and looked…well, frail. I wanted to throw it away already (Sorry, Cleide!). But J somehow saw its potential and encouraged me to be faithful in keeping it moist. As winter drew to a close and the days became longer, we noticed that the leaves appeared perkier, shoots became abundant, and the soil dried faster. And when we transferred it to a new pot, we even had to cut away and replant separate growths. Hurrah, it was really thriving! Gramma and Papa would be so proud.

Now call me crazy, but I believe that the plant understood and appreciated our devotion to its growth. Just look at how it has rewarded us!


Yes, spring has finally arrived in the north, Joy!

Jaakko did a bit of research and found out that our beautiful surprise is a canna lily.

Oh, and Gramma said that in the Philippines, they call it Bandera española (the Spanish flag), obviously derived from the color scheme.


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