The Five Best Christmas Gifts

best Christmas giftsAs we con­tin­ue to busy our­selves with shop­ping for the best presents, it’s inevitable to lose sight of the best Christ­mas gifts. They may be free,  can­not be wrapped and put under the tree, but they are more pre­cious and are guar­an­teed to be much more appreciated.

Top 1: Patience

How many times have we lost our patience with the ones we love over lit­tle things? It’s inter­est­ing how we react vehe­ment­ly to sto­ries of peo­ple who have lost their patience, but how many times have we respond­ed sim­i­lar­ly to even lit­tler things? How many times have we raised our voice at our fam­i­ly because things weren’t going our way? This hol­i­day sea­son, try to be more patient. Things can still go your way if you wait or ask nicely.

Top 2: Time

best Christmas giftsIt’s easy to be caught up in the bus­tle of the fes­tiv­i­ties and end-of-year work projects, but make sure to spend time with the peo­ple who tru­ly mat­ter to you. I’m not talk­ing about par­ty­ing and get­ting drunk, I’m talk­ing about a time to talk and lis­ten. (Get­ting drunk or eat­ing a lot are just a bonus.) If you can, meet up for a meal or cof­fee, or if gazil­lion miles stand between you and your loved ones, you always have tech­nol­o­gy to rely on.

Top 3: Understanding

Now if friends or fam­i­ly bail out on you last minute and say that they can’t meet up with you this sil­ly sea­son, relax — there’s no dead­line for this. You can still meet up in the new year. Los­ing your tem­per and burn­ing bridges over issues this like is an effec­tive way to make the sea­son less merrier.

Top 4: Charity

best Christmas giftsExchang­ing gifts with peo­ple we love is mar­vel­lous, but let’s not for­get the less for­tu­nate ones who deserve to expe­ri­ence the joy of Christ­mas, too. Give to char­i­ta­ble insti­tu­tions, join or organ­ise one Christ­mas out­reach pro­gram your­self, vis­it the sick, elder­ly or orphans and remem­ber them in your prayers.

Top 5: Something healthy

best Christmas giftsAlas, we have once again found an excuse to eat (every­thing) and drink (every­thing) to our heart’s con­tent, so some form of healthy present will cer­tain­ly be cher­ished. Your gift this Christ­mas will be the lead your loved ones need to get back on the well­ness horse with ease.

best Christmas giftHope this list helps. You can­not wrap most of what’s on this list, but these are far more impor­tant than any of the presents you can pur­chase in the shops. Hope you’re hav­ing the mer­ri­est of Christ­mases! Cheers!

Top 5 reasons why having idle time isn’t always great

Many peo­ple talk and dream about tak­ing a Sab­bat­i­cal and imag­ine them­selves marooned on an island with noth­ing to do. That was prob­a­bly a bit over the top, but many peo­ple just wish they had noth­ing to do and they’re more than hap­py to do noth­ing for extend­ed peri­ods of time. Now, the idea on paper sounds great, but idle time in the wrong hands can be very destruc­tive. Below are five rea­sons why hav­ing idle time is not always ideal.

idle timeTop 1: Some peo­ple with idle time over­think things.

When you have a lot of time in your hands, it’s dif­fi­cult to take things at face val­ue. Why? Because you have time to think and rethink to the point of over­think­ing what just hap­pened or what was said. Let the words and the sit­u­a­tion go, my friend. If you have any con­cerns, instead of over­think­ing, get to the bot­tom of things by asking.

Top 2: Some peo­ple with idle time wor­ry excessively.

Over­think­ing and over­analysing are worry’s best bud­dies. Time spent on the for­mer will, lat­er on, be ded­i­cat­ed to wor­ry­ing. Idle minds, as they say, are the devil’s play­ground, so stop wor­ry­ing about every­thing. Wor­ry­ing is one of the most unpro­duc­tive activ­i­ties. Instead of wor­ry­ing, do something.

Top 3: Some peo­ple with idle time gos­sip a lot.

idle timeStop talk­ing about peo­ple neg­a­tive­ly. I under­stand that peo­ple in the lime­light are almost egging you on to talk about them, so I get it that peo­ple can’t stop gos­sip­ing about Trump or Brad Pitt. How­ev­er, if you have a beef with a friend or fam­i­ly mem­ber, polite­ly talk to that per­son. The prob­lem with gos­sip­ing is you invite anoth­er demon to feed more neg­a­tiv­i­ty into your thoughts.

Top 4: Some peo­ple with idle time com­pare them­selves with oth­er people.

When you gos­sip about oth­er peo­ple, you end up com­par­ing your­self to oth­ers. This harm­ful activ­i­ty will not result in any­thing good because your con­clu­sion might be that you’re bet­ter than them or they’re bet­ter than you. The point is there’s no point in doing this! Do some­thing more constructive!

Idle time in the wrong hands can be very destructive.

Top 5: Some peo­ple with idle time enjoy it too much that they become content.

I’m not sug­gest­ing you climb the Himalayas or go snor­kel­ing in the Pacif­ic Ocean — just do some­thing. Watch free TV, read, reflect, lis­ten to music and sing along, play games, go for a walk, jog or run, eat out, dance, write a card, binge-watch TV series, trav­el, gar­den, make friends, write your thoughts, clean and tidy up, pray, cook, bake, sew, see a movie, get into cal­lig­ra­phy, play an instru­ment, paint, plan your next trip, etc. There are a hun­dred things you’re bet­ter off doing than doing any of the top 4.

idle timeEnjoy your idle time as not every­one has this lux­u­ry. The goal is to find at least one or two things to do every day, so at the end of each day you feel more pos­i­tive about life and sleep with a smile on your face and in your heart.

Top 5 things I miss about the Philippines

I’ve lived in Aus­tralia for eight years now, and I’ve got used to the dai­ly grind. How­ev­er, there are still moments when I’m remind­ed of what I’m miss­ing for emi­grat­ing to the Land Down Under. Here are my top 5 things I miss about the Philip­pines apart, of course, from my dear fam­i­ly and friends.

miss about the PhilippinesTop 1: Cheap and relatively good quality clothes and shoes

Many peo­ple who go to the Philip­pines say that the price of brand­ed items is as high in oth­er coun­tries. Well, yeah, but who said you should buy them there? The Philip­pines has its local brands, and a good num­ber of them are good buys — not just because they’re much cheap­er, but because the qual­i­ty you get for that afford­able price is sur­pris­ing­ly good.

Top 2: Distinctly Filipino foodmiss about the Philippines

I miss our stinky, salty, sweet and fat­ty food. I also miss the street food that I remem­ber set­ting aside mon­ey for. Pic­ture these: mang­gang hilaw with ala­mang o asin (green man­go with shrimp paste or salt), fish balls and squid balls with its tasty but most like­ly dirty dip, banana cue (deep fried bananas coat­ed in caramelised brown sug­ar), chicharon (pork crack­ling), dirty ice cream (It’s not dirty, or is it?) and many more.

Top 3: Overstaffed shopping malls

When­ev­er I go to Myer and David Jones, I find myself miss­ing the swarms of staff in The Land­mark and SM Malls. Tills are not always manned in these big Aussie depart­ment stores as the staff also assist cus­tomers around. It’s not rare that I had to ask a sales assis­tant far from the cashier to help me process a purchase.

miss about the PhilippinesTop 4: Malls open during my shopping hours

Aus­tralia is quite odd as its mall hours are very sim­i­lar to the com­mon 9 to 5 employee’s work hours. This means that on those rare occa­sions I had time to do some shop­ping, I was greet­ed with the announce­ment that the store’s about to close in 15 min­utes. I don’t under­stand this! Shop­ping on week­days is an impos­si­bil­i­ty for peo­ple like me. Week­ends are bet­ter for shop­ping, but the stores still close at 5 or 6.

miss about the PhilippinesTop 5: The word ‘po

I miss hear­ing ‘po’ in con­ver­sa­tions. The word ‘po’ is used to show peo­ple old­er than you respect. The word makes me proud to be Fil­ipino. In this fast-paced and con­stant­ly chang­ing world, it’s good to know that Fil­ipinos still recog­nise respect to be an impor­tant val­ue to have.

If you’re a Fil­ipino liv­ing over­seas, I invite you to share your top 5 things you miss about the Philippines.


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Top 5 questions you should never ask

never ask questionsWe love small talk. It has saved us in very uncom­fort­able sit­u­a­tions. How­ev­er, if you ask the wrong ques­tions, they might be the bane of your exis­tence. Here are the top 5 ques­tions you should nev­er ask:

NEVER ASK ‘How old are you?’ Unless you’re gath­er­ing data for a cen­sus, this ques­tion should nev­er be asked. If you work for a licensed venue, it’s bet­ter to request for a proof of age card. If ask­ing a person’s age is just out of curios­i­ty, you can ask this ques­tion after 15 min­utes of con­tin­u­ous talk­ing giv­en that it’s relat­ed to the top­ic you’ve been talk­ing about and by start­ing it with ‘I hope you don’t mind’ or ‘Would you mind…”

NEVER ASK ‘Why don’t you have children?’never ask questions

In some cul­tures, mar­ried cou­ples are expect­ed to have chil­dren and are assumed to want to have them. What bystanders don’t take into con­sid­er­a­tion are the couple’s cir­cum­stances and choice. Ask­ing this ques­tion can be espe­cial­ly offen­sive if hav­ing a child has been chal­leng­ing and heart-wrenching.

NEVER ASK ‘Why aren’t you married?’

There’s noth­ing wrong with being sin­gle and being asked that ques­tion some­times insin­u­ates that it is. We make choic­es every day, and this includes our choice to remain sin­gle or be in a relationship.

NEVER ASK ‘Do you know _________?’

This ques­tion is one usu­al­ly asked in small talk. When you say you’ve stud­ied at a par­tic­u­lar uni­ver­si­ty or lived in a par­tic­u­lar sub­urb, some can’t help but ask if you know some­one who used to study at the same uni­ver­si­ty or live in the same sub­urb. It’s quite rare that you get a ‘yes’ to this question.

never ask questionsNEVER ASK ‘Did you have your ________ done?’  In some coun­tries it’s com­mon to have one’s nose, breasts or bot­tom done. It’s so com­mon that it’s not kept a secret. How­ev­er, if you haven’t estab­lished a good rela­tion­ship with this per­son you sus­pect to have had some face or body enhance­ment, keep the query to your­self. When that per­son becomes more com­fort­able with you, s/he might just share this juicy infor­ma­tion freely.

There are so many ques­tions that are so tempt­ing to ask. Be sen­si­tive or at least think twice, three times or ten times before ask­ing these ques­tions you should nev­er ask.

Top 5 reasons to have a dog

have a dogWhen we adopt a dog, we some­times think that we’re doing it a favour. What we don’t realise is that get­ting a dog can be life-chang­ing if you let your four-legged pal work its mag­ic on you and the peo­ple around you. Below is a list of top 5 rea­sons to have a dog.

Top 1 rea­son: Get­ting a dog can make you more responsible.

Get­ting a dog isn’t like get­ting a new gad­get; it’s like adopt­ing a child. The lazy you will not be able to cope with the respon­si­bil­i­ties of look­ing after it, which include feed­ing, bathing, walk­ing and train­ing it to be a fan­tas­tic canine. Your dog can be a reflec­tion of who you are. Shab­by and ill-bred dogs are deemed to be raised by irre­spon­si­ble ‘par­ents’, while the well-behaved and sweet ones are per­ceived to be prod­ucts of nur­tur­ing ones.

Top 2 rea­son: Chil­dren can under­stand the stages of life through dogs.have a dog

Sad­ly, if you have a dog in your younger years, it is unlike­ly you’ll out­live it. The aver­age life of dogs is from 10 to 13 years. Through your dog’s life, chil­dren will learn about and appre­ci­ate the stages of life with the growth, devel­op­ment and pass­ing of their dog.

Top 3 rea­son: Dogs can turn you into a self­less person.

As you pro­vide for and help your dog go through life, you become less self-absorbed with yours. Even if it’s dif­fi­cult to walk your dog on a cold winter’s day or a hot summer’s day, you’ll still do it out of love.

Top 4 rea­son: Dogs make you for­get your problems.have a dog

Dogs have an uncan­ny way of just being there for you when you need a friend. I have good mem­o­ries of sit­ting next to my pup and telling him about my hor­ri­ble day while he looked at me with his kind pup­py eyes. I remem­ber the fun­ny things he did that cracked me up and relaxed me.

Top 5 rea­son: Dogs force you to lead a healthy life.

Long walks and exhaust­ing chas­es are inevitable if you’d like to have a healthy dog. As you help your dog achieve this, you, too, become fit. My oth­er blog entry titled Top 5 rea­sons to walk your dog dis­cuss­es the ben­e­fits in more detail.

have a dogIt’s real­ly great to have a dog, a love­ly crea­ture that gives us so much by just being itself. Your dog can be your best friend, psy­chol­o­gist, phys­i­cal train­er, and so many oth­ers if you let it.

Top 5 reasons why the tortoise won against the hare

The tor­toise beat the hare in a race! Cheers! Every­one knows the children’s sto­ry ‘The Tor­toise and the Hare’: The hare and tor­toise raced against each oth­er. The boast­ful hare took a big lead but rest­ed on its lau­rels. It snoozed just before it got to the fin­ish line, just to showhy the tortoise won against the harew off and prove to every­one that it could still win despite chill­ing out. While the hare was sleep­ing, the hard­work­ing tor­toise slow­ly and steadi­ly inched its way to the fin­ish line.

You’ve most cer­tain­ly told Aesop’s fable count­less times. Have you, how­ev­er, told the entire sto­ry of the tor­toise and hare? Have you told the lit­tle ones the rea­sons why the tor­toise won against the hare? I’m sure you’ve told them some of the rea­sons, but allow me to remind you of the five rea­sons behind its famous and astound­ing victory.

Top 1 rea­son: The tor­toise worked hard and tried its best.

Let’s admit it — we’re all dif­fer­ent. Some are smarter than us, and that’s alright. That shouldn’t keep us from being suc­cess­ful though. Just like the tor­toise, with hard work and by set­ting its heart in achiev­ing some­thing, it man­aged to fin­ish the race and be vic­to­ri­ous over the hare.

Top 2 rea­son: The hare was boastful.why the tortoise won against the hare

The hare was over­con­fi­dent. It knew it was going to win by lit­er­al­ly a mile over the tor­toise and made sure every­one knew about it. It taunt­ed the tor­toise and tried to humil­i­ate it in front of the crowd. It even snoozed right in the mid­dle of the race to allow the tor­toise to catch up. If you pos­sess some­thing spe­cial, it’s com­mon to use it to your advan­tage, but there is no need to be boast­ful about it.

Top 3 rea­son: The tor­toise recog­nised its strengths and weaknesses.

There’s no point pre­tend­ing to be some­one you’re not. The tor­toise pos­sessed self-aware­ness. It knew it was slow, so it worked extra hard to meet its objec­tive. It’s best to acknowl­edge and accept your strengths and weak­ness­es. Use your strengths to flour­ish in life and your weak­ness­es to chal­lenge your­self to become an all-around bet­ter person.

Top 4 rea­son: The tor­toise had set a clear goal and stuck with it.

How can one be suc­cess­ful in life if one doesn’t know what he or she wants? The tur­tle had an objec­tive, and he saw it through in spite of all the obsta­cles and pos­si­bly some self-doubt. I’m sure the tor­toise knew there was a huge chance he was going to lose, but its heart of hearts told it to stay focused.

Top 5 rea­son: Noth­ing could dis­tract the tortoise.

Cer­tain­ly, there were cheers and jeers around, but none of these hin­dered twhy the tortoise won against the harehe tor­toise from reach­ing the fin­ish line before the hare. It could’ve trash-talked the hare before it got to the end, but it didn’t. As if the tor­toise had blind­ers on, there was, indeed, noth­ing that could’ve dis­tract­ed it from fin­ish­ing the race.

Let’s give more cred­it to the tor­toise by telling chil­dren why and how it won the race. The Tor­toise and the Hare may be just a fable or a children’s sto­ry to us, but to the lit­tle ones, it can be so much more if we tell them about the five rea­sons behind the victory.

Top 5 regrets I don’t want to have

I’m near­ly in my for­ties. Ahem. I’m no longer that young, but not quite old. I’m a few years away from open­ing the doors of mid­dle-age­dom, but I’d rather not get the key to that one just yet. For now, allow me to label myself a not-young-any­more adult. As a not-young-any­more adult, intro­spec­tion has become a hob­by. Thanks to the long tram and train rides, I have come up with a list of regrets I don’t want to have when I’m a def­i­nite­ly-not-young-any­more-but-prob­a­bly-still-looks-young-thanks-to-my-Asian-her­itage (phew!) adult.

Top 1 regret I don’t want to have: I didn’t trav­el enough.regrets I don't want to have

I’m start­ing to feel the num­bers in my age to weigh me down. I still enjoy walk­ing, but I’m start­ing to lose the spring in my legs. I don’t want to wake up one day regret­ting that I didn’t allow my feet to take me wher­ev­er. Trav­el­ling is an expen­sive hob­by to have, and I have mem­o­ries of regret­ting the costs asso­ci­at­ed with it. How­ev­er, the costs are eas­i­ly trumped by the fond mem­o­ries, the cul­tur­al immer­sion, the famous land­marks, the places that have earned the land­mark sta­tus in my heart, and the new and improved me at the end of every journey.

Top 2 regret I don’t want to have: I didn’t pur­sue what I want­ed in life.

Pur­su­ing what I want in life means I need to fight myself from stay­ing with­in my com­fort zone. It, how­ev­er, is a dif­fi­cult bat­tle to win as I’m quite risk-averse. Although I’m hap­py, the ques­tion ‘What else do you want to do in life?’ looms over me — and I let it. It some­times cre­ates dis­con­tent, but it also adds excite­ment in my life.

Top 3 regret I don’t want to have: I didn’t stay in touch with friends.regrets I don't want to have

Edna Buchanan was right when she said that friends are the fam­i­ly we choose for our­selves. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we some­times have to part ways with our friends. We don’t let friend­ships get in the way of oppor­tu­ni­ties, but we also shouldn’t allow oppor­tu­ni­ties to get in the way of good rela­tion­ships we’ve estab­lished over the years. Wouldn’t it be fan­tas­tic to be able to have cof­fee with our school friends when we’re in our 70s?

Top 4 regret I don’t want to have: I didn’t save enough.

The time will come when I can no longer work and when that time comes I want to be finan­cial­ly sta­ble. Becom­ing rich has nev­er been a dream, but remain­ing sta­ble is start­ing to become an obses­sion. I’d hate to see myself finan­cial­ly depen­dent on my fam­i­ly or friends, so I make sure my pig­gy gets a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of my earn­ings. It con­flicts with the first top regret, I know, but it’s doable.

Top 5 regret I don’t want to have: I didn’t eat and drink every­thing I wanted.regrets I don't want to have

As we age, our bod­ies start becom­ing fussy. Sud­den­ly, our super bod­ies will start telling us to lessen the inges­tion of sug­ar, salt, spices, alco­hol, fat­ty foods, fizzy drinks, cof­fee, etc. It’s inevitable, so I’ve got to start enjoy­ing them now (just before I go through some health checks). I’m not think­ing of stuff­ing my face with food and drinks every day until I hit 70. Of course, I’ll have to eat and drink every­thing in moderation.

I hate hav­ing what ifs, and I know it will be more frus­trat­ing to have them in my lat­er years. My solu­tion? Deal with these poten­tial regrets now, so they don’t become a reality.

You’ve read my list of regrets I don’t want to have when I reach my 70s. It’s now your turn. Do it on your next train or bus ride. Please share them with us.


Top 5 simple reasons to smile

Some peo­ple asso­ciate hap­pi­ness or at least a rea­son to smile to suc­cess, pow­er or wealth. Although these make me hap­py, there are heaps of oth­er things that bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart.

The list I’ve got is so sim­ple that some peo­ple might raise an eye­brow or even think I’ve lost the plot. Hope­ful­ly, after read­ing my expla­na­tions, you too, might start see­ing it from my cheery point of view.

Top 1 Simple Reason to Smile: Walking behind elderly couples
  1. Most films only depict the love between young adults. As much as it some­times makes me gid­dy, I pre­fer the real-life elder­ly love. When I see them walk­ing hand in hand or show­ing any form of care to each oth­er, I can’t help but get teary as I know I’m look­ing at love bat­tered by chal­lenges yet stand­ing despite it all.
Top 2 Simple Reason to Smile: Tram, train or bus drivers beeping as they pass each other

I don’t know why, but I’ve always thought that the moment they share as they beep and some­times raise their hand is quite spe­cial. Unlike many of us, dri­vers don’t get to inter­act with their col­leagues on a reg­u­lar basis. They prob­a­bly get a bit lone­ly oper­at­ing a machine for hours with­out com­mu­ni­cat­ing with anyone.

Top 3 Sim­ple Rea­son to Smile: Dou­ble egg yolks Top 5 reasons to smile

It’s just a treat to get them. Its rar­i­ty makes me feel priv­i­leged to unrav­el these yolks. More­over, they’re just great for scram­bled and fried eggs. You get extra yel­low scram­bled eggs and a dou­ble-eyed egg which pro­vides a good start for your Elmo eggs.

Top 4 Simple Reason to Smile: The smell of pages of a new book

I get excit­ed when I see a new book and even more excit­ed when the pages smell of new­ness. Try smelling it next time!

Top 5 Simple Reason to Smile: An accidental invention of a new recipe

How many times have you been des­per­ate to cre­ate a dish using ingre­di­ents that didn’t seem to make sense when mixed togeth­er? It’s quite often that I’m stuck with odds and ends that are about to go off in a few days. Imag­ine how I felt when I was able to cre­ate a Mas­terchef qual­i­ty dish out of them. It doesn’t usu­al­ly hap­pen but the few times it did, I was over the moon.

List­ing sim­ple rea­sons to smile can be ther­a­peu­tic espe­cial­ly on a grim day. I find it nice to share my sources of joy to make peo­ple realise that we live in a beau­ti­ful world pep­pered with good­ness. Smile! 🙂

Is there any­thing that makes you smile? I look for­ward to read­ing your own list in our reply box. Thanks!

Pray it forward

Image result for creative commons prayer

Pho­to cred­its: Cre­ative Com­mons Prayer from Insight

Would you like to know how to pray it forward?

There are so many bro­ken peo­ple in the world. Some of them seek our help, and we kind­ly take a minute or two to say a lit­tle prayer for them. In return, we pray for them in their own time of need. There’s noth­ing extra­or­di­nary about that. How­ev­er, apart from pray­ing for them, we can pray it for­ward.

Pray it for­ward is some­thing I’ve been doing for many years now. It all start­ed when I was on a packed pub­lic trans­port on my way home. It was rain­ing, mak­ing the trip chal­leng­ing for all com­muters. As the bus drove past the numer­ous peo­ple want­i­ng to get on the bus, I said a lit­tle prayer for them. I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) give up my seat for them, but at least I gave them more than empa­thy — I prayed for them.

Let’s con­tin­ue pray­ing for vic­tims of war-strick­en areas and ter­ror­ist attacks and ter­mi­nal­ly ill peo­ple, but let’s also pray for the peo­ple around us. There are so many peo­ple in need, and we don’t need to look very hard to find them.  Check out my top 5 Pray it For­ward inten­tions:

  1. Pray­ing for a moth­er to calm down her unset­tled child successfully
  2. Pray­ing for a man who has a nasty cough or cold
  3. Pray­ing for an elder­ly to safe­ly cross a busy road
  4. Pray­ing for a col­league or class­mate who rarely smiles to have some­thing smile about
  5. Pray­ing for a neigh­bour that his wash­ing gets dry on a chilly winter’s day

Just spend 10 to 20 sec­onds of prayer time for peo­ple like the ones list­ed. If you could pray for ten ran­dom peo­ple in a day, that would be awe­some. I’m sure God will be pleased to answer all our prayers, espe­cial­ly because they stem from the kind­ness of our hearts. Togeth­er, let’s pray it forward.

To inspire oth­er peo­ple, please share your Pray-it-for­ward inten­tions you can think of or have done in the reply box. Thanks! 😇