Tuesday, October 21, 2008

i can almost smell it

My third holiday this year -
longer than the previous two - is almost here.

I should be working to get everything in order before I leave , but I cannot shake off my travel bug.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I usually don't remember things I want to do, especially those I am not serious about. You know, those things you say but you never get around to implementing, like saving the world, or cleaning your refrigerator. No one remembers these things.

A couple of weeks back, I popped a balloon in a kiddie party - a very big thing for someone who was afraid of helium (I was traumatized as a child - but that's another story). I said somewhere in
that entry that I wanted to buy balloons and just pop them all day, in any way, to relieve stress.

I had forgotten all about this wish, of course.

But MSP remembered.

And last night, I came home to this:

More than 180 balloons. I almost tripped in the hallway.

The bedroom area filled with balloons.

There were also two pints of Haagen-Dazs, which MSP and I quickly ate (it was melting - yum). The night was spent kicking balloons, eating ice cream, and talking. It was the best date ever.

Sometimes I forget how sweet MSP can be.

* * * *

Morning came and it was time to pop.

Was I really going to sit on almost 200 balloons? There had to be a better way.

Solution: Airsoft

Last Mickey standing

The carnage / Dead balloons

* * * *

MSP could have done a lot better with the colors, I know. (Did he really need to use colorful balloons with cheesy messages on them?)

But all in all, his attempt was pretty good, don't you agree?

According to him, he had exactly 4 hours to go to the mall, buy balloons, go to the grocery to buy
Haagen-Dazs, sneak into the pad, blow up the balloons one by one, and then pick me up from the resto where I was having dinner with my friends (it was a city away). That's a pretty big feat for someone who takes an hour to poop / who couldn't find the dairy section if it saved his life.

Call me conceited, but I think he really loves me :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

the sofa is coming

I've been dreaming of a 'modern danish' inspired sofa for a really long time. Someday I'm going to find a real danish vintage, but I am not ready to commit to very expensive furniture right now. A sofa that's within $500 to $800 seems reasonable. Anything beyond that price tag would be just too soon.

After months of research, I still did not find a sofa I liked from the local stores. I was ready to give up.

But, finding furniture is like finding a lover. Like shit, it just happens.

I finally saw IT last night, while walking to dinner. It stood there like a neglected Kandinsky and called me to ask something really cheesy, like, Where have I been all your life?

*The even bigger surprise was the red tag. The store was ready to give IT away at 30% off. (Apparently, no one else wanted IT. People have no taste. They would rather buy ugly oversized pleather couches overstuffed with cheap filling. They don't see beauty in structural, understated furniture. And that's good news for me.)

Anyway, IT will be delivered tomorrow. I look forward to our long and happy relationship. The minimalist design, the color, the dimensions - all perfect. It should translate very well from my 'open-plan/living-alone' layout to what might be a 'one-bedroom/studio- for-two' layout in the future for me and MSP. It just feels right.

I can't wait. MSP says he's coming over tomorrow night. He'll bring light wine, I'll make pasta. We'll watch a horror movie he downloaded (with subtitles). I dunno what I am more excited about - my date night with MSP, or the arrival of the sofa. Don't make me choose.

Inspiring rooms

When you live in a small space, you can't really do much. The wrong furniture proportion can really screw up the flow. The wrong wall color is much harder to live with when the quarters are tight.

However, even small spaces can be very luxurious with the right touches. That's why I like staying in good hotels when I travel – they teach me how to make lilliputian rooms look like they are worth $700 a night. I come away with a taste level that's just a bit higher than what I previously had. For instance, I realized that TEXTURE is everything. Now, I make it point to fill the pad with little luxuries that feel good to the touch - Pratesi linen, fluffy white towels, silk-cotton drapes. These indulgences keep me sane.

Gay couples have taste

I was really happy to see this webpage
featuring NY-based designer Bruce Bierman's place, which he shares with his partner (an art gallery owner).Their apartment is small, serene, and uses the palette that I am so into right now - white. I love how he turned a small bedroom into a luxurious nook that just screams sleep (and lingering morning sex):

Photo from NY Social Diary

This is what I want. Easy, elegant, unpretentious, white. I think I'm getting to it.

The whole finance crunch is keeping me from whipping out the credit card and spending $ on an overnight makeover, but maybe that's a good thing. I am forced to go slower; I get each piece one at a time. Each one of them will have a story.

EDIT - Sunday, Oct 12

IT is here. It didn't fit through my door, so I pulled a Mussolini, called MSP, and had him move heaven and earth to bring IT in through the window. (The sofa is not the kind of furniture you can take apart. It's hotel-grade and too sturdy.)

I still haven't decided how I'll position it. For now, it's everywhere.

IT is also much whiter than it looks in the pictures.

I love it, I really do. Who knew Marxists can be so giddy about modern furniture? I can't wait to sit on it and watch that horror movie tonight; maybe even fall asleep on it.

My next project is throwing out that cabinet behind the sofa and having a white, ceiling-high cabinet built specifically for that walk-in space. I regret having bought that closet, anyway. It was an impulse buy. I moved in so quickly and I needed storage right away. That closet is just made of laminate wood and is starting to wobble. Eh, what can I really expect for $300? I should have known better.

Next in line:

I also want to reupholster my old 'coffee table' chairs. I need new fabric. And an economic turnaround.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

paper losses

You know you are not rich when recession affects you. It can be depressing, this thought, depending on how much coffee you've had.

"Luxury dealers across the region report that they have seen fall-offs in sales of their slightly more down-market items, such as smaller boats. They attribute the declines to their increasingly skittish upper-middle-class clientele, often earning $100,000 to $500,000 a year, who are scaling back and trimming unnecessary indulgences from their budgets.

But dealers say that their superrich clients have not been deterred, and sales of luxurious indulgences have ticked upward, more than offsetting any losses."

Feeling the pressure

Right now, we belong in the lower end of the upper-middle-class clientele mentioned above (in red). Increasingly skittish. Trimming unnecessary indulgences. Scaling back. Afraid to go broke.

I have never felt so bourgeois.

In this third world, when you earn at least USD $100k or P4.5-5 million a year, you can be considered comfortable; maybe even 'rich' in pisante standards. But when you look at it from the abundance mindset, you will see that $100k is not a lot of money. It's just 8 Hermes bags. It's a luxury trip to Europe. It's downpayment for a Mercedes Benz G-Klasse.

The abundance mindset basically says this: Real rich people spend $10,000 per night on a hotel room. If you have a problem with this,
it means you’re out of alignment with the mindset that’s capable of producing $10,000 of value very quickly. If you are only 'relatively rich,' you must be doing something wrong, or you would be 'filthy rich' by now.

Earning $100k may make you
upper-middle-class but it does not make you rich or comfortable; it just makes you poor compared to the superrich.

Worrying too soon

MSP thinks that I am worrying too much, too soon. You're just starting to build a portfolio, he says, and now is the best time to build - when everything is low. Of course, MSP is a forever-optimist. I just happen to be in love with him; otherwise, I would not even be friends with him. Optimistic people are so uninteresting. I want to shake them and say, The birds are not really chirping, okay? They were born to poop on your head.

Coping, coping, coping

Worrying makes me feel alive. Watching 'em stocks plummet to the ground makes my heart beat faster. Thinking of better ways to position my (limited) funds is what my Sunday mornings are all about.

If I stop worrying and documenting the progress of my worrying, my brain might stop. So I do what I do best. I think of the worst case scenario, get depressed for five minutes, and then think of solutions. I'm a Ninja that way.

Before the redneck contacts me again ...

Let me just stay this: I'm proud that I can talk about money. Unlike most people, I'm not vague about figures. Money is just another topic to me. Like the weather. Or Sarah Palin.

I worry about money and I want to make more of it, sure, but at the end of the day, it is not a yardstick. It's like food - I like it, I enjoy it, I talk about it.

So to the person who said that it's insensitive how I can complain about the bad economy but still talk about my designer purchases, I have these words:

Eat my Prada.

You, my dear hater, should really stop reading my blog and start
taking responsibility for your circumstances. Your life obviously isn't as you would like it to be, so you blame having ugly shoes on the government, your employer, and on people "like me" who are too insensitive to your plight.

Get over it, mmmkay? Stop ranting about how your plans have been ruined by everyone/everything else but yourself. Stop reading my blog. I will not change my content for you. I will continue to talk about my uncertain portfolio AND my designer things BECAUSE I CAN.

That's all. Live, love, and eat truffles.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

barry, who needs bubble wrap?

I popped a balloon for the first time in my life.

Yeah, that woman in the video who won the balloon-popping contest was me. Jollibee coerced me into joining that very embarrassing game in my
inaanak's birthday party. Hey, at least I won :)

hold on to your money

The world market is crashing. It does not matter what our Louis Vuitton-toting registered financial planner says. I read the paper, woman. I know all about the failed uptrend lines. I know about the bear hug. I know how fundamental indicators still remain in a state of flux.

Recession is in the air, and I have never felt so suffocated.

Scurry burdy

For small investors, news such as AIG's decision to divest PhilamLife
and its subsidiaries can be a cause for concern. Regular savers who have life insurance and mutual funds with the company cannot help but get nervous. Philam's press releases say that it is well capitalized and that investors should not worry, but when you're a loyal customer expecting the company to give you your pension, pay your family life insurance when you die, or double your money in 8 years like it said it would, you will worry. Who will buy Philam now that AIG is selling it? How will this affect policyholders? Can the company pay its obligations?

How I cope

I don't claim to be a savvy investor, but I not a dumb investor. About one year ago, I started dabbling with more complicated investment instruments such as bonds, equities, etc. I have lost money, sure, but I somehow managed to lessen the blow. Here's how I did it.

1. I have a clear idea of my risk appetite. Before buying shares or locking in funds in the market, I always think of the biggest losses I can stomach if the worst happens. My comfort level is 30% for every investment class. If I invest P200,000, I can lose P60,000 and still smile. If I invest a million, I can lose P300,000 and not go homeless. In the eyes of big investors, I have a very small risk appetite. They are probably right. I'm not a mature investor yet (nor do I have a lot of money to throw around) so I'm entitled to penny-pinching. I am slowly getting used to volatility, though, and in a few years, I should be able to risk more without losing my shirt.

2. A few weeks after the market sneezed, I diversified into bonds, which are now gaining ground. This gain 'averaged down' my losses from riskier investment classes. What would have been a 25% decline in my portfolio is down to 12%. I am looking for other investment classes to go into to further minimize the loss, while waiting for the market to rebound.

3. I focus on the business. By putting my efforts towards what I do best, I slowly earn more investible funds that will eventually strengthen my portfolio. I cannot control the market; I cannot control George Bush. However, I can (to a big extent) control my company's revenue.

4. I stopped relying on my emotions. Too many of us let our feelings affect our investment patterns. This never helps. I learned the hard way that to make my company resilient even in this weak economy, I should stop daydreaming and start being practical.

Case in point: The tempting new office space. You see this week, we were offered bigger office space in the heart of Ortigas. I initially wanted to buy it, because getting our own space meant giving our business a permanent home. But, while we could afford the pricetag, staying in the new office would mean increasing our overhead expenses by 30% to 40%. Add to that the costs of uprooting our operations, and we are talking serious money.

The emotional/overeager idealist in me says that we should grab the place because we are 'losing' money when we rent. But I knew better than to impulsively buy property. I did the math, and here's what I discovered:

If we just invest the money we would use to pay the additional overhead expenses in a an instrument that earns about 12% a year, we would NOT lose money. In fact, we would make more, and also stay liquid.

And finally...

5. I try to stick to my newfound philosophy: Simplify. Liquidity is the goal. Money in the bank is much better than a posh penthouse or a luxury office space. Trappings will just weigh me down. Properties will just force me to have the permanence that I'm not sure I want.

Whenever my impulses push me to seek the endless trappings of the 'high' life, I remind myself that I just want the 'good' life. There's a huge difference.