31 August 2014

Germany Getaway: Time to Say Auf Wiedersehen

On our last morning in Germany, Hubby and I woke up to an empty house. Because they had closed the clinic the day before, Dad and Mom had many patients to attend to. We didn’t have breakfast alone though. Sebastian and Michaela arrived to have breakfast with us, and later, Stef passed by with her friend Benny to drop off some stuff that needed storage at the basement. Of course we took pictures before finally leaving the place we called home for the past ten days.

Before dropping us off at Dusseldorf Airport, M&S took us to the clinic so that we could see Dad and Mom. As I said, they had many patients so they were really busy when we arrived. They were both with their respective patients, but they managed to slip out so that we could say our goodbyes and thank yous. Being the crybaby I am, my eyes welled up and tears started falling as soon as Dad opened his arms for a big hug.

Our Germany trip was truly unforgettable. All credit of course to the Macha family for taking care of us and making sure that we had a great time. I would really like to visit again in the not so distant future; hopefully of course with our kids in tow next time. 

Some day…some day…

30 August 2014

Camping Out in the Living Room

This was our solution when the air conditioner in our bedroom conked out two weekends ago.

We didn’t have any thin mattress that could fit the four of us so Hubby and I struggled in bringing out the queen-sized one from our bed. You could tell Caila was excited by the way she enthusiastically helped in carrying the pillows and blankets out. And when the mattress was down and the duvet arranged, our girls started jumping up and down, using the mattress as a trampoline. Haaaay!

Caila wanted to stay awake as long as possible. First she asked if we could watch TV. When we said no, she asked Hubby to read to her. He did. Then she said she was hungry, so we gave her some cereal. After that, she wanted to talk. Finally, she fell asleep.

As for Sophie, she was practically restless from the excitement of a new place to sleep. Even though all the lights were off, the faint light from the moon made it easy for her to climb on the sofa and entertainment unit easily, and jumping on to the mattress from wherever she was. Finally, finally, she tired herself out and she settled down beside the rest of us.

You'd have thought that since she slept really late, our youngest would wake up later than usual the following morning.  But nooo! She was the first one awake, and seeing that we were all asleep, decided to try and wake me up by climbing on top of me.  Or maybe she just wanted a cuddle.
Judging from that night, I don’t think we’ll be doing this again anytime soon. Caila and Sophie would love to camp out again, but it was so exhausting to put our girls to sleep. If the air conditioner doesn’t work again, we’ll probably just resort to using our box fan instead.

28 August 2014

Princess Diana and Sto. Niño

The other night during our weekly household at our home, one of our friends remarked that Caila was so well-behaved and acted prim and proper already at such a young age. She even went on to say that she could see her grow up to be a sophisticated lady just like Lady Diana! Needless to say, I was surprised at her statement. I couldn’t believe it. But of course, deep inside I was pleased at her words. Imagine, comparing Caila’s future self to the Princess of Wales? What a compliment!

The conversation continued to my cravings and what I liked to look at when I was pregnant with Caila (in Tagalog: mga pinaglihian), and I remembered that we had a small statue of the Sto. Niño (Holy Infant Jesus) at our home in the province that I asked one of my brothers to take a picture of and send it to me. I know there are countless Sto. Niño images on the internet, but I really wanted this one in particular. And when I received it, I printed it on A4 paper and always looked at it every day. I was in my 4th or 5th month of pregnancy then. Our friend told me maybe that’s why Caila was so pretty and behaved like she did. Her words, not mine.

And because of this, I searched my e-mail to see if I still had the picture my brother sent me…and I did. Here’s the image, in case you were wondering.
What do you think? Could there be some truth in that old wives’ tale?

27 August 2014

The Ice Bucket Challenge and My Thoughts

I’m sure all of you know about the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS Awareness. If you don’t (believe it or not, it is possible because I know someone who has no idea about it), let me explain it to you from the information I gathered from the internet.

According to the ALS Association, ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is "a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed."

In short, once diagnosed, the patient slowly loses the ability to use his muscles until he can’t move at all without help. It's very scary and there is no cure. So far. Hence, the Ice Bucket Challenge which has people around the world including celebrities, politicians, businessmen, and athletes participating since July this year.

Please watch this video first to see how and why the Challenge started.

Done? Ok. Now on to the rules.

The rules of the Ice Bucket Challenge are simple. If you are challenged to do it, you have 2 options to choose from within the next 24 hours:
(1) You don’t do it and donate $100 through the ALSA website, or
(2) Accept the challenge and get ready with the things you need

If you opt to get soaked like the rest of the world, here are the steps you need to follow:
(1) Get a bucket and fill it with extremely cold water and lots of ice
(2) Get a video and film yourself or have someone do it for you
(3) In the video, you need to mention the following:
     • Your name
     • The person who challenged you
     • Three people you would like to see do the same thing
     • The ALS Association website: www.alsa.org
(4) Get soaked with the ice water
(5) Scream, shout, jump around, or do whatever you want to help you forget about the freezing discomfort you're experiencing
(6) Upload your video on the internet and tag the people you nominated
(7) Donate through the ALSA website. Yes, you still have to donate even though you accepted and did the Challenge. It doesn’t have to be $100. You can donate lower if you want (at least $5), but you still have to donate.

So anyway, I was challenged by a friend last Sunday. Actually, he didn’t say my name on the video he uploaded, but I did see my name in the description, along with a bunch of other people he challenged. I’m not sure if that counts; but anyway, let’s say for argument’s sake that it does.

I was thrilled to have been challenged. It’s exciting and a bit stressful to know that you are one of those people who has been nominated to make a difference in some way or another. I had mixed emotions and opinions on whether I would do it though.

For one thing, it would be fun to do. However, if I did accept the challenge, there was no way I could do it in 24 hours. We didn’t have that much ice at home, and the only free time I had was that night (I did not want to get myself wet before going to bed) or in the morning when I got up to prepare for work (I didn’t want to wake my girls from their sleep from my screaming and I was not going to freeze myself that early even though I would be taking a shower right after).

And then there’s the issue of not wasting water because there are several countries worldwide that are in dire need of clean water to drink. Heck! I just need to look at our water and electricity bill to realize how precious water is.  Which brings me to the other option of not having ice water dumped on my head and donate $100.

$100 is not a small amount for an ordinary person. The cost of living in Dubai is getting higher every day and letting go of Dhs365 isn’t easy, even if it’s for a good cause. Hubby also told me that we often take part in the Dubai Terry Fox Run so at least we do something for some kind of disease research.  And then yesterday, one of our friends happened to share on Facebook another person’s research that only a small percent of the donations actually go to the study of ALS. However, when I went to the "Donate" tab of the ALSA website, donors can specify if they want their donations to be used for ALS research.

I know more than 24 hours has passed since I was challenged, but I still have a choice to get soaked or not, right?  And I don't think ALSA will criticize me if I don't join the bandwagon, right?

In the end, what’s important is we all make a difference…whether for ALS or anything else that matters in the world.

Of Bento Lunch Boxes and My Daiso Finds

A new school year is fast approaching and with it comes the usual concerns of a parent, one of which is what to put in the child’s lunchbox.

Caila is such a picky eater. As in! Several times last year, she would return from school with only a small portion of her sandwich nibbled off, or more than half of the contents of a yoghurt cup still remaining, or half a muffin left over...and the rest of her food untouched. Add to that her habit of soaking food in her mouth and keeping it there for several minutes, making her meal times last up to one or two hours. Even though she takes vitamins, her appetite still hasn’t changed. It really is a struggle to feed her.

So while I was browsing the net for suggestions, I came across the idea of bento lunch boxes where foods are carefully prepared and arranged to resemble cartoon characters, animals, plants and all sorts of things, making what is packed look more fun and attractive to eat. Here are just a few of the simple and creative designs I saw:
Amazing huh? Good thing there are so many sites that I could refer to.

Anyway, since Caila would be spending more time at school this year (ergo, she would be having her snack time and lunch there), I decided that I really needed to glam up the contents of her lunch box. All of the bento sites said the basic tools needed were cookie cutters, a knife, silicone baking cups…and the lunch box, of course. We had the cutters, knife, and lunch box, and although I figured we didn’t really need the silicone baking cups, I wanted an excuse to get out of the apartment and go shopping.

So over the weekend, I dragged Hubby, Caila and Sophie with me to Daiso at Mirdiff City Centre, because where else would be the best place to buy bento box stuff than a Japanese shop right? =)

As expected, I didn’t buy only the baking cups. I also bought 2 packs of food picks and another cookie cutter because they just looked so cute
That’s not all. These also found their way in our shopping trolley
The hand-mixer and small rolling pin are Caila’s because she likes to help me bake, and I bought the other cooking utensils because we either didn’t have them or needed to replace the ones that we had or they just looked so pretty to use in their bright colors.

The last reason is why I shouldn’t be let loose in Daiso…or any thrift shop for that matter because considering that everything in it is affordable, I’ll probably buy anything that looks cute or pretty =)

Anyway, fingers crossed that I'll be able to make Caila's lunch boxes enticing to eat this year, and she'll come home from school with all of her food eaten.

21 August 2014

Germany Getaway: A Bit of History and More Shopping

On our last full day in Germany, Dad and Mom didn’t go to work. They had decided to close their clinic for that day, making sure they didn’t have any patients booked. Their reason? Because it was our last full day with them. Hubby and I were so touched at their gesture, and really grateful, of course.

The first activity was a visit to Villa Hugel which is the mansion of the Krupp family (of the well-known ThyssenKrupp steel industry). Unfortunately though, it was closed that day so we took a few pictures outside instead.

Next place was the Ruhr Museum.  There we were taken back through the history of Germany, from its early days at the Ruhr Valley, to how it became the successful country it is today. The museum used to be a coal washing plant in that area, so walking through it, you can learn about the history while having a feel of it as well.
the museum from outside
going up
view of the escalator down..so high!

dwarfed by the machines
For more information about how the Ruhr Museum was integrated from the plant, you can read about it here. The museum was huge and there were many interesting things to see, feel, hear and even smell, so we didn’t notice it was way past lunch time already until our stomachs started growling. However, we didn’t go back home just yet.

Since the Metro was on the way, Dad suggested that we pass by there first for all the stuff we wanted to buy before going home for lunch. Which, of course, is what we did.

The Metro is a department store where you can buy all sorts of things at cheaper prices compared to other shops. However, not everyone can go in and purchase items there. You have to be a member, and to be a member, you need to be an owner of a business.

While Mom gathered some groceries she needed, Dad went with us around the store, directing us where we needed to go to get specific items. First stop: chocolates!

We bought all sorts of Lindt chocolates, mainly because they’re so delicious and they had all sorts of flavours:
just a few of what we bought
Of course we didn't buy only chocolates.  We bought sausages and other stuff as well.  We even got a game of Skip-Bo!
After our late lunch at home, we headed to Gelsenkirchen just near St. Hippolytus Church (where M&S got married) to the Deichmann store. Deichmann sells all kinds of shoes (and some bags), and the good thing is they’re not expensive. Plus, according to Irene (who has visited Germany so many times), the shoes don’t wear out easily. She has a couple of pairs that she bought back in 2007 (I think) which she still uses and are still comfortable to wear.

We had been to Deichmann's other branch when we visited downtown Essen a few days ago (that’s where I bought my black shoes), but Hubby wanted to check out this branch because their Essen branch didn’t have his size of a particular shoe he saw. Unfortunately, they didn’t have his size either, but the good thing is he found another one he liked and I saw another pair of shoes which we bought.

After shoe-shopping, Mom and Dad took us to Michaela and Sebastian’s apartment building. Robert and Marion (Sebastian’s parents who live on the floor above them) heard that we would be leaving the next day and invited us over so that we could talk a bit and say goodbye. We all sat around their dining table and talked (of course there were translations for us to understand each other) and laughed…until finally we had to go home. We said our goodbyes and thank you’s and “we hope to see you again soon” amid hugs and hand-shakes.

14 August 2014

My NOL Card Has Expired…or Not

I’m confused. Here’s why.

Since I only had Dhs4.10 credit left on my NOL card, I decided to top it up at the station before going on the metro. However, when I placed it on the reader, the screen didn’t show the usual recharge screen. A metro employee who happened to pass by told me that my card must be expired, thus the reason for the different screen. He pressed some tabs on the machine which printed out a receipt, and told me to go to one of the tellers.

I was already in a hurry so I didn’t bother to do what he said and just stuffed the receipt in my wallet without looking at it. I tapped my card on the reader at the entry gate and proceeded as normal, planning to approach one of the tellers some other time.

During lunch, I checked the receipt…which is the reason why I’m confused. Here’s a picture of it.
As you can see, the Card Status says Expired. However, just below that, the Expiry Date mentions 05/10/2014. (Just in case you’re wondering, that’s 5 October 2014. In this part of the world, that’s how dates are formatted.)

Obviously it’s still August, so how can it be expired when the expiry date is still less than 2 months away?!

Please explain, RTA.

Lessons Learned on Enrollment Day

It was time for Caila’s enrollment over the weekend. We were given the notice of schedules and corresponding amounts before school closed for vacation last June, but of course, being the procrastinator that I am, I didn’t start preparing the cheques until Friday night.

Enrollment day was Saturday and I had to prepare 6 cheques: 3 for the tuition and other school fees, and another 3 for the school bus.

My first panic moment was when I couldn’t find the chequebook. I found an old one that wasn’t valid anymore, and another one whose cheques I had already used up. But I couldn’t find the one that I last used for the apartment PDCs which was way back in December last year. I searched everywhere I knew where it could possibly be, but nothing. I had to interrupt Hubby’s phone conversation because I was already panicking. And just when I was getting desperate because it seemed he couldn’t find it either, Hubby tossed the chequebook at me with a smirk on his face.

My relief was short-lived, though. Because I immediately realized that there were only 3 cheques left. Gaaaahhhh!

There was no other choice. I prepared the 3 cheques for the school and we decided to pay for the transportation in cash. No way did we have the money needed on hand, so off I went to the nearby ATM to withdraw cash. We were going to have to adjust our budget for a while because of this sudden chunky expense, but, well, what to do?

So Saturday morning arrived and Caila and I headed to her school while Hubby went to the KFC activity. Upon getting our token/number, the lady gave me a list of additional books and sets of uniforms we needed to purchase. When I took a seat to wait for our number to be called, I looked at the amount the lady wrote as the Grand Total and I was horrified to see that I needed to pay almost Dhs6,500. 


I checked my wallet. Apart from the payment for the transportation, it had only a few hundred dirhams in it which was just enough for the additional payments. I was thinking if there was an ATM nearby and figured there wasn’t one. Then I told myself to check again.

In the notice and breakdown of payments, it included the list of required books. The list of books she attached had the same amount, plus 2 additional books. Okay. Good.

Then I added the amount for the uniforms. And voila! The Grand Total was the amount of everything included in the first payment. So the cheques and cash I had were sufficient. Wheeewwwww!

It was a good thing I didn’t attack the lady and demand an explanation for the outrageous amount when I first saw it. For sure I would have ended up shamed for my stupidity. Not that I would have done that, though. Although I might have if I was stressed and/or it was that time of the month. Kidding! =)

Lessons learned: (1) Order a new chequebook as soon as you notice that you’re down to your last 10 cheques, (2) For any big payment, make sure you have sufficient cheques and/or cash before the deadline, and finally (3) Don’t panic and don’t worry; clear your head, READ and UNDERSTAND.

In short...

10 August 2014

Corn Muffins Just Like Kenny’s

During one of our lunch breaks at work early last week, one of my colleagues mentioned that Kenny Rogers Roasters will be returning to Dubai, saying that the branch will be in Karama near the Fish Market there. The conversation then progressed to our favourite items on their menu, prompting me to mention mine which all of them agreed was theirs as well: their corn muffins.

And since I haven’t baked muffins in a while and a KFC activity was coming up, I decided then and there to find the recipe (or at least, a similar one) and bake those goodies for Saturday.

Fortunately, when I checked the internet, there were so many sites that came up, and all of them (well, the ones that I checked) cited Todd Wilbur’s Top Secret Recipes as the source.

So after making sure I had all the ingredients, I started to make the muffins. They were pretty easy to make and didn’t take too long at all. I was making mini-muffins, so I made sure to half the baking time.

They were actually pretty good, if I do say so myself. It’s been ages since I’ve tasted a corn muffin from Kenny Rogers Roasters so I can’t tell if it tastes exactly the same, but, yeah, they were delicious. Slightly moist and not too crumbly, with just the right amount of sweetness.
When we served them to the Service Team at yesterday’s activity, several of them kept going back for more. A couple of them even said that they tasted just like Kenny’s! Hurray! Try it and see.

• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup honey
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
• 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 cup milk
• 3/4 cup sweet whole kernel corn (I used the ones from the can and made sure to drain them)

1) Preheat oven to 400ºF
2) Cream butter, sugar, honey, and eggs in a bowl, making sure to mix them well.
3) Add flour, corn meal, baking powder, and salt and mix all together, adding milk while doing so.
4) Add the corn to the mixture and fold in.
5) Grease muffin pans (or line pan with liners) and fill with batter.
6) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (or 10 minutes for mini-muffins).


07 August 2014

Germany Getaway: Lunch with Friends

Just a very brief background: Before our group visited them back in 2005, none or very few of the host families knew each other. But because of our visit and the group activities, some of them became good friends over the years. And friendships such as these include Mom and Dad.

We woke up on Sunday morning much later than usual, but with enough time for us to have a quick breakfast. We couldn’t laze around that much though, because guests were coming over for lunch. We were supposed to have a barbecue picnic at the back yard, but because the weather was so unpredictable since Thursday (it was raining one minute, and the sun would shine the next, and then it would rain again…every day!), we decided to have it indoors instead.

Slowly the guests started arriving. Daddy Luigi came first, then Daddy Jurgen and Mommy Agnes, then the newlyweds joined us, and Mommy Marlena arrived later in the afternoon.

It was a hearty lunch filled with yummy food (mostly leftovers from the party, but still delicious) and German, English and Tagalog conversations that were a mix of serious, touching, and funny.

It was really, really good to see them all again.

with Daddy Luigi
with Mommy Agnes and Daddy Jurgen (aka Santa Claus)

HELLLOOOOOOOOO?!?! Anybody there?

I know, I know. I’ve neglected this blog…again. For the nth time.
But I’m still here.
I won’t bore you with all sorts of reasons to justify my silence.
So let’s just move on and forget that I didn’t post anything here for the past 3 weeks.
Okay? Okay! =) 


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