Jun 27, 2012

Midyear Bonuses

I'm not talking of the monetary kind but the one most parents would enjoy having bragging rights to - their kids' accomplishments. Last Monday and Tuesday, Jerry and I attended the separate Honors' Assembly for high school and grade school at our sons' beloved SHS-ADC where Kyle and Jake received their academic medals for last year's performance.

I once wrote here about Kyle struggling with his Chemistry and about me being of no help at all with this. Well, he's pulled through and managed to snag a bronze. Thank goodness!

And... Jake, despite several reprimands for being "talkative" during class, got himself a silver! Way to start his academic career! LOL


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waiting for the name to be called

Kyle with his bronze medal, in his cadet uniform

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Jake, starting his academic career with a silver :D"

Jun 22, 2012

New Role: Landlord

We initially thought of selling the property and had a few prospective buyers who took a look but didn't finalize the transaction. Although we wanted to liquidate it either through sale or lease, we were not in a hurry. We wanted to make sure the buyer or lessee is somebody who is capable of consummating the deal.

After weeks of go-sees and negotiations, the townhouse with 3 bedrooms, 3 t&b, garage that could fit 2 cars and located in the center of the city with access points from Banilad, Apas and Lahug, finally got rented out last month. Thank heavens!

The best part of the deal was, without us demanding for it, the leaseholder paid 1 year in advance with a dated manager's check!

If that is not a good deal, I don't know what is!

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the look before we repainted everything and cleared it of furniture

Jun 14, 2012

How Was School?

Days 1 and 2 are over and, understandably, I have not seen a lot of assignments yet for my grader. Most of what they did, according to my son, was orientation and dicussion about the discipline plan and introduction of teachers.

For my middle son in HS4, it's a different story. He has been busy with CAT duties as early as last week (a week prior to start of classes) and I worry he has been stretching himself too thin. That, even when his activities do not include academic tasks yet.

As for me, I am taking things in stride, thankyouverymuch. I am sure by next week, they will have more assignments to do and tests to study for. Everything will gain momentum soon and yes, even my driving chores. :)

So far... so good... and still managing adequately up to this point.

crossing my fingers Jake's bags will remain this clean until end of schoolyear... :P

adjusting to early wake time, plus random school pics

Establishing Routine

It's only the 2nd day of school and we are trying to ease into a new schedule after almost 3 months of school break. Fortunately for us, waking up early when needed is not too much of an ordeal. My alarm is set to go off at 515 am but so far I have been waking up 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Oh well... nothing wrong with being an early riser, I guess.

The kids are ready by 6-615 am.

This morning, as we were having breakfast, my Ma and Pa joined us. They got up earlier than usual so they could ride with me to the park for a short hike. And so after bringing my boys to the carpool stop, we proceeded to the park. While I waited, I was able to attend mass.

By 7 am, we were on our way home. During the drive back, as Pa, Ma and I chattered, I couldn't help thinking, this could be a good routine to have.

my view of the altar this am, before the mass started

Jun 13, 2012

Hard to Keep Up

I'm not talking about old age here where the mind wills to do something but the body could not cope. Nope.

It's been the buzz for weeks. And not a few have been speculating about its latest version. And now that it has been released, (oh Apple!) my Macbook Air 11 inch bought only last year, has joined the ranks of "old version" gadgets like my iBook with Tiger OS. *Sigh*

The rate Apple upgrades its stable of shiny stuff is faster than when new styles of designer bags are released. It makes my head spin, but I digress.

So yeah, I'm still the proud owner of last year's version of the MB Air 11, iPad2 and iPhone 4s. To date, 2 have been rendered outdated but I have decided to hold on for now at least, or as long as I'm able to resist the urge or until a good trade-in offer presents itself. LOL.

going up to an Apple store

here with my obsolete iPad2

Jun 9, 2012

Travel On My Mind

The last twenty or so entries I wrote have all been about trips we took in the last two months. And mind you, I have never been this prolific in churning out posts. Traveling does give one the chance: to see places, to spend time with family, to learn or experience new things PLUS to have enough materials and photo opportunities to write about.

I'm glad I sat down and gave time to writing about Hong Kong, Macau, Siargao and its neighboring islands, and Sydney and its awesome attractions while they were still fresh in my mind. Not just by way of pictures, writing about significant events is another way to preserve those moments. Had I waited longer before putting the memories in writing, I would have forgotten some details... easily.

It will be months until the next vacation and I wonder where the next destination will be. I would not mind traveling on a budget as long as the whole experience does not turn out to be miserable. It's the lure of seeing and being in a different place that's making me look forward to the next. Perhaps I could take a business loan from the bank or from kabbage and make a business or something out of this wanderlust. Hmmm. I'm rambling.

Meanwhile, summer is over and this blog will most likely be about another kind of adventure: school.

Where to next?

Jun 8, 2012

Animal Encounters

On our last day in Sydney, we had enough time to take a ferry ride from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo and back. The ferry schedules were on the dot and we didn't need to worry about being late for our early evening flight back home via Melbourne. The best part is, it was a scenic short ride along the Darling and Sydney Harbours where some of the awesome shots of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge can be taken while on board.

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And all these for a minimal fare...

And because I didn't want to leave Sydney without seeing the koala and kangaroo/wallaby up close, we just had to spend time at the Taronga Zoo.

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view from Taronga Zoo

The zoo was very well laid out and we were so impressed by what we saw: animals and breathtaking views alike. The giraffes' pen had the most awesome location as you could see the Sydney Harbour and cityscape at the background.

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the giraffes have the best view in the house :)

Of course, we had encounters with the sunbathing 'roo and photos of the sleepy koalas as well.

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sleepy koala

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up close (kinda)

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plus some of the animals we saw

This post rounds up our Sydney trip and (crossing my fingers) I hope to be able to come back, with the rest of the brood next time. And to hit 2 birds with 1 stone, it wouldn't hurt to check New Zealand tours this early for the best package. Who knows? We might be lucky to swing by neighboring New Zealand too and see middle earth as well. :)

Jun 5, 2012

Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tour

After checking the weather forecast and seeing that the clouds would clear and chances of rain would be lower on that particular day, the only consideration was the cost. At $100+ AUD per person... we balked for a while thinking it was pricey for a day tour. However, because we were already in Sydney and that we have moved schedules around plus the weather was getting better, we decided to take it for the experience (a rare opportunity). We were the last 2 seats booked when Jerry confirmed at the last minute.

The day started out cloudy as predicted and I shivered as we waited for the 14-seater MB mini bus assigned to get us at 730am in front of our hotel. It was 11 degrees centigrade but felt like 0 for this 44yo woman from the tropics. Hehe... After getting the last 2 couples, we were on our way.

Our tour guide, named Mike, was very entertaining and narrated inside stories about some famous city landmarks, such info you wouldn't have come across on your own. And before we drove out of the city, he was considerate enough to stop by a coffee shop so we could take some refreshments (own expense) and have our toilet break.

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pit stop for hash browns

Savannah Estate

"Savannah Estate Wines are hand crafted from quality fruit grown in various renowned viticulture regions throughout Australia. These wines are made on site at our Mount View Winery." - lifted from their website.

The cool weather and the quaint winery made for a great setting for my foray into wine-tasting. Being a neophyte at this, I got slightly inebriated after a few sips of the 20 or so different kinds of wines (on this 1st stop alone!). And then I realized I didn't have to drink to the last drop. Instead, I tipped the rest of the wine in a spittoon after I had a little sip. O-kay... so that was what those metal vessels were for. Haha!

We bought a bottle of sparkling Zibibbo here.

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This is one of the oldest and biggest winemaking companies in Australia which, according to their website, received "an unprecedented five Gold medals across its premium portfolio including 2010 Shortlist Adelaide Hills Chardonnay; 2005 Shortlist Eden Valley Riesling; 2007 Shortlist Eden Valley Riesling; 2010 Shortlist Eden Valley Riesling and 2004 Bin 9000 Hunter Valley Semillon."

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see that metal spittoon for tipping wine remnants

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And on our way to our next stop, Mike suddenly pulled over and parked on the side road to let us see the wild kangaroos (or wallabies, it's hard to tell for somebody who's not familiar, especially after having alcohol from 2 wineries. LOL)...

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cute as furry toys

Bluetongue Brewery Cafe

"Try the unique Beer Tasting Paddle with accompanying notes for each of the brews. Laze away the afternoon listening to great music. Maybe a quick game of pool, or something delicious off the blackboard menu." -
lifted from their website.

Finally... lunch. I thought this was good in resetting my taste buds back to normal. Jerry and I shared a generous plate of chorizo pasta penne with mushroom, tomato, spinach and pesto. We still had time for a cup of coffee before proceeding to our next stop.

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bottom left pic: the beer tasting paddle with notes of the 6 types of beer

Iron Bark Hill Vineyard

This is the venue for that lovely Hunter Valley vineyard wedding which reminds me of bay area event locations from www.estateweddingsandevents.com. They were giving out discounts on some wines when we got there.

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we bought a couple of bottles of Merlot and Moscato for home

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A quaint chapel


For our last winery, we stopped by the stylish Lambloch Estate. It looked like a modern and spacious Zen-looking house in the middle of a vast vineyard and with a truly breathtaking view.

The tour group has become quite at ease by this time (blame alcohol too! haha!) and we took turns taking each group's photos. It felt like a small party with different wines to boot. :)

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love the glass walls and the dining area with a view

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stunning Lambloch Estate

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Our wine tour group from England, Ireland, France, Chicago, India and the Philippines looking flushed after all the wine we had... Hehehe...

And as our tour ended, we went to the Chocolate Company and Smelly Cheese for our last stop before heading back to Sydney.

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Jun 4, 2012

Sydney Food Fare

Because Jerry was in a convention, from 930am-530pm for 3 days (Tue-Thu), we had very limited time to venture out to try some Aussie fare as much as we wanted to. This didn't stop us though from checking out recommendations made by friends and relatives back home.

Following are pictures showcasing what we were able to sample and... what most likely contributed to the poundage we gained. :P

--- Hurricane's Grill Steakhouse as suggested by DM ---

The place was packed that time we shared for lunch, a half rack of beef ribs and char-grilled chicken and honey soaked walnuts salad with honey vinaigrette dressing. Food was good and the view of the harbour from where we were sitting was even better!

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--- Din Tai Fung ---

After cocktails at the Sydney Opera House, we went back to our hotel and walked along the Darling Harbour to see what was at the Star City (other than the casino). Surprise! It's Din Tai Fung Dumplings Bar at their chic food court where Jerry had his first Chinese food in Oz. There is truth to their claim that they are everybody's favourite dumpling house. Hello xiao long bao!

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--- Sydney Fish Market on MI's recommendation ---

One day at lunch, Jerry and I walked from Ibis Hotel to the Fish Market. We weren't sure if we had the right direction and didn't want to waste time looking or getting lost so we asked a lady the way to it. We were on the right track and she confidently said, "You won't miss it. You will smell it!". LOL

True enough, our noses got assaulted with the fish smell. Hehe... Jerry was in suit but we didn't mind and proceeded to the market in our fresh smelling clothes. We were delighted to see a lot of Asians inside who, like us, were there to have the freshest seafood to eat.

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Asians ordering their seafood lunch

The seafood combo we ate with gusto (salmon, shrimps, oysters, scallops, baby squid) was divine!

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And the 10-minute walk back to Darling Harbour helped get rid of the fishy smell that stuck to our clothes. :D Two thumbs up. This, by far, was indeed the best fish market lunch experience we ever had!

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--- Lindt ---

The day I met with Del, my good friend and former colleague, I was treated to chocolate heaven! Hot mocha and a sampler of melt-in-your-mouth sweets at the Lindt Chocolate Café at Cockle Bay Wharf, right across Ibis - OMGoodness!

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Thank you so much dearie!!! I definitely enjoyed your company and your treat. LOL!

--- Golden Harbour ---

As if we were not full from the choco goodness at Lindt. We walked from the harbour (in the cold!) all the way to Chinatown for dinner. :) The dining experience was made even more enjoyable when the food attendant spoke to us in Tagalog. He is Chinese who stayed in Manila in the 70s, thus the familiarity with the language.

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--- Pancake on the Rocks as suggested by DV ---

We thought we would never find it until I got stuck inside the mall while waiting for Jerry. A friend recommended the place so we just had to try. After lunch, we had to have "thE ultimatE" which they describe as "Crepes filled with cream cheese and sultanas, served with raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream......... Pancakes’ answer to mum’s cheesecake!"

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--- Sushi Hotaru ---

Being fond of sushi, this place with a revolving counter or sushi train, is my personal favorite. And we discovered it by accident while strolling the Galleries Victoria.

The place has iPad touch screens for ordering in the booths and boasts of an extensive range of dishes. All plates except sashimi are $3 at all times. For Japanese food, I say this is a steal! So between us, we had a total of 10 plates of a combination of wagyu rolls (YUMMY!), salmon rolls, gyoza and tamago.

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Okay, just writing, reading and re-reading this post now make me hungry... Oh, the calories! A little voice inside me is telling me detox or "cleanse your body". Maybe I should revisit that CleanProgram I came across recently. Ta!