Wednesday, 30 December 2009

2009 - A year in review

It's this time of the year that you become sentimental and wants to list down the highlights of the year. I am so thankful for the year 2009, although lots of changes and trials happened, it's the year that is so special to me and my family. This is my 41st year and the saying life begins at forty is true. 2009 is the year we finally landed in Canada and this is the year of many changes in my life. I'm still adjusting but I'm starting to like it. God must have love us very much that we get to see and appreciate life's simple things, nature (we get to smell fresh air here), feel the four seasons and learn more about God.

The following are some of the year's highlights (most of them are firsts) and I'm grateful to God who made all these things possible:

1. Our summer outing at Laiya and Caramoan Adventure
2. HK and Disneyland Trip
3. Arrival in Canada
4. My water baptism
5. First Trick or Treat of the kids
6. First Fall
7. First birthday of my 3rd child Alexus
8. First Winter - Snow Experience
9. Our 10th Wedding Anniversary
10. First Christmas
11. Visits to Canada's Wonderland, Niagara Falls and other Toronto's attractions with Irvin and Faye

Looking forward to more blessings this 2010. Happy New Year!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Polar Bears, Arctic Wolf etc at Toronto Zoo

We visited Toronto Zoo today. The weather is better than last Saturday because it was not raining, but it's too cold. Good thing, we were wearing winter clothes esp. the kids. We rented a stroller for the kids so they will not get tired in walking. The zoo is in an open space but there are some enclosed pavilions where we stayed most of the time. The kids loved the Orangutans, the Lion, the Polar Bears which we saw up close, as in only the glass window separate us. We were too excited we forgot to take videos while these animals are staring at us and when the Lion was yawning. We also loved the Great Reef barrier where we saw jelly fishes, sea horses, fishes that the kids recognized from the Nemo movie. We also liked the birds and their unusual sounds esp the cockatoo. There are some animals that we were not able to see like the more common zoo animals e.g. Giraffe, Elephant because of the weather but we chanced upon zebras, lions, tigers (Sumatran and Siberian), otter, the arctic animals and many others I forgot their names. The most notable ones are the Polar Bears, Red Panda and Kangaroo which looked like stuffed toys you want to hug them. We were able to visit most of the zoo's attractions except for the Canadian Domain which is in the far end and the Discovery zone which is closed for the season. I think the best time to visit the zoo is during summer so the kids can have animal rides (camel, horses) and try the Splash rides (wet slides).

Irvin and Faye with the kids

Polar Bears

Up close and Personal

Arctic Wolf and me

Angry Miggy or Angry tiger?

In a nutshell, we enjoyed our visit to the zoo even if the snow is falling in our faces. Brrr! It was too cold but the heated restaurant where we took our lunch and the Pavilions kept us warm when we were inside. The zoo closed at 4:30 pm but I think we were still in the Eurasia by that time. It was dark when we stepped out of the washroom and out the zoo. I guess we were the last visitors to leave the place. Good thing, our bus never left us. It was tiring but fun day...and also brrr!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

CN Tower, Rogers Centre, Harbourfront and downtown Toronto

We took Irvin and Faye to our first itinerary. We should have gone to Toronto Zoo but the weather forecast for today is not a good time to have outdoor activities so went to CN Tower and nearby attractions first. We took TTC and walked from the Union Station (it's a small version of the Grand Central Station in NY) to the CN Tower. We had plenty of photo opportunities on the way and when we arrived and got our tickets, we were advised that it's not a good time because of zero visibility. When we stepped out, the rain has stopped and the sky is clear so we just proceeded to our CN Tower tour. CN Tower means Canadian National Tower which was previously owned and named after a rail company. We enjoyed the Glass floors where we can see the top of Rogers Centre (this is where the baseball games are played, home of the Blue Jays) and also the motion ride but Miggy cried the whole time.







Next stop was Harbourfront Centre. We passed by an old turnstile and saw a streetcar. The Harbourfront Centre is almost empty because it's raining and most of the people are shopping (It's boxing sale today). We got nice photo opps here but the Pier restaurants are closed, we just had late lunch at Swiss Chalet.





We rode the Streetcar going back Union Station then went to Nathan Philip Square and the Old Toronto City Hall. We passed by Hudson Bay-The Bay and Toronto Eaton Center. Irvin and Faye had photo opps at the Yonge-Dundas Square- the Times Square equivalent before we headed home. We were all tired and the kids had mild fever but still played Monopoly before we hit the sack. It was a fun day.
Nathan Philips Square

Toronto Eaton Center


Yonge-Dundas Square

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Celebrations

We spent our first Christmas here with Irvin and Faye. They arrived from New York City a little after lunch while I was still busy preparing our Noche Buena. Good thing my bbq and Spaghetti Carbonara were cooked right in time for their late lunch. The kids enjoyed opening the gifts after dinner. Oh, I almost forgot, we had sumptous dinner - Baked Salmon, Potato Salad, BBQ and the remaining pasta from early birthday celebration of Miggy. He just turned 8 today. Of course, the Chocolate Brownie cake was our finale after Miggy blew the candles. Miggy enjoyed decorating his cake and the cupcakes too. Here are some of the photos in our first Christmas in Toronto:




On Christmas day, we went to Mississauga to visit Tito Nilo, Neil and Keli. We had late Turkey lunch because we arrived late. It was raining, Lito and I had to take TTC. Faye cooked Mechado and I prepared Baked Macaroni as our potluck share. We were full when we left the table but still had room for fondue. The kids enjoyed their gifts. Lex had fun too.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas to all. May we all remember the reason for the season.



Hope you also enjoy this:
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My adorable kids

Finally, we had our portrait taken last Monday. This is supposedly for the Christmas greeting cards that we will be sending out but last Monday was the earliest schedule we could get for the appointment at the studio. We arrived early and Lex slept while waiting. Good thing, he was in a good mood when he woke up and when it's time to pose. Here are my adorable kids in their Christmas clothes (ika nga sa Pinas, naka-pamasko, hehehe):



Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Lex is sleep-eating

Lex is sleep-eating

I love Ferrero chocolates and yes, cupcakes!

My recent discovery is so delicious, I already ate 2 while still hot. I love Ferrero Rocher chocolates that's why I also loved this.
Nutella Cupcakes are self-frosting and the sweetness just right. I took a picture of my second with the Nutella still oozing from the top.
Because the yield is only 12, and we are 5, (my bunso liked it too) I wonder who eats the most? Sorry Faye and Irvin, they will be long gone before you get here. I'll just bake another batch when you're already here.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Early Christmas Party at the Church

We had fun at our first Christmas party here. Not only was the service very inspiring, but the fun and caramaderie we had at the games made our day. Too bad, we were advised to continue our celebration because the evening service has already started upstairs. Here are our some of our photos:


With our Pastor



The Kids and my Sunday School Class (all those in front) while they were rendering a song


While still in our party clothes, we had pictures taken at our tree



..and the kids couldn't wait for their gifts to be opened.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Making (or baking) my own Christmas gifts

Since I don't have a job and the privilege to go shopping for gifts, I just baked some cookies as our gifts to our friends this Christmas. I made this in the wee hours of Sunday to bring them on our party. I made Oatmeal Cookies - my kids favorite. I have baked these many, many times and trying different toppings. This time I used the Christmas colored ones, green, red and white M&Ms holiday pack. I didn't know that it was mint inside until I got to taste it. It really taste good. I got this recipe from Pinoycook.net. Actually, I made another batch because Kyle ate 2 rows of cookies while I was letting them cool.
Baked with love and packed in Holiday-themed tin cans, my cookies will surely be a hit to our friends.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay

Today, we, especially my son Miggy witnessed the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay which transpired near their school and passed by our apartment at around 8:30 a.m. The usually busy Don Mills Road were cleared of vehicles and replaced by floats, police cars and people awaiting to witness the event. The torch bearers met at the corner of Gateway Blvd and continued the flame's journey across Canada.

Lito was able to capture this moment from his cellphone and Miggy had photo opportunities with the torch bearer who is also an Olympian:
video


I'm not yet interested in Winter Olympics because I still have to learn the games. I'm not even sure if Hockey is included. Hockey is the favorite game of Kyle and he said he wants to play and be on TV when he grows up. Now I have something to look forward to. Go, Kyle, Go.

Toronto Top Destinations Part 2 (Summer)

Most of the following are closed for the winter season but a must-see destinations during summer:

The Beaches or the Beach
The Beaches (also known as "The Beach") is a neighbourhood and popular tourist destination located on the east side of the "Old" City of Toronto. Oh, just looking at the image invites you to take a splash. A relaxing oasis close to the city but a world away in small town atmosphere. It's also a favorite place to roller blade, bike or just take a relaxing stroll along the boardwalk that winds along the lake. You can also browse the many boutiques and eateries that line Queen St East. I heard many celebrities frolick this area. Stargazing, anyone?

African Lion Safari
This is similar to the Night Safari in Singapore where the manner of exhibiting animals is different from the traditional approach; that is, the visitor is caged in the car, and the animals roam in 2 to 20 hectare (5 to 50 acre) reserves.

We can view and photograph unique and rare mammals and birds who are roaming freely, waiting to devour you hahaha joke >>meet you. The Safari Trail takes you through prides of lions, troops of baboons and herds of zebra. You will see big cats, baboons, white rhino, ostrich, aoudad, eland, giraffe and many other exotic and native species.

Ontario Place
Ontario Place is an internationally acclaimed cultural, leisure and entertainment parkland located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The complex extends throughout three man-made islands along the Lake Ontario waterfront.

The following are its attractions; The Forum, pedal boats, a marina, restaurants and the world's first permanent IMAX® theatre, the Cinesphere. I wish to go here in summer.

Centre Island
A short ferry ride will take you to the delightful Centre Island. Also referred to as Toronto Island, it is a great place to take a break from the busy city life. It is a pedestrian-only village that features historic architecture and a number of cafes, pubs, an amusement park, recreation areas, beaches, a yacht club, and restaurants. It is just one of a string of small islands that make up the biggest urban car-free community in North America. Toronto Harbour cruises makes it to my wishlist, I hope to do this someday hahaha.

There are also lots of shopping malls to visit; The Eaton Centre is one and choose from the other malls in around GTA but I guess Vaughan Mills, Yorkdale and the Outlet Malls top the list for fashion and budget-conscious like me.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Toronto attractions and itineraries for our Winter Holiday

My brother-in-law and his wife (Irvin and Faye) will be celebrating the holidays with us in our First Christmas here in Toronto and we're all excited. I've been busy with the menu planning, naks, feeling like a good cook haha but I'm now done with that and I've started to research on the things to do and places to go to while they are here.

This will be a spoiler to them sorry ha, but I need to put this here in my blog for reference that others can use and for relatives or friends coming over in the future. Here are the Toronto's Top Destinations:

CN Tower
The CN Tower is Toronto's tallest and most defining landmark. Photos of Toronto are often defined by the building stretching more than 550 metres into the sky. We are taking advantage of the Citypass booklet and this must-see destination is included. Per the Attractions experience, we can visit the Look Out Level (1,136 feet), test our nerve on the Glass Floor to see everything from 1,122 feet and choose either "The height of excellence" film or the motion theatre ride. I guess Miggy would want the latter, hehehe.

Casa Loma
This is a real castle in the heart of Toronto. It says in the guide that once inside, we can experience the elegance and splendour of the Edwardian era. We can explore the former home of Sir Henry Pellat, a Canadian financier featuring unique architecture. Its secret passageways, breathtaking towers, sweeping staircase, 800-foot tunnel, stables and 5-acre gardens continue to excite all ages.

Ontario Science Center
We just live in front of this destination and although we have been there several times, the kids never lose interest. The wonders of science continue to amuse them. The Omnimax theatre inside is another attraction but they have not changed the movie showing, Miggy says it's boring him.

Royal Ontario Museum
No trip to Toronto is complete without a visit to ROM, Canada's largest museum of world cultures and natural history. I hope it also has the dinosaurs so Miggy and Kyle will finally see them live, I mean the bones, hahaha.

Toronto Zoo
Voted "Favourite Toronto Attraction". The amazing zoo is the third largest zoo in the world. We will see more than 5000 animals displayed according to their geographic location. There are over 10 kilometers of stunning trails throughout 710 acres of land. Mahabang lakarin pala ito hahaha. Canada's premier zoo has five indoor pavilions and outdoor trails. Haay, I'm so excited for the kids. Oh, btw, they say that Polar Bears are now showing. I'm looking forward to this one!

The following is not included in the Citypass but is included in our itineraries:

Air Canada Centre
I wonder who's playing against the Raptors on the week after Christmas.

Hockey Hall of Fame
The Hockey Hall of Fame is a popular and entertaining facility that houses many interactive displays for both children and adults. It features a replica of the NHL dressing room, Broadcast Pods showing some of the most famous hockey games, and much more.

Harbourfront/Queen's Quay
Toronto's Harbourfront is one of North America's largest recreational waterfronts. It is near major attractions such as CN Tower; The Roger's Center; and the Air Canada Center. During winter, the Natrel Rink is open for ice skaters. This beautiful rink is located within the Harbourfront Centre grounds, a popular destination for festivals and concerts in the heart of the city’s downtown waterfront. On scheduled nights, we can skate while celebrity DJs are mixing their gig. I hope there are family programs too. Miggy can skate here weather permitting, skates are for rent for $7.


Nathan Philips Square

This is where the winter event The Cavalcade of Lights is being held and we look forward to seeing it. Nathan Philips Square is I believe the equivalent of Rockefeller in NYC. Miggy can also Ice skate here. I hope Irvin or Faye knows how to skate to accompany my son who suddenly become interested in this activity.

Yonge-Dundas Square
I have posted a separate entry in my other blog.

Other sites to see but I don't know how we could squeeze in our schedules; Chinatown, Cabbagetown, the Distillery, Kensington Market, Mackenzie House

This is it for now, I got tired in visiting these places in my mind, hahaha...more later..recharge and research first.

Long list of dream subjects and their meanings

Tooth Extraction - I only found something about teeth. >> One theory is that dreams about your teeth reflect your anxiety about your appearance and how others perceive you. Sadly, we live in a world where good looks are valued highly and your teeth play an important role in conveying that image. Teeth are used in the game of flirtations, whether it be a dazzling and gleaming smile or affectionate necking. These dreams may stem from a fear of your sexual impotence or the consequences of getting old. Teeth are an important feature of our attractiveness and presentation to others. Everybody worries about how they appear to others. Caring about our appearance is natural and healthy.

People
- I dreamt of familiar people; my latest yaya, seeking for my help to vouch for her because she is being accused of stealing money and another, an officemate of Lito who told me that my complexion turned dark. I guess the latter is related to the first dream because of my being vain and conscious of how I look. Well, here's the interpretation: Seeing people you know in your dream means qualities and feelings of those people that you desire for yourself. Seeing people from your past in your dream, refers to your shadow and other unacknowledged aspects of yourself. It can represent a waking situation that is bringing out similar feelings as your past relationships.

Train
- Going on a train ride may be symbolic of your life's journey. The train could also be symbolic of your need to move on and to do things in an orderly and sequential manner. Jung thought that the train ride represented the way a person moves and behaves just like everyone else and that you the dreamer may be striving for wholeness.

Spiral - To see a spiral in your dream, indicates that some situation in your waking life is spilling out of control. Alternatively, it may represent your creative power and new ideas.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Sunday School - First Christmas, Jesus and Kyle

I was the Sunday School teacher today and because it's almost Christmas, the lesson for today is The Nativity - Luke 2:1-7. I was given the study guide and I just scan a first christmas maze from the activity book of Kyle for the kids to do. To give the kids an idea on how Jesus was born, they drew on the boxes of the Jesus and Me page. Here's the work of Kyle:



The kids are supposed to draw on the Me box and then I just explain to them what they're supposed to draw in Jesus box. Kyle knew some of alphabet and I just spelled to him the letters he will write. First box - When some of the kids are already asking how to spell Canada because most of them were born here. Kyle asked me if what he did is right, he already put on the P and told me that he will write Philippines. I smiled when saw how he wrote the S. Notice in the second box, he drew a box with small squares representing hospital. He didn't put anything on the third box so his answer for the fourth box which is a car is drawn in the 3rd box. As I was explaining to them where and how Jesus was born, I asked them to draw on Jesus boxes. Look at Kyle's drawing of a horse/donkey that answers how Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem. I was also laughing at how he drew Mama and Daddilo's faces on his visitors and the crown he drew on Jesus' box because he said he cannot draw 3 kings. The last box is definitely not the least but the best, he said he wants to be a Policeman someday like Jesus so I asked why? This is his answer, "Gusto ko maging police para barilin ko yung mga bad, look meron akong baril." (I want to be a policeman because I will punish the bad. Look I drew a gun). I told them that Jesus became the Saviour of the world and asked Kyle again "Did Jesus become a policeman?" He replied, "No, pero galit siya sa mga bad (He is angry at bad people)" I didn't ask any other questions. I smiled knowing how a 3 year old says these things, innocently true.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Special Anniversary Dinner - Rib Eye Steak and more

We celebrated Lito's birthday and our 10th anniversary at home with a special dinner. For some it's like an ordinary dinner but since I prepared them all, with love and affection naks, it's already special for us. My morning and afternoon was spent in the kitchen. Good thing, our internet was not working, I was not disturbed by YM or skype hehehe.

I prepared the following. I know the lasagna doesn't match the rest but my kids wanted pasta and the noodles were leftover from miggy's project so I had to include it. Here's the menu:

Southwestern Corn Chowder
Rib-Eye Steak
Buttered Vegetables
Lasagna
Chocolate Cake


I am a stay-at-home mom now and I guess I have shifted careers from quality, information security incidents and environmental impacts as metrics to cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids. What I'm doing in my previous careers is still applicable into what I'm doing now. I still have the Policies (Rules for the kids), Operating Procedures and Work Instructions which I have converted into lists to do, to buy, to cook and prepared the recipes as my WIs. My main process now is cooking and of course the KPI (Key Performance Indicator) would be how my kids and my husband like the food I prepared. Their reaction and how they would ask for more is my greatest achievement. Here are some of the WIs I am following for the dishes I prepared.

Southwestern Corn and Carrot Chowder

I wanted a soup that is nutricious and all my kids will love. At first, when I was looking at the recipe I found at Metro newspaper, I was hesitant to try because the ingredients are unfamiliar to me like Picante Sauce but later I found out the it's also a salsa. We still have Tostitos salsa as dip for the chips but I used it in this recipe. I have the knack for substituting ingredients and I was glad it still turned out good-tasting. I used Spam instead of the chicken breasts and used cheddar cheese because that's what we only have in our kitchen.

Ingredients:
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2 cm cubes
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. cumin powder
2 cans chicken broths (I used 2 chicken cubes dissolved in 800ml water)
1 pack frozen corn (I used fresh ones, scrape around 6 corns)
3 pcs carrots, chopped
3/4 cup Picante Sauce/Salsa
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in
2 tbsp water
shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Procedure:

1. In 3 qt pot, cook chicken and onion in oil until chicken juices run clear.
2. Stir in cumin. Add broth, corn, carrot and picante sauce; bring to boil.
3. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes.
4. Stir in peppers and cilantro.
5. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into soup. Bring to boil. cook and stir 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.
6. Spoon into bowls and top with cheese.


Rib-Eye Steak

I haven't done any steak before, I just eat them. Rib Eye and other cut of beef is expensive in the Philippines. I had my festival of steaks when I was in Texas last year and I remember the saying that when you asked for A1 sauce that means the steak served is not good. My friends also told me that they only rub salt and pepper to the meat before they grill them. I researched a bit for a marinade because I want my kids to like the meat and the only way to do that is to make them tasty-tasty and not all-meat tasty. Here's what the Work I for the Rib Eye Steak (from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 pounds beef rib eye steaks
Directions
1.In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the soy sauce, onions, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and pepper. Add the steaks. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
2.Drain and discard marinade. Grill steaks, uncovered, over medium-hot heat for 8-10 minutes or until the meat reaches desired doneness (for medium-rare, a meat thermometer should read 145 degrees F; medium, 160 degrees F; well-done, 170 degrees F).

Meat Lasagna

The recipe called for 3 different cheeses but I only used Parmesan and instead prepared a white sauce to be put on top of each layer of the meat. The white sauce is one small can of all-purpose cream and half of the Philadelphia light cheese that I found in our ref. My kids loved it. That's what they only ate that night and of, course the cake. They ate the steak the next day with rice.

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups water
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 (1 ounce) envelope onion soup mix
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
2 cups small curd cottage cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Directions
1.In a large saucepan, cook beef and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the water, tomato sauce and paste, soup mix, oregano, sugar and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
2.Spoon 1/2 cup meat sauce into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Layer with three noodles and a third of the cottage cheese, mozzarella, meat sauce and Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers twice.
3.Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes or until bubbly and heated through. Uncover; bake 5-10 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Will post photos later.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

10 years and counting....


I haven't posted my Friday Photo Flashback started by Alicia for sometime now. This is to make up for all the missed Fridays. Here's my entry for the week, a very special one, a showcase of some of the wonderful moments in our 10 years of marriage.

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Our secret? - Live, Laugh and Love and this..."a chord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Thank God for the 10 years and beyond...Happy 10th Anniversary!

Prequels and Lito's special day

Many Hollywood blockbuster hits have made prequels to continue with the success of their movies. Most of them are shocking revelations that made the first sequel what they are. I'm amazed how the creators were able to come up with the characters and young versions of the movie's heroin. I'm sure you remember the following prequels:

1. Star Wars ->Phantom Menace
2. Superman (oh, I love Smallville)
3. Silence of the Lambs -> Hannibal Rising
4. Batman series -> Batman Begins
5. Scorpion King -> The Mummy series

and many others, I forgot them. It's nice to see what transpired before a current hit. It inspired me to do the prequel of my husband's life as he celebrates his 40th birthday today. I only have a few of his old photos and I hope it brings back good memories and be thankful for what he is today. Happy 40th Birthday, Lito! I hope you like this:
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Gift to Lito's 40th
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