Wanna Budol Fight?

Friday, October 31, 2014
Our Budol Fight spread

So before you say "make love, not war", budol fight may not mean what you think it means. Budol fight (and its English translation, boodle fight) is a military style of eating where long tables are prepared and food are on top of banana leaves. (Urban Dictionary)

It's popular in Philippine circles and really a fun and unique way to enjoy a meal with friends. This is an eating affair where the more really is the merrier. I suppose there is something to be said about gulping down food, eating with your bare hands, and fighting for that last piece of fried chicken wing in the middle of the spread.

This is definitely one experience you must have, at least once, in your life. And I'm glad we got the chance. We were lucky we got invited to a friend's Budol Fight-themed birthday bash recently.

All you need are banana leaves (for authenticity), the food (for consumption), and your appetite (for satisfaction). If you had all these now, would you all be ready for the fight?

Photo Credit to the owner

Writer's Workshop: Better than Bitter (Repost)

Thursday, October 30, 2014
The post, "What I Know For Sure: Better Than Bitter", first appeared on the blog three years ago on October 5, 2011. I just couldn't resist the temptation. After all, it was such a defining moment. I thought it fitting to repost when I saw that the writer's workshop prompts for this week had:

3.) Write a post inspired by the word: bitter

And so, here it goes...

Gawd! What a startling discovery I made recently when an old colleague contacted me. My reaction to her request can only be described, as Oprah would put it, an “A-ha!” moment for me.

Old colleagues became wary of me after I left the old workplace two years ago, thinking me the disgruntled employee who will avenge whatever. And I suppose, to some extent, I did not blame them for thinking such. Nor did I try and convince them otherwise. I was on the vestige of positivity. People and circumstances had let me down; In fact, I still remember the hurt and frustration each time I think about that time.
So it was quite astonishing to be contacted for some assistance with regards anything about my old job. My colleague wanted to find out if I knew the mechanics of a certain apparatus that I used to have in my old office.
 
I debated whether to assist or not. Somehow, the tempting thought did cross my mind that I could just keep quiet about it. After all, it’s their problem, not mine. After all they’ve put me through, a little inconvenience like this could really make the “bitter” me very happy (evil laugh filtering through the air BWAHAHAHAHA)!
 
But I chose to help. However much I can. Yep! I did just that.
 
In the end, what I know for sure was that….I was better than the embittered person these people painted me out to be. Way, way better.
 
Lately I mostly hear myself saying that I have moved on and I am soooo over my old job. But this time, my heart truly believes it.

I'm sure most of us have had bad work experiences in one way or another. Have you truly gotten over yours yet?
 
Mama’s Losin’ It

Summer Getaway Day 2 - Royal Canadian Mint

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
My child as a quarter

 This place surely could have been a numismatist's paradise. After all, the whole place was all about making coins, who wouldn't wanna know?

On a whim, as our last stop in Ottawa, I decided that we would pass by the Royal Canadian Mint.

We were ushered into the boutique whilst waiting for the tour of the plant to start. We perused the collection on display and were really amazed at the different sizes and values. I tried both my hands on lifting a very heavy, very solid gold bar at the boutique. The gold bar weighed 28 pounds and was valued at more than half a million dollars.

Instagrammed by jamie250196

Inside the tour, they showcased some samples of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic medals. All the hard work and dedication and how each medal was a part of a larger piece of the puzzle. The Olympian winners were even given a map to find where their medals fitted in the bigger picture.

We saw how King George VI's and Queen Elizabeth II's images on the coins changed through the years, how a simple crown (actually, the lack thereof) on their images could emphasize that they were the common people's King/Queen.

Although we weren't allowed to take photos inside the plant, it was great and informative. And for an occasional coin collector like me, it felt like a kid being in a candy store. I couldn't/wouldn't be able to afford most of the coins in that place but it was really special to see how valuable a small silver can get.

Summer Getaway Day 2 - Rideau Canal

Monday, October 27, 2014
Rideau Canal - a view from under the bridge

We had a few hours to spare before we took our tour of the Centre Block at the Parliament of Canada so we decided to take a stroll along the Rideau Canal.

We had originally planned to take a boat tour along the canal but since the tour would make us late for the Parliament tour, we decided to rather walk. Our feet did not take us as far as the boat could have, nevertheless it was a peaceful, canal side amble.

Rideau Canal is one of the World's Heritage Site. During summer, people would jog around, canoe and ride boats along the canal. During winter, the canal is turned into a rink enjoyed by ice skaters.

With all the surrounding greens and the slow breeze of the wind,  authentic bagpipe music filled the air. It had truly transformed into the perfect place under the sun.

Rideau Canal - National Historic Site of Canada

Writer's Workshop: the Teacher and the Student

Thursday, October 23, 2014
Instagram photo by jamie250196

Writer's Workshop - Prompt #2: Hi, my name is MJ and I am a perpetual life student.

A few years back when I was retrenched, I asked a friend to put in a good word for me at the company she worked for. I was told that although I was educated enough, the company did not need people with degrees like me. Number 1, the company wouldn’t be able to afford me, number 2, the company gets the work done hiring less-qualified people…and on and on and such and such.
 
My friend probably did not mean anything bad by the remarks. I would like to believe that she just wanted to let me down easy and not put too much hope in a situation that would likely amount to nothing. But I felt annoyed that I was made to feel that my education (and the hard work, dedication, not to mention long years, that I’ve put in to attain it) was worthless.
I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in terms of my schooling. And before you turn your nose up and pigeonhole me as an uppity b**** who thinks I’m better than everybody else, please allow me to explain.
After high school, I did not get into university the same way as most kids my age. Financially, my family was not able to afford it. I started working and funded my university studies this way. I was taught via distance learning. Long before, emails and internet subscriptions became popular and online videos and classes were considered learning tools.
At this point, the “real” education began. Let's face it, not all teaching is done at school. More than just the academics that I got from the distance learning, I learnt that life was hard like a rock. Sometimes you have to bang your head into it a couple of times so that your dreams spill out into the open.
After 7 long years (instead of 4) of working by day and self-studying by night, I graduated with a degree. This is why I valued education so much, because it had not been an easy road for me. It’s good and well that you can dream big, but where’s the sweat and blood that go with it? The whole experience taught me self-belief. And I learnt the true and responsible meaning of “follow your dreams”.
Nowadays, life continues to enlighten me on a lot of other things. It has not been mistake-free but I have learnt the following:
- strength and acceptance: Destiny Calling, Fate Beckoning
- clarity and focus: What I Know For Sure: Better Than Bitter
- mistakes and admission: The Prodigal Employee
- lost chance and regret: A Mother...in Retrospect
- time and healing wounds: What I Know For Sure...About My Family
- faith in human nature: On the Other Side of Fear Lies Freedom
- patience and love: Mommy Pressure Moments
After all, this is Life and it is a Teacher. And as long as there continues to be life, I intend to learn.
*As an afterthought: I continue to study academically and am now on my way to complete Canadian CPA status. My career is still on the right track. My family still lovingly tests my patience from time to time. And my friend, sadly, is now just somebody that I used to know.
Mama’s Losin’ It

Summer Getaway Day 2 - Parliament of Canada

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Centre Block

We checked out of the hotel around 9:30am the next morning to try and catch the Changing of the Guards that was set to happen at around 10:00am at Parliament Hill. Imagine our surprise, and disappointment, to find out that the Changing of the Guards had finished the day before. What a bummer! Although I'm pretty sure that their website said that it was only ending that Sunday morning....anyways, moving on.

Parliament Buildings

We went to the Information Centre across the Parliament Buildings to arrange for a free tour of the government structure.

We had a little bit of time on our hands before the tour, so we decided to explore the grounds and take some photos with the garden statues.

Women statues with women to be


When the time came, we took the Centre Block tour. We were led by a tour guide who showed us where all the honorable government representatives rub shoulders. The Centre Block housed the Senate, the House of Commons and my all-time favourite, the Library of Parliament. I swear I would've loved to have gotten lost in that library for days, but it wasn't at all possible since the tour only lasted for 45 minutes and I had to move along with the group.

Library of Parliament backdrop

For more information about the Parliament of Canada, visit their website.

Ottawa Accommodation - Albert at Bay Suite Hotel

Monday, October 20, 2014

Photo credit: Albert at Bay Suite Hotel

I booked this accommodation with Hotels.com 2 months back and although the hotel got very good reviews all over, I wasn't really quite sure what to expect.

Frankly, this hotel, and actually the room they gave us, was such a pleasant surprise. Not only did it come with the standard double bedrooms, it had its own kitchen, lounge and dinette area as well. It had a microwave, an oven, pots and pans, plates and other kitchen utensils. You'd think we were staying there for a good few months. I suppose now I wish we had extended. We didn't really expect the room to be so big, but certainly appreciated the space.

The hotel was close enough to some of the major sights, including the Parliament Buildings.

The only downside of this hotel that I must point out, since it had been mentioned on reviews a few times and we experienced it first hand, is that there are car parking issues. The hotel had its own underground parking, which was situated around the corner. But it was full when we arrived at the hotel. We were advised by the hotel staff to park across the hotel, on the street. This is of course a chance event. If there is space, you get parking, if not, well then... We were lucky that we arrived on the weekend and street parking was free until Monday morning.

Other than the parking issue, I highly recommend this hotel to anyone visiting Ottawa. Check out their website here.

An Intimate Night with Alanis

Friday, October 17, 2014
Alanis Morissette - Oct 4, 2014

I've been excited since I first heard the news that Alanis Morissette was holding an acoustic concert. That had been a few months ago. Actually, come to think of it, it could have been anything with Alanis on it and I would've remained excited regardless.

Alanis was coming to town. She's been touring all over the east coast of North America for a few months now. I had a few near hits around Ontario but some locations were just too far, and others I found out too late.

So when it was announced that she was coming into Niagara Falls, New York, I thought, "this was it!" Finally, my chance to meet the uber-talented angry rock chick from the 90s.

Alanis did not disappoint. From the moment, she came on stage until the very last song, she performed. Intelligent, articulate, candid and engaging....she is all that and more. She is Alanis Morissette after all. It's hard to believe that she was an introvert way back when (she probably still is).

She sang her hits and played the harmonica like only she can. The crowd accompanied her all the way. I've never felt so in tune with anybody as I did with everybody in the audience that night.

She's best known for her alternative rock style, but when her music is stripped of all the synthetics and there's nothing on stage except acoustic guitars, her lyrics just transcend into the wise, wise words they really are.

I cried the first few songs. I can't explain the emotional ride her music took me through. She chokes me up whenever she sings to me in my car, can you just imagine the damage she bestowed on me by singing live and so intimately that night?

Writers Workshop: The Has-Beens

Thursday, October 16, 2014
Mama’s Losin’ It

After self-diagnosing early this year that I was indeed suffering from chain watching, one of this week's writing prompts definitely had the makings of manna from heaven. I have chosen to do....what else?

3.) List 6 retired TV shows you’d like to see come back

Doing this prompt today certainly cements my status of not being cured from chain watching...or any kind of binge-watching whatsoever. I've even posted about some of the series here on the blog, hoping that it alleviates some of my craving but to no avail. Here's my list of 6 TV has-beens that I'd like to see come back:


1. The X-Files (1993-2002, 9 seasons)
My number 1 pick. I am a huge, huge fan of this cult classic. I always pictured myself as the third wheel along the Scully/Mulder investigations. I chose this because I lie awake sometimes in the dead of the night, wondering who was behind the conspiracy theories that The X-Files made me believe.  Yes, the aliens did it. Or did they?


2. Desperate Housewives (2004-2012, 8 seasons)
I was the other desperate housewife...or at least, I was in my mind. I loved these girls to bits and how funny, exciting and yes, sometimes menacing, they made suburban life appeared. All those crazy antics and all those juicy secrets are definitely just some reasons to bring the old Wisteria Lane neighbourhood back.


3. Fringe (2008-2013, 5 seasons)
The idea of having another me in an alternate universe screamed so loudly that I could not resist adding this show on the list because I just gotta know if there is another me somewhere in the deep, dark unknown. To say that it intrigued me to no end would be an understatement. Although I must admit, it confused me a whole lot too. In which other series can you say, "Where the hell am I?" as each episode starts?


4. Breaking Bad (2008-2013, 5 seasons)
I know, I know. Unless they find some way to bring Walter White back from the dead, (in which case it will no longer be a Breaking Bad episode, and more like a Walking Dead one), this quality series is not coming back at all. It ended well, as it should. But I sure wish I could've been bad a little while longer.


5. House M.D. (2004-2012, 8 seasons)
Well, the list of TV series will not be complete without including a medical drama. I actually loathe specialist dramas because medical jargons really do bore me. House M.D. is no different. A lot of mumbo-jumbo gets thrown about, but a dark, demented, diabolical doctor who elicits a love-hate reaction from fans certainly appeals to my evil side. Good enough for 8 seasons. I am on my last season of this series on Netflix, and although I'm not quite finished, I am already dreading twiddling my thumbs when I'm done.


6.How I Met Your Mother (2005-2013, 9 seasons)
It was really a toss up between this show and Friends. I love both and the general theme of both shows seem to be in the same vein - having good friends and finding true love. With all its laugh, impossible, funny situations, love choices and decisions, the show re-affirms that you don't need to look far and wide for love, and that it is not crazy to wait for your soul mate. It speaks to my romantic side, which is rare, since I consider myself a cynical romantic. But it's simple and feel-good and it's got Canadian roots because of Robin Sparkles, what more can I ask for?

Summer Getaway Night 1 - MosAika

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

MosAika            

In my mind, this was certainly the highlight of our visit to Ottawa.

After our walk through the ByWard Market, we started our way back to the Parliament Buildings where the MosAika was to take place.

MosAika is a sound and light show that happens every summer in Ottawa. It normally starts around 10pm and is presented at Parliament Hill. It tells the story of Canada, through the years, its development and how it came to be.

Spectators abound the hill were treated to a spectacular show. Its dazzling lights and booming sounds entertained both young and old. We were fascinated by the audio-visual display but I was even more amazed that the presentation remained vivid in my mind, even after many, many days since.

It's a wonderful feeling to have such a powerful reminder of why we love Canada!

For more information on MosAika, check out their website.

instagrammed by jamie250196

Summer Getaway Night 1 - ByWard Market

Monday, October 13, 2014
We had to quickly hit the streets again after we checked in at our hotel because it was turning night time and we hadn't had a chance to have dinner.

We suffered our first disappointment looking for dinner. I was really wanting to have some KFCs and the GPS was pointing us to go to Rideau Centre. After a few around-the-block searches for parking, we eventually got to the mall, only to find out that everything was closing at 6pm. We literally only had one minute left. Sadly, I did not get my KFC. I had to be satisfied with a McDonalds dinner across the street from the mall.

The diversion gave us a chance to walk the surrounding area a bit. Which was a good thing. We stumbled our way to the nearby ByWard Market.

ByWard Market

Well, it's true what they say that there is always something happening at ByWard Market. We walked through the picturesque streets lined with restaurants and shops. There were even street stalls that sold small trinkets and treasures. It had also been good timing since as soon as we arrived at the ByWard Market Square, some people huddled around a street performer, who was just about to start his performance. He turned out to be a medallist in the world cyr wheel championship.

His show, a brief 45-minute stint, was engaging to say the least. It was highly enjoyed by both young and old. He also picked out an assistant in the audience, who later actually turned out to be his real-life fiancée. To learn more about their act, The Engagement Ring Show, check out their official website and their Facebook page.

The ByWard Market seemed like a heavy hustling-and-bustling place. We walked around the market until around 8:30pm when we headed back to the Ottawa Parliament Building to catch The Light and Sound Show. I suspect that nightlife was a great part of the market. We decided that we would have lunch around the area the next day.



Writer's Workshop: Chatting Up Missy

Thursday, October 9, 2014
Mama’s Losin’ It

A Mama Kat inspired writing prompt: #2 - Share a recent text exchange that made you laugh.

I could throw in a few statistics about kids under 13 years old having Facebook accounts. I've been to the countless seminars, I know that percentage is more than the 10 fingers I have on my hands.
 
My kid joins the lesser crowd of not having any social media accounts. Yes, at 10, she's not immune to the pressure; she'd like to have an account of her own. But I am hesitant, insisting rather that she uses one of my old accounts to login and play. Ironically, I created that Facebook account for exactly that purpose...when I was still tending farm sheep and harvesting crops and serving dishes in a previous lifetime.
 
Okay, so let's get back to the story. Kid uses mommy's play-play account and the kid's only friends are immediate family - mommy, daddy and big sis. There's gotta be more to Facebook life than just games, right? Enter messenger. It's a great way to keep in touch even when we're just not in the same room together.
 
Here's a sample banter between my youngest daughter and me recently....

My chat with Missy

I love re-reading our exchanges. She may be the girl with the short answers but she's learning to use emoticons like a pro. And I just realised that she loves them cats too damn much!

Summer Getaway Day 1 - Ottawa - Canadian War Museum

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Our getaway officially started at 9 that morning. It was going to be a long day for us as we made our way from Mississauga to Ottawa. At least a 5-hour drive to be exact.

We eventually arrived at our destination at around 2:30pm. We were a little too early for our hotel check-in, which was only happening at around 4pm so we decided to swing by the Canadian War Museum.

The Canadian War Museum is a national museum detailing Canada's military past and how it shaped the country. The museum had a vast collection of war pieces that included artillery and armoured tanks. The whole place was very informative about the role Canada had in the different wars throughout history.

The museum kept us busy for just over an hour and half. After which, we left and were on our way to the hotel.

Here's a few photos to give you some idea of what you can see with a visit to the museum:

Cannon
In the trenches

More trenches photo
Hitler's car

2014 Summer Getaway

Monday, October 6, 2014
This is not our first year in Canada. But it could very well have been. Last year (which was actually our first year) did not really leave us feeling very settled and permanent, and so everything was sorta like in between worlds. We were here in Canada but our life seemed to be progressing elsewhere.

Anyway, this is the first year that we truly experienced Canadian summer in all it's true sense. We finally did what Canadian families did in summer - have their vacations and travel!

Our budget was tight so our planned family vacation did not really take us very far. But that was okay. As the family grows older, I've found that it's really getting harder to lug around family members while you're touring. Aaahhh...the good, old days of Contiki when it was just me and 49 other strangers.

But I digress. As I was saying, planning this trip was harder than normal. My kids have grown up and hubby and I have matured along the years. So our tastes in attractions and places to see have changed dramatically.

I planned some activities for us to do but as expected, some were hits and some were misses. But hey, I enjoyed most of the vacation so it was a good trip for me.

The only thing I hated was getting lost and spending hours manoeuvring the roads that were under construction. These were things that Google Map nor the TomTom told you about while you researched the places.

Our summer took us to Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec. They were all lovely cities and equally alluring in their own rights. In the next few weeks, I'll post some insights into the places we visited and stumbled upon.

Stay tuned!

Fairmont Chateau Laurier
Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa
Ottawa Parliament Building
Parliament Building in Ottawa
Vieux Port of Montreal
Old Port of Montreal
Old Montreal
Old Montreal
Quebec, Quebec
View of Quebec City

Notre Dame Basilica in Quebec City

Thousand Islands

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
It's actually 1,864 islands in total, but who's counting?
 
Thousand Islands is an archipelago of islands between the US and Canada. The Canadian islands are in the province of Ontario in Canada and the US islands are in the state of New York. To qualify and be counted as an island, an island needs to be afloat all year round (no dipping when it's high tide), must have an area greater than 1 square foot and must support at least one living tree on its land. (Wikipedia)

Driving from Mississauga, it took us just over 3 hours to get to Gananoque, Ontario. We left early since we wanted to catch the first boat ride out to the Thousand Islands. We took the 5-hour trip that included a stop-over visit at The Boldt Castle on Heart Island.

Gananoque Boat Line

The boat trip was nice but uneventful. It was very interesting nd informative to learn about the islands and bridges and international waters. Knowing that we were sailing away on the playground of the rich (if they were not all famous) was also quite a draw card. We were fascinated to see houses that were built on quaint, landscaped islands.
 
Bridge on 1000 Islands

1000 Islands

I was really excited to visit Boldt Castle as well because of it's supposedly romantic history. The story goes that George Boldt built the castle for his wife. However, it was never finished and in 1904, all construction stopped because George's wife died. These days, it is a stopover attraction for people taking boat trips around the 1000 Islands. Boldt Castle is located in the aptly-named Heart Island. It is under  US soil.
 
Boldt Castle
 
The trip back was even more uneventful. The weather and the breeze made an afternoon nap absolutely hard to resist. I probably dozed off a bit because the next thing I know, we were near the boat dock and the others were already preparing to unload.

It's worth it to see the islands but I think if I had the chance to do it again, I would've opted for the shorter boat trips. The only hitch is that, of course, the shorter trips did not include the stop at Boldt Castle.