Writer's Workshop: The Bee and I

Thursday, November 27, 2014
3. Write about your favorite place to eat when you were a child.

Instagram photo by jamie250196

Eons ago when I was just a young child of 8, growing up in the Philippines, I had a slight hamburger addiction with Jollibee. I remember hounding my mom almost every single day to pass by my favourite fast food joint just so I could get my fix of a Jollibee burger.

Of course, it did not hurt that Jollibee ran a weekly toy promotion as well. I recall that I had a complete collection of Jollibee pencil toppers, piggy banks, glasses, stationery, you name it. While others played and talked with their Barbie and Ken dolls, I played house with the Jollibee mascots.

Our family did not have a lot of money then for my frivolous obsession, but I managed to amass my collectibles because my mother catered my whim. My earliest recollection was that my mom and I would visit a Jollibee restaurant and buy my hamburger so she could get a toy with it. And since I couldn't really eat a whole lot of burgers after that, my mom would ask some other customers for their food receipts so that she could use it to buy another toy.

I used to feel ashamed that my mom did this. As if having little money or not having enough to buy a hamburger somehow diminished the real meaning behind gathering the toy collectibles. Little did I know how incredibly bratty I acted. Little did I understand how completely selfless my mom was for this sacrifice. Little did I realise that the collectibles were actually signs of the unconditional love of a mother for her child.

Not soon after, we left the Philippines and I got over my fixation. I didn't bring a single collectible with me when I left.

I've visited the Philippines 3 times in the last 20 years and on each visit, I never forget to pass by my favourite childhood fast food chain, Jollibee. I sit there and reminisce my childhood and of the motherly love I was showered with. I miss talking to them pencil toppers sometimes. :-)

But I'm probably just missing my mom too.

***Jollibee is a Philippine multinational chain of fast foods restaurant.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Summer Getaway Day 6 - La Citadelle du Quebec

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Family photo

The tour of La Citadelle du Quebec turned out to be a much better experience than the one we did at the Plains of Abraham.

I don't know what it is with men in red uniform but I simply love looking at them as they stand guard and refuse to bat an eye or divulge a movement. I think this has something to do with my visit to the United Kingdom a few years back when I first laid eyes on a man in red uniform at Buckingham Palace....but I digress.

Hubby tries his hand at the red uniform

As I said, the visit to La Citadelle was quite enthralling. La Citadelle is perched atop the Gibraltar of America, housing Canada's Royal 22° Regiment, and is the largest British fortress built in North America (according to official website).

The tour took us to all the corners of the place. We got to see the barracks, the mess hall, the military prison, etcetera. There was so much to see and so much information to digest that it was all almost surreal.

As you enter, the gardens have various statues and a flowery reminder "Je me souviens", meaning "I Remember". It is the official motto of Quebec.

Right at the top we got a very good view of Quebec City.

Since it was a military attraction, it would not be complete if it didn't include cannons and tanks. We even got the chance to stay and witness the firing of the cannon.

The interactive museum at La Citadelle was good but I felt that the Plains of Abraham had a better one. Maybe it was because of the cool audio-visual clips that the Plains of Abraham had, clearly highlighting the battle between the French and the English. Nonetheless, La Citadelle, as a whole, was entertaining and full of military history tidbits, if you're into that kind of thing.

Quebec City Accommodation - Hotel Manoir Victoria

Monday, November 24, 2014

Photo from the website

During our visit to Quebec City, we stayed at the Hotel Manoir Victoria.

Hotel Manoir Victoria can be found within the Fortificiation wall and is part and parcel of Old Quebec.

I wanted us to be able to take in the authenticity of Old Quebec and so decided that a stay within the wall would do it.

It did wonders. The hotel was close to everything. Every little shop was within walking distance that we did not really our car to explore.

The hotel is situated on a busy street. It also has valet parking, which is not visible from the street. It is included when you book reservations. As you enter the hotel, you are greeted by a few flights of stairs. The front desk can be found atop the stairs.

The hotel has 4 stars and did not disappoint. Very clean, very modern and very nice - can all describe the room that we got (as pictured above). It was big enough for 5 people.

All in all, our stay at Hotel Manoir Victoria was uneventful and satisfactory. It was nice and warm...which is what you would want for any hotel stay in an unfamiliar city anyways. I'm glad we stayed there.

Photo from the website

Sam Strucked!

Friday, November 21, 2014
Instagram photo by jamie250196

I so rarely see real life celebrities that I must post about it on the blog whenever I do.

Okay, I'm not talking about going to concerts and buying show tickets. Of course then that would mean that we would get to see the stars. What I mean is, chance occasions or in this case, a free live event.

Each year in Mississauga, this Fiesta Ng Kalayaan festival is held. Fiesta Ng Kalayaan means the festival of freedom in Tagalog. The festival normally features local Filipino talents and different showbiz guest stars.

This year's featured artist was Sam Milby. Now I'm not really much of a showbiz fan since I've been out of the Philippines for quite a while. But I've heard of Sam Milby and have seen him in some movies. I reckon he was quite the heartthrob and so decided that the festival warranted an attendance this year.

Instagram photo by jamie250196

Sam did not disappoint. He got on the stage, sang for, conversed with, charmed us. He did not have this air of being a celebrity about him. In fact, he was down-to-earth and truly likeable. Even hubby commented that Sam was "artista ng masa", which translates to "people's artist". Sam was very accommodating, gentle and he genuinely seemed fun to be with.

It has been several months now since Fiesta ng Kalayaan but I still get the chills as I write this post. I'm not fangirling....I think I'm a tad old for that. I am just easily impressed with celebrities who are endearing without trying too hard. And Sam was just that. He had an ounce of charisma, of wit, of good looks, of everything just right. Seeing Sam Milby that day was really some kind of special and I just wanted to share that.

Summer Getaway Day 5 - Fortification of Quebec

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
The Wall

Luckily I had booked our hotel within the Fortification wall.

Let me explain. Quebec City is a city that is divided with places that are outside the wall and places that are within the wall. The wall that divides the city is called the Fortification of Quebec.

When you pass through the wall, it feels as if you've been thrown back to medieval times and you are living, breathing Old Québécois life. Okay, so maybe the big M McDonalds sign at the bottom of the street is no help, but everything inside the wall feels so authentic that even the air tells you that you have left civilization.

McDonalds up ahead
After taking some photos with the Wall, we walked around the streets of Old Quebec. Well, there is really no better way to roam and experience Old Quebec than on foot. We found another Notre Dame Basilica but this time we chose not to go in. We visited the small shops and  ate dinner at a quaint Chinese restaurant just opposite the church.

Notre Dame in Quebec City

We walked some more and found a bakery that seemed to be bustling with people clamouring for macarons and gelato. We wanted both and so wasted no time in getting inside to taste the delicacies.

We could've walked a bit more but we decided to call it an early night. We were pooped from travelling so early and the hassles of the day really tired us. We vowed that tomorrow would be a better day.

Summer Getaway Day 5 - Plains of Abraham

Monday, November 17, 2014
Instagram photo by jamie250196

We tried to leave early that morning to make our way to Quebec City but still wound up leaving an hour late. Quebec City was at least two and a half hours away from Montreal and we had a full two days of frolicking planned for it. In the end though, it probably was not meant to be. Out of the whole Quebec City leg, we did not really get to see as much as we wanted.

Our first frustration occurred upon arrival. The city streets were fraught with road constructions. The GPS could not really tell us exactly where to go without hitting one of the construction sites that we wasted a whole hour just trying to find the Plains of Abraham.

At one point we were already actually at the Plains but I had wanted to go to the tourist centre to check out the interactive museum and book a bus ride, so we went around and around and woe was us.

It was really quite difficult to manoeuvre streets you've never seen before. No matter how prepared you are, armed with Google Map and the Tomtom, unknown territories can be quite overwhelming. After the hour, in my desperation, I decided to call it quits and head for the hotel.

The GPS urged us to take yet another turn and voila! The visitors centre for the Plains of Abraham stood right in front of us. How's that for dumb luck?

We signed up for the bus trip but had a whole hour to wait. So we went through the interactive museum. We went through a series of audio visual clips of how the French and the English were fighting, and how the Plains of Abraham came to be. The French-English battle for the City was all but 20 minutes, but it was a historic battle that would forever change a country.

We learnt why Quebec stayed a French province although the English won the battle. We were shown why La Citadelle, the fort next door to the Plains, was a security key point in Canada.

The bus ride was equally entertaining. Madame Abraham, the wife of the famous Abraham who owned the Plains, drove us around and talked about areas on the Plains where specific events occurred.

Madame Abraham

After the ride was over, we checked out the neighbouring La Citadelle and promised to come back the next day for the full visit.

Because we lost so much time with directions, there was not much left to do but check in at the hotel and prepare for the night.

For the official website of the Plains of Abraham, click here.

Writer's Workshop: Perfecting the Art of Being Lazy

Thursday, November 13, 2014
iRobot Roomba

2. November 3rd is National Housewife’s Day…how did you celebrate?

Okay, so I didn't really know that November 3 was National Housewife's Day but I had this post gathering dust on my blogging dashboard (pun intended) that it seemed to be a perfect fit when talking about celebrating being a housewife in this Rodriguez family.

You know me, being a housewife equates to being domesticated. And anything that helps me get a little bit domesticated is worth a celebration. Buying the Roomba is certainly not gonna win me any points when I argue that I am trying to learn to be domesticated. But it was really an excellent way to celebrate my housewifey-ness.

The Roomba I am referring to is a robotic vacuum cleaner famously sold by iRobot. I got myself one such cool gadget when it went on sale recently at the local Canadian Tire. Actually I encouraged hubby to queue at the store at opening time and grab a Roomba before they were all gone.

So we got the Roomba and started putting it to good use. It is really quite nifty. It goes around the house, sensing and avoiding stairs, bumping into walls and furniture but able to change direction, memorises room patterns, picking up dirt, hair, anything on the floor. It moves around until it just almost runs out of batteries, then it goes back to its docking station to charge. The higher models even have the ability to schedule when to start cleaning the house. It works best with wooden floors but can also do carpets.

After all the good things mentioned, you'd think that your maid is no longer needed. The only disclaimer that the Roomba has is that even with all its good qualities, it does not absolve the house owner of domestic duties. The Roomba is only there to help me maintain, but in the end, I will still need to give the house a good scrubbing once in a while.

Fast, efficient, and effective - the Roomba is definitely a cleaning equipment after my own heart. Which house gadget do you consider to be the greatest addition to your cleaning arsenal?
Mama’s Losin’ It

Summer Getaway Day 4 - Vieux Port of Montreal

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Vieux Port of Montreal
We've been to this part of Montreal before.

When we first landed in Canada and visited Montreal the first time in the dead of winter, we celebrated the holidays in the Old Port of Montreal.

The Old Port was a winter wonderland with an ice skate rink and glistening white snow everywhere. It was bustling with entertainment for young and old.

Kinda strange to see the Old Port now in a different light. It's a totally opposite season and so the ice and chill have turned into water and green grasses.

We walked the Old Port but did not really go into the flea markets to look at things. We had already done our shopping round earlier on our visit to Old Montreal and the Notre Dame Basilica. We just wanted to relax.

Look at them go!

The kids decided to paddleboat around the lake. They rented the boat for an hour and paddled like furious ducks while hubby and I rested on the grass, waiting for their hour to be up.

After the kids came back to land, we decided to trek home. It was a short trip but we didn't really had anything in mind but take in the tranquil scenery, and the Old Port of Montreal did just that for us.

Have you been to the Old Port and what do you remember of your visit?

Instagram photo by jamie250196

Summer Getaway Day 4 - Basilica de Notre Dame, Montreal

Monday, November 10, 2014
Basilica de Notre Dame, Montreal

This was going to be our laid-back day in Montreal. We've been sightseeing non-stop the last couple of days that it was time to slow things down a bit. We were still Montreal tourists but we were looking and doing less things today.

I think my family was pleasantly surprised to find that aside from being a place of worship, churches were also sometimes part of a city's attractions. This was the case with the Notre Dame Basilica in  Montreal.

Inside the Basilica, main church

There was an entrance fee to get into the church, which my husband thought was quite strange. "You asking me to pay to pray?", he mumbled as he paid for the ticket at the entrance kiosk. It wasn't until we got inside that he fully understood why a fee was necessary. The church does not ask money to make profits, but rather to support its upkeep and care of the architecturally beautiful building.

Looking around the church, you can see that it is well-maintained, appreciated, cleaned, loved....

Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, inside the Basilica

I was touched by the many visitors and parishioners at church that day. It wasn't packed but when I look around, more than 20 people is already a good number for church on a Tuesday afternoon. Not to mention that there wasn't even a mass on.

I wondered how it would feel like to attend mass at the Basilica. Somehow I imagined it would really be quite special and wonderful.

Click here for its official website.

Writer's Workshop: Ahoy Me Halloween Hearties

Thursday, November 6, 2014

5.) Write a post in just 12 lines.

Instagram photo by jamie250196

The preparation for this year's Halloween was certainly more thought-out than last year's. Missy decided to go as a pirate. Personally, I would've wanted to have given birth to a superhero this year. But I think there was a stigma of responsibility and behaving well attached to being a good guy that did not appeal to my young kid, that she decided being bad and carefree was a much better option.

My pirate
But who am I to speak? I, myself, wanted to don a ladybug costume but could not find one that was cheap enough for my liking. Not to mention, being tiny and being an insect at the same time had some serious repercussions it seemed. On a chance occasion, I happened on a vampire costume at Walmart for $20 and so a Morticia Addams I was meant to be. Another baddie at Halloween.

The pirate and the vampiress

Being the baddies that we were, the little pirate and her bodyguard vampire went around fleecing the neighbourhood for candies. We always seem to have great fun at being bad. Which begs the question, would we have as much fun if we had gone as Super Girl and Bumble Bee?

Mama’s Losin’ It

12 Lines. 1 Post. The magic of Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop.

Summer Getaway Day 3 - Montreal Botanical Garden

Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Chinese garden inside Montreal's Botanical Garden
After going through the Biodome, Planetarium and the Insecatrium, we finally got into the visit of the Botanical Garden itself that late afternoon.
Unfortunately, we were pooped by this time. So I'm really sorry that this post will not contain a more comprehensive view of Montreal's Botanical Garden. We didn't really try and walk around the whole place. We went to the closest gardens and made our peace with that.
The Japanese and Chinese gardens were our last stops for that day. I'm not really much of a plant person but the Japanese garden had a few of the bonsais that I've always been fascinated about. There was even a zen garden enclosed within a Japanese make-believe house unit. It reminded me of these small, portable zen garden displays that are put in executive offices to somehow relieve stress. And I wondered if I needed to let off steam, how easy would it be to make circles on this big zen garden? Surely, raking sands on a big garden would be more added work to my already stressed body, hahaha.....
Zen garden
The Chinese garden gave us some wonderful views of a serene lake with colourful boats on them. Much like scenes from a Chinese movie (of course, when they are not involved in some kung fu chopping and fighting), they really brought about some tranquility and calm to me. Or maybe I was just tired.
I left the botanical garden that day, feeling that there was really more to see. There truly is. How I wished that I had planned better.
Oh well. I suppose another visit to the garden is in order for the future. Maybe when the International Mosaiculture of Montreal comes back into town, which happens once in a blue moon. That would really be something to look forward to.


Summer Getaway Day 3 - Planetarium, Biodome, Insectarium

Monday, November 3, 2014
the stars, the bugs, the animals, the gardens - all in one place!

A trip to Montreal's botanical garden warrants a full day. There's just so much to see, what with the planets and stars, the insects and bugs, the animals and the gardens all in one place, there's really no other choice. We could've split the trip into two days but who wants to come back and see the same thing? Since we had already pre-planned to plan nothing else that day, the botanical garden was the place to be indeed!

Right from the onset, it showed the telltale signs of a long day. We thought that we'd start with the Planetarium before anything else. The walk to the Planetarium, which we were told was about 15 minutes, felt much longer.
Once we were at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, we were treated to some excellent audio-visual presentations about the planets and the stars and the galaxy while lying on bean bags. Outside the theatres, there were cool interactive entertainment media. Although I felt this area benefited the younger crowd more, there was no denying that some of the "toys" were cool. One of these cool toys was a projector that changed your body into an alien's when you step into its line of light.

My alien kids

Next up was the Biodome, since it was right next door to the Planetarium. The Biodome showcased ecosystems and animals and felt very much like a visit to the zoo or an aquarium. Yes, the animals were quite different, some were/might have been exotic, but their allure was lost on me. Despite my ignorance, it remained an interesting walk-through.


Walking back to the main botanical garden was equally long. They were renovating the area at the time which I think might have contributed to the walking distance seeming farther than it really was. Because of the renovation, we decided not to visit the Parc Olympique, which was in the same locality.

Our next stop was the Insectarium. And as the name would suggest, this place had loads and loads of butterflies and bugs of all shapes and sizes. Literally.