Annual Break

Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Yep, I'm taking one this year again. It's a little late in the year with only 1 day left to 2015 but better late than never, I suppose. I thought I'd throw it out there just in case someone's waiting for some scheduled posts, which might only come sometime late January, early February.

I'm taking a break from the writing after trying to be consistent all year, only falling off the bandwagon around the last few weeks of November and December. Got very busy with work and side work and....well, you know how it goes.

Now it's time to get busy with the holidays and so this is it for the year. Hope to make a comeback in the new year with a bang. Hope you guys had the most wonderful Christmas and wishing you the very best of the New Year.

A Surprisingly Good Extra Curricular

Thursday, December 17, 2015
Instagram photo by jamie250196

I've resigned myself that I was an accountant through and through.

Heck, that sounded ominous. I did not mean it like that. I really do love being an accountant. Now more so than ever. I say this because this career has opened up another door for me.

But first let me lay down the ground work....

I remember a few years back, my ex-boss and I were having a discussion about further studies and he suggested that I should probably aim to teach as an university professor someday (when I'm grey and old) because it suited my personality. Now I'm no teacher, not the "me" at that time anyway. I hated public speaking and my confidence level is not up to par. But our talk sort of stuck in my mind and I just tucked it away in my brain somewhere that if the opportunity comes, I might consider taking it. Someday.

So fast forward to a few years ahead. It started off when I answered a placed ad for a writer. Now before we all get too excited, I'm not talking about JK Rowling or George RR Martin kind of writing. Judging by the existence of this blog, I suppose you can see that I really do love writing (even though sometimes writing does not seem to love me back). Anyway, the position advertised was to become a content writer for a tuition provider. So I applied and was accepted to become a freelance one.

The story would've ended there if not for another opportunity popping up. Here's where the other door started opening. I was going about my business of writing bits and pieces here and there about accounting terms and technical knowledge when the tuition provider asked if I would interested in becoming an online tutor since I am well-versed with the course material anyway. Now, writing is one thing because I can hide in the cloak of papers and pens. But teaching is another.

The "talk" with my ex-boss came to mind. I debated a long time whether to express my interest or not but in the end, decided to send in a trial video of a 10-minute presentation. No harm in trying. I still hated public speaking at this point, and I was camera shy, but I managed to put some Powerpoint slides together. And so that was that.

Anyway, to make the long story short, I was selected to teach a course over one weekend. And 2 months down the line, I was given the assignment to do another course. And now....well, let's just say that I have quite a few sets of classes under my belt. Not bad for a tutor who's afraid to be in front of a class. Seems like my ex-boss was right. I do have a knack for this. And it seems like my part-time boss agrees.

I still get nervous and I still hate public speaking, but I'm starting to enjoy pushing myself to take on what I fear. This was one of the things I'd like to improve - to be a good public speaker. And so this divergent path of work is providing me with much needed practice in that front. Who knows? I may yet become an accounting professor one day. :-)

Missy Grows Up

Thursday, December 10, 2015
Well, I never thought I'd say this...

My young one, Missy, turned 12 last weekend. We were not having a big celebration and so decided to strike a deal with her that we will go see a movie instead. She was attending a birthday party for one of her friends that morning as well, so we made it that we would go to the cinema after the party.

After the party though, she asked if she could go to her friends' house. Apparently, there was more partying to be had. Hubby and I agreed but realised that our Missy, our youngest, had crossed over to that invisible line of favouring friends' company rather than parents' company. (Don't we all at one age or another?)

Don't get me wrong, I'm quite happy she's got friends that she hangs out with and likes to be with, considering that it had been hard for her when we first arrived in Canada.

And with that, even though it doesn't change the fact that I'm still her mom, I think I may have just been stripped of the title, "mommyblogger".

 

NYC Trip - Brooklyn Bridge

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
The Brooklyn Bridge
So finally I get to the last of the last post of our trip to New York.

It wasn't particularly that interesting except that we spent the day with an exceptional old friend, walking along the Brooklyn Bridge.

Boy, that bridge is long. And I mean, really long. I'm not entirely sure it's a good tourist attraction if you ask the tourist to trek the almost-2kms length of the whole bridge. And that's just one way. How do you come back? It's dreadful just thinking about it.

But I suppose I'm an eternal sucker for punishment. Plus, I really wanted to say I made it through and so I dragged my family and friend along. I was ever so grateful that my friend was a regular New Yorker and knew her way around the area. We didn't have to walk back. We just hitched a subway ride back from the Brooklyn side.

Cheater? You betcha! My feet were tired at this point that I'd gladly accept that title.

For a better, panoramic view of the full bridge, here's a grab of the Wikipedia picture.

 

NYC Trip - How Can I Leave NYC Without Seeing My Beloved Jollibee?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Since the family and I were wanting to have a taste of Jollibee (my all time favourite fast food in the Philippines) before we leave New York, we braved the NYC subway to go all the way to Brooklyn to visit the fast food chain.

I was very chuffed that we got to Jollibee in one piece. The fast food chain was situated in an area in Brooklyn that could only be described as bursting in Asian-ness. Asian small shops, bakeries, hairdressers, etc. It almost felt like Chinatown but this was Asiantown.
 
Anyways, the food did not disappoint. Still tasted good or as good as I remember it, which is not really saying much since the last time I tasted Jollibee was at least 4 years ago. Still though. I could be just biased. In my mind, Jollibee is always the best.

It was in the middle of the afternoon when we got there and by no means lunchtime nor dinner time, but the chain was super busy. I got to try my fave Chickenjoy and some halo-halo. It was really worth it.

After having our fill, we decided to head back to Manhattan to see and walk around it one last time before we made our way back to our hotel that night.


NYC Trip - Ellis Island

Thursday, November 5, 2015
Ellis Island Immigration Museum

After procrastinating for several weeks, I guess I'm ready to tackle more of NYC...

So aside from Miss Liberty, we also had a chance to visit Ellis Island.

Located in the Upper New York Bay in the Port of New York and New Jersey, Ellis Island housed an olden day immigration building that saw thousands of immigrants pass through its gates.

The place resonated with us since we were immigrants ourselves. Granted we came to Canada and not the United States but still....something about immigration banded us with the then-immigrants of America.

Hubby and the kids enjoyed playing with a machine that assessed a person's eligibility of becoming an American immigrant. It asked you a series of questions and yielded a result in the end of whether one was accepted or not.

It reminded me of the time we immigrated to Canada and the series of questions and hoops and loops that we had to go through. Immigration was not easy even then.

We needed more time for the tour bit had to watch our time since we were meeting up with the rest of the tour to catch a bus back to midtown Manhattan.

If you are ever in the vicinity of Miss Liberty and love history and all that it entails, then this is one place you cannot miss. The tour of the Immigration Museum is an emotional and moving experience.

My Favourite Season, The Fall

Wednesday, October 28, 2015
For a second week in a row, I am bunking my blogging pattern. I'm supposed to continue on with my New York stories and visits but somehow I really have not gotten to writing the last bits and pieces of it.

Instead, my head is conjuring up all kinds of fall stuff. So before it explodes with all of autumn, I think I need to unload with a list of why I love fall in Canada....

(In no particular order)


1. Forever chasing the perfect fall colours. Okay, so I have not really gotten the perfect one yet. I've been in Canada for 3 years and so far, the above photo is my best one yet. But there is always next year. Every year is an opportunity to catch that perfect moment as the leaves change colours.

2. Extra hour of darkness - Daylight Savings here we come once more (more sleep, yay!)

3. The perfect season for hoodies and jeans (to hide that not-so-bikini body)

4. Thanksgiving....and I think there goes another idea for an extra blog post this year, hehehe....

5. Pumpkin-ize everything in your path.... (from decors to pies to lattes to faces to beers to etc.)

6. Raising the dead (It's Halloween season y'all!!!)

7. Getting lost in corn mazes (be a maze runner for a day)

8. Curling up on the couch watching fall premieres (and for a binge-watcher like me, that's heaven!)

9. All the more reason to stop by Starbucks....and have coffee, cocoa, latte, mocha....

10. Walk in the woods among fallen leaves

James Corden Keeps Me Up Late

Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Photo credit
Okay, so I don't really stay up that late every night. Well, I am a bit of an insomniac so I do tend to have bouts of not being able to sleep. But I don't normally spend the wee hours of the morning watching TV. I am trying to sleep after all so......

Anyway, it started when I heard that the Late Late Show was getting a new host last March. Craig Ferguson was being replaced by James Corden. Now if you had said that name a few months earlier, my interest would not have been piqued even the slightest. But James Corden stuck to mind.

I had only ever seen him once in a movie, the star-studded musical, "Into the Woods". And in it, I found that he was really quite a brilliant comedian, without appearing forced or unnatural. My favourite scene in the whole movie, involved James Corden's character, The Baker, jumping onto a moving carriage with a cob of corn in his hand. He proceeded to ask permission from The Stepmother and The Step-Sisters if he could compare their blonde hairs and see if they were as yellow as the corn. "Please if you will be so kind. May I compare this ear of corn to your hair?"

He was called a savage and a mongrel, and was ultimately chased away from the carriage by the stepmother and stepsisters, of course. But that scene.....really put him on the map in my mind! And James Corden became the man from thereon.

I cheat, of course. I don't watch his shows when it airs late at night. I tape them on my PVR and watch them the next day in the afternoons when I get home. Somehow though I seemed to have become attached to some late night shows without intending to.

I've taped all his shows since it started and I must say, that he has made me appreciate late night shows more. I especially like when he has a Carpool Karaoke segment on the show. Carpool Karaoke is when he drives to work, carpooling with a popular/known/famous singer in the car. James would then offer to turn the radio on and the played songs would be that of the singer's. James and the singer would then sing karaoke style in the car amidst a bit of chat interview.

I also like it when he has a veteran actor as a guest on the show. He does a segment called Role Call where he and the veteran actor re-enact 5-8 minutes of scenes from as many movies that the veteran actor is known for. It's engaging, and looks like they really have a lot of fun.

So far, his shows have been entertaining to say the least. I think I'm gonna keep on watching the Late Late Show with James Corden as long as he's around. Roll the title!

NYC Trip - Liberty and Her Island

Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Up close and personal with Madam Liberty

Well, well, well......

No trip to New York is ever complete without seeing Madame Liberty on her pedestal. One of the most iconic woman to ever grace this world, she stands for freedom, hope and America.

The Statue of Liberty is one of UNESCO's heritage sites. She was dedicated to the United States by the people of France in 1886. Sculpted by Frederic Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel, she is based on Liberty Island, standing at 305 feet from ground to the top of her torch. (Wikipedia says so)

Those aren't ants, they're the visitors to Liberty Island...

So it was really an exciting day for us when we ventured out to Liberty Island. It felt very much like an appointment with the royalty of some sort, like she was the Queen of New York. More than 3 million visitors take the trip to Liberty Island each year to see her so we knew it was going to be jampacked with people. That day, being summer as well, it was no different.

We got to Liberty Island at around 11am and proceeded to take photos with "Liberty". We only had grounds passes as the tour only offered access to the ground. Access to the crown needed to be booked way in advance and I had not done so in the earlier months so it was too bad for us.

Touchdown on the grounds of Liberty Island

Even on the grounds though, she looked majestic as she towered over us, waving her torch way up to the heavens. We took photos in all angles - as we approached the island, as we got on the island, as we entered her personal space, as we walked past underneath her pedestal, and on and on.

All hail the Lady of New York.... :-)

On Lady Liberty's feet

It was such a beautiful and glorious sunny day as well, which made me wish even more that I had booked those crown tickets beforehand. Tsk, tsk. It would've been perfect but oh well....another thing to do for the next trip to New York.

Enjoy the photos!

Liberty around the bend

Thanksgiving 2015

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
So I thought I'd take a break from my New York travel stories to just get a breather and give thanks. It's the week before and come Monday, it's finally Thanksgiving in Canada.


This will be our 3rd year celebrating this Canadian holiday. We don't necessarily follow traditions by having turkey, making pumpkin pies, and the whole shebang of a feast. To tell the truth, I can't even remember what we did last Thanksgiving. We are still trying to find our groove and make our own Thanksgiving traditions at the moment, but we are getting there.


It is that time to give thanks...formally. I say this because I have been thankful ever since arriving in Canada. For every single day that we are here, it is a thankful moment. It may seem cliche to say this but our lives have forever been changed.


There are just a lot to be thankful for. On this third year since immigrating, one simple thing that I am grateful for is that life finally seems to be settling down, normalising. It might seem boring that I talk about life becoming more subdued but it's true. A lot of upheavals may seem exciting at first but it can become too disruptive if it goes on too long. I'm glad we seem to have past that now.


So that's what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

NYC Trip - The Top of the Rock

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
City view from Top of the Rock

I've received advices before arriving in New York that if it was a choice between the Rockefeller Centre and the Empire State Building, that I should pick the Top of the Rock. Not that the Empire State Building was any much lacking, but that the Top of the Rock provided a much better view of Manhattan as a whole. And of course, it provided a view of the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock

I bought tickets to the Top of the Rock weeks before our tour started. I debated at first because it was hard to estimate when our tour would end the first day. The problem with the Top of the Rock tickets was that they were timed and you had to be at the foyer around about the time of your ticket. Since I was not sure when our tour would end, where we would end, would we need to make our way back to the attraction, I chose a safe time of 6pm at night.

Looking out

I suppose I estimated too late since we had time to kill and had to spend some time getting lost on the streets of Manhattan.

Anyway, around 5:30pm we decided to make our way to the Top of the Rock. Although a bit early, they let us in without much fuss.

It was a good day to go look over Manhattan. Although slightly overcast, the weather was nice and clear enough to get a great view of the city.

Central Park from the Top of the Rock

There's really not much that I can add here. The view was breathtaking. Hubby actually said it was nothing like being the King of the World on Top of the Rock with the Queen of his heart, LOL....and it seems that bringing romance to building tops is also the done thing.

Empire State Building backdrop

NYC Trip - Lost in New York

Wednesday, September 23, 2015
So the tour with the local guide around 3pm that afternoon and we were left to our own devices.

Funny that it wasn't actually quite as bad as I thought it would be. We asked the bus driver to drop us off at Macy's on 34th Street so we could walk around the downtown Manhattan area.

Macy's - the world's largest store

Hubby had been harping on about eating some hot dogs in New York and so the first thing we did was walk around to find a street vendor. It was difficult as we were spoilt for choice. There were literally street vendors galore at every street corner in Manhattan.

Haggling with the street vendor

After walking a bit, we finally settled on a street vendor. Hubby proceeded to negotiate some food and we managed to walk away with hot dogs and pretzels. Missy was really chuffed with eating her pretzel.

Eating pretzels is a lot of fun!

We manoeuvred our way down some Manhattan streets and stumbled onto Times Square. This place was crazy!!! Diverse, vibrant, bustling, cosmopolitan, touristy, a space where people come together....it's a wonder how a place can be all these things and more.

Times Square...yeah!

We didn't go into any of the shops but just walked along to take in the atmosphere. We had to get to the Top of the Rock because we had an appointed time to be there so we walked on.

We got to a small office park on a street corner near the Rockefeller Centre. We decided to rest for a bit while waiting for time to pass. Missy took out her art book and started drawing some pigeons that were flying in and out where we were sitting.

Drawing pigeons is fun too!

There were mobile charger points at this small park and it would've been more appreciated if any of us had actually bought our chargers along.

And then it was time for our appointment with the Top of the Rock.

NYC Trip - 9/11 Memorial

Wednesday, September 16, 2015
One World Trade Centre
And this was to be the last long stop with the tour guide.


No visit to New York is quite complete nowadays without stopping by to pay respect to the thousands of people who lost their lives that fateful day of September 2001. 14 years on and we are still haunted by those moments.

Map of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum




In place of the destroyed Twin Towers, plans of rebuilding have started on the World Trade Centre. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum are already in place when we visited. Some buildings were still under construction but One World Trade Centre, the museum and the memorial are already open to the public. We were not able to get into the Museum though because there had been a lot of visitors that day.




We walked around the Memorial. The area was filled with trees and water sounds supposed to signify hope and endurance. Even with hundreds of visitors, it was a place of solace and remembrance. The names of all who died in the Towers were etched on marbled counters. Looking just over the counters, the waters flowing through set a serene and peaceful atmosphere.


I was nowhere near the city and country when it occurred. In fact, I only saw the events transpired on TV. But standing here now, at this very moment, at this very spot where it all unfolded, I can't help feel sad yet inspired, knowing how one tragedy that was used to break a nation, strengthened the tie that binds instead.

A visit to the museum is definitely on the cards next time we stop by New York again. I can't wait to see what's in store for us there. Pity we didn't have enough time to look around.

NYC Trip - Grand Central Station

Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Time waits for no one! - Grand Central Station clock

So this was the second of our long-ish stop with the tour guide. This was timed perfectly for lunch at around 1pm. We were dropped a few streets off Grand Central Station and had a brisk walk through. We were briefly introduced to the Chrysler Building before entering a side market that led us into the hub of the Grand Central Station.

Chrysler Building - peekaboo!

Grand Central Station is as busy as all the TV and movies show. It's a hustle and bustle kind of hub where all kinds of people from all walks of life meet, connect and depart. It's probably a funny thought but even though Grand Central Station does not seem to be an attraction that a tourist can fully enjoy aside from its architecture, I suppose if we were given the chance to stay a bit and watch the masses go about their day, it would really be quite an insight.

Big windows

The tour guide pointed out that the big windows that provided so much light into the station, were not just windows. A path is actually in between the glasses providing a walkway for people. I even caught a person through the glasses with my camera. I wonder how do I get there?

Walking person inside the window

Hubby and I paused and posed for a selfie before searching for lunch.

Grand Central Station selfie

We were given an hour to do our lunch business so everyone in the group scattered about. The family headed for the food court which was located underneath the main floor. The food court is a big area with a couple of fast food places on offer, just not the popular ones. After walking around and finding out what was on offer (Indian, Greek, hamburgers, etc.),  we chose to go with Chinese food (surprise, surprise).

What we noticed while heading up and down the station was that there was a heightened security within the area. I suppose since the July 4 weekend was coming up, it can't hurt to be extra careful at such a public place.

The hour to eat lunch went by fast. We made it back to the group's meeting place just in time to head out.

NYC Trip - Central Park and Strawberry Fields

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Imagine mosaic

Our first long-ish stop when we were being toured by the local guide happened as we strolled Central Park.

Now "stroll" may not be the right word. It was a little hurried, but certainly not that quick that the beauty of the place was lost on us.

I like the idea of having a park in the middle of the city, the contrast of having the busy life and gobsmacked in the middle is a place to unwind. We have our very own in Mississauga as well, although not as lavish and as encompassing as Central Park, I suppose.

Central Park

Central Park stands on 341 hectares of land. According to our tour guide, although the park is "natural", it is actually artificially landscaped. The only things that are natural in the park are the stones and big rocks that they could not move about. And so they just worked around them and included them into the landscape.

New Yorkers love their park. You can see it in the things that they do in the park. I suppose it's not much different from any other cities but there's just something about the way New Yorkers do Central Park that make it so serene and enticing. They run, walk their dogs, take a stroll, play music, ride their bikes... It just seemed so peaceful and so right.

bikers gathering at Central Park

We did not tour the whole of Central Park and only caught a glimpse. Made a mental note that on the next visit, Central Park needs to be on the list to explore.

On the way back to the bus, the tour guide brought us along the path of Strawberry Fields. Now as mentioned in a previous post, Strawberry Fields was a tribute to the memory of late Beatles member, John Lennon. The mosaic circle of "Imagine" was gob-smacked in the middle of things and many musicians paid their respect here by playing their (not so loud) instruments and entertaining the public for free. Amplified sounds are prohibited in this area.

Strawberry Fields
 
 After leaving Strawberry Fields ground, we went onto the surrounding neighbourhood to check out some of the buildings where famous people lived. Sadly, I can't remember a thing about any of it! Oh well.....

NYC Trip - Manhattan in a Half

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Manhattan

It was quite a tall task, to roam Manhattan in a half-day but we did it anyway.

The tour had arranged for a local guide to help us navigate around Manhattan and give us a brief overview of what's what, who's who and where's where. And although I heard the names of the places, such as Hell's Kitchen, Columbus Circle, Soho et al, I can't remember much in the flurry of the tour that we got.

It wasn't the guide's fault, nor anybody's fault really. This tour was not a proper detailed one. It was just enough so that you could familiarize yourself with your new NY surroundings.

We were on the bus when we went by Hell's Kitchen. I remember seeing some funky graffiti on the wall, plus the tour guide's mention of Trevor Noah perked my attention a bit. Although he did not say much else about Mr Noah, it left me wondering if I should ever accidentally bump into Trevor himself, I think it will be in the Hell's Kitchen neighbourhood. After all, the Daily Show studio is based in the area. If I remembered it correctly.

Up next was getting to see a Trump building. This one had a massive globe outside. I think the building may have been at Columbus Circle but that was what all I remembered there.

Trump Tower

Next we were treated for a brisk walk at Central Park. We saw some cyclists gathering up as we walked up to Central Park. We did not tour the whole park. It was humongous. The local guide gave us a bit of history about Central Park, how it was built so that New Yorkers would have a quiet place in the middle of the city and how they loved it.

Central Park

On our way out of Central Park, we stopped by Strawberry Fields, which was an area at Central Park. Strawberry Fields, named after the song "Strawberry Fields Forever", was a tribute to the memory of John Lennon. It was a circle with a giant, mosaic paving in the middle with the words, Imagine (from the song of the same name). And as can be expected being an homage to a legend, music filled the air as some live musicians gathered around the area.

Don't know how fast time went by but it was time for lunch. We were dropped at the Grand Central Station and had our lunch there.

Grand Central Station

After which we were taken to see the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. We only had three quarters of an hour to spend and so did not really get the chance to visit the Museum. There were many visitors that day and it would not really have been possible to be in and out of that place that quick.

World Trade Centre 

We walked back to meet our tour bus on the street. Our day tour ended at around 3pm. The bus driver was kind enough to drop us off to the places where we wanted to visit and so we asked to be dropped off around Macy's in preparation for the Top of the Rock visit.


Hyatt Regency, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Hyatt Regency New Brunswick - website photo borrowed

Before we start on how the rest of the tour went, it would be a good idea to review the hotel accommodations we were placed with by the tour company.

Our hotel, the Hyatt Regency, was situated in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The hotel was a good hour away from Manhattan.

We arrived at the hotel by nightfall. The hotel was quite big and impressive. Modern looking and the reception area was welcoming. The hotel had a long staircase leading up to the second floor. And in all honesty, the staircase really brought out the place. It made me think of being part of a big spectacular show where the superstar was about to descend upon the stairs.

We got allocated our hotel room, which was at the corner end of the second floor. It was a spacious room, very clean and modern. It accommodated all our needs.

As New Brunswick was known as an university town, hubby and I decided to walk around the hotel surroundings to better acquaint ourselves with what it offered. A few blocks and we found ourselves confronted with a Starbucks, Chipotle and Burger King. Seemed like heaven to us. My eldest was a big fan of Chipotle and my youngest loved Burger King. So all our culinary needs were set to be satisfied. On top of it, we found a 7-11 convenience store as well.

The next day, we got a wake-up call at the exact time we expected. Plus one for the reception desk.

We went down for breakfast before setting off with the tour. The accommodation included free buffet breakfast and we made use of it. The breakfast was scrumptious. Being buffet-style, there were a lot of variety offered. We were showered with choices. You could have a prepared and cooked eggs, or pre-cooked scrambled eggs. English breakfast was served with bacon, eggs, sausages and toast. There were also croissants, fruits and cereals. For beverages, juices, tea, coffee were on offer.

I'd say the hotel was quite a good hotel. Our stay was nice and comfortable. I wouldn't mind recommending it to people. The only downside I felt was that it was too far from Manhattan or the centre of things. A quick Google of the place showed that if we were to make our own way back to the hotel from Manhattan, we would've needed to take a 1-hour-and-20-minute train back.

But in the first hand, before we left Canada for the tour, we already knew that the hotel was going to be far from Manhattan. Hence, this is not really much of a complaint from us.

NYC Trip - First Day

Wednesday, August 12, 2015
At the Cracker Barrel stop

Our first day on the tour was a day of waiting, following rules, and getting to the destination.

Our day started at 7:45am when we left home to get to the pick-up place where we would catch the tour bus. We were a little early and so decided to take in some breakfast at the local Panera Bread. I'm actually glad that we joined another tour company for the trip. This particular trip was full. And all of us "tourists" filled three bus-load of tour buses.

Since this trip required crossing the border, we had to make sure that our passports and US visas were valid.

Our first stop of the day, was the Peace Bridge Duty-Free, before we crossed the US/Canada border. We did a bit of shopping at the place and found some good buys.

Fooling around with the merchandise :-)

After about 45 minutes of shopping, we were on our way. We got to the border at around noon and there was a bit of wait because of traffic going through. Seems like there are a lot of tours happening that week. After we stopped to check in at the border, the whole process was actually a breeze getting through. I suppose everyone had their documentations in order, us included.

Cracker Barrel from the outside

We were off and drove for a bit. Our tour guide decided that we should have at least one good sit-down meal and so we were taken to the Cracker Barrel Restaurant. The Cracker Barrel is a homey chain restaurant serving American comfort food and is situated in Williamsville, NY. It was a nice break from all the "sitting on the bus" since we've been at it since the morning.

And then we were back on the road. We drove a bit and by nightfall, we finally arrived at our destination. Our hotel in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

More about the hotel on the next post.

4-Day NYC Tour

Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Empire State Building from The Top of the Rock

So we decided to go with a tour on our first family trip to NYC. We were a little apprehensive that we did not know the ins and outs of New York and so thought that a tour would help us to get familiarised. We were under no illusion that this trip would be our one and only to New York. There will be many more, if I had anything to do with it. And a good overview of what New York had to offer was good way to start off.

I booked our trip about 4 months in advance, with our scheduled visit happening at the end of June. The tour offered was a 4-day New York escapade with some sightseeing of certain attractions included as well.

Unfortunately, I might have pre-empted the trip too much. On the first week of June, I got a call from the tour company that our trip had to be cancelled due to poor ticket sales. I was crestfallen as everything had been so well planned up to that point. Luckily, another tour company was willing to take us on with just a minor tweak with the tour date. Instead of the end of June, we were set to go on the first of July. And so it was. Our NYC trip happened on the Canada Day/July the 4th week.

I suppose it was as good a time as any. What does it matter if it's the end or the start of the month? New York was New York after all.

Our tour provided accommodations and we had a half-day sightseeing tour with the tour guide on our first morning in Manhattan. Our second morning was a trip to the Statue of Liberty. I deliberately did not plan to do too many things as I knew time was limited. On top of it, it was going to be a tiring trip with a lot of walking and seeing that I don't think the family would be able to keep up if I still planned for other things to do.

My NYC list consisted of the Statue of Liberty, the Rockefeller Centre, Times Square and Jollibee, a popular Philippine fast food chain. I also made plans to meet up with a school friend. And that was basically how our first trip to New York was going to pan out.

So onto New York!

20 Years and Still....

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Looks like the anniversary train has come up!

Well, it comes every year, but I rarely, if not never ever, post anything about the occasion since I find the whole exercise a little too schmaltzy for my liking. And we all know how cynical I can be about love. But I think this year is a milestone for us and so deserve a few words from me.

20th wedding anniversary....has got our names all over it.

Here's our bio:
20 years....7,305 days....175,320 hours....2 daughters....dozens of trips and lots of fun....2 continents, 9 addresses....countless laughs, endless dreams....

It has been a great ride. And funnily enough, I can't seem to wait for more years to come with my hubby.

Sonnets (and in this case, blog posts) are mostly written about great loves. And the great ones always have a bit of crazy in them. Does this post count? I certainly think so.

Our Welcome to New York

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Manhattan skyline

This year's family getaway came earlier than expected. As soon as school was out, I had already made plans to cross over the border. And not just the "close to the border" kind of crossing either. This year's getaway destination was New York City, a good 6 hours from the Canada-US border.

The holiday schedule moved up a bit because the family chose to join a bus tour to New York and the availability came up during the Canada Day weekend. It felt kinda odd leaving Canada on Canada Day but we were definitely looking forward to seeing a new place for the first time. Since arriving in North America, New York has been at the top of places to visit and this year, it was finally happening for us.

The tour started at around 8am when the bus picked us up in Mississauga. It was a 4-day trip to New York. The itinerary was that we would spend the first day on the bus travelling to our hotel, which was situated in New Brunswick. And then we would spend the second and third day in Manhattan, New York. And the fourth day, we would be heading back to Canada.

It promised to be a quick, jam-packed trip and certainly sounded as exhausting as my Contiki European Discovery trip in 2010. I was highly hesitant at first to book the family on this tour since I knew that bus tours will tend to test our stamina. And I was not wrong. It did. But my family was such a trooper. Although there were a lot of moaning and complaints about long walks and wrong directions and indecisive choices, we came back to Canada intact.

Join me as I share our New York visit. However, short it was. Taylor Swift had the right idea: As much as we wanted to visit and experience it, New York had been waiting for us all along.

Buffaloes Have Wings?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
A photo posted by MJ Rodriguez (@jamie250196) on

I'm not ashamed to admit it. I always thought the term "buffalo wings" meant chicken wings the size of buffaloes.

For those new to the term, "a buffalo wing or buffalo chicken wing is a US-cuisine of a wingette that is deep-fried, unbreaded, and coated in vinegar-based cayenne pepper hot sauce and butter. They are traditionally served hot, along with celery sticks and/or carrot sticks with blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing for dipping." (Wikipedia definition)

So anyway, I've developed a penchant for hot, spicy food in recent years, and me and buffalo wings go way back. I first tasted this delicacy whilst living in South Africa. It was a popular menu item on one of South Africa's franchised steak house. Since arriving in Canada 2 and a half years ago, I have been whining to anyone who would listen that I have been missing my fix of buffalo wings.

Imagine my surprise, in the midst of one of my whining sessions, a newfound Canadian friend pointed out that I should check out where it all began. The place where it was first created, Anchor Bar Restaurant in Buffalo, New York.

Woah! I was flabbergasted. So buffalo wings actually meant Buffalo wings. These spicy-hot tasting wings originated from Buffalo, New York. Hence, they are called as such. I had gone on long enough without having one that I never even thought it meant anything but.

Anchor Bar is billed as the home of the original Buffalo chicken wings. I was hesitant at first to test the place out as I thought that it might not be suitable for kids. With a name like Anchor Bar, can you blame me? But my hunger for the wings prevailed and I thought what the heck! Hustled the family into the car one morning and off we went to Buffalo. Arrived at Anchor Bar just before lunch. It was starting to get busy. Ordered mild and hot wings. Also ordered breaded mushrooms. It was as scrumptious as I remembered it to be. No complaints from me. Ordered too much so had to take some home. Had buffalo wings at dinner as well. I was a happy girl.

Ambience at Anchor Bar was good and nice. I would definitely go back and I can recommend the food as well. It won't stop me from trying out all the Buffalo wings in Buffalo though. I've read on the internet that there is another place that serves quite a good plate of wingettes and I made a conscious note that we will hit that place next time we go to Buffalo.

It's Been Waiting For Me

Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Rest week this week, guys.

Going away for the Canada Day weekend, hoping to come back refreshed next week.

To tide you over while I'm gone, I'll leave this pic to signify what's coming to the blog this summer :-)

Photo credits:
Photo found on Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/pin/1548181097213354/
Original photo taken by Thomas Ritzerfeld - https://www.flickr.com/photos/ritzerfeldorama/5127510871/


There's Something About Food

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Wedges by me

Gee, I never thought I'd see the day. Me, writing about food. And not just about bad food or horrible kitchen experiences, but something real good and real edible for once. A vague recipe!

Yes, I never miss a chance to crow about a cooking escapade but this time it is different. It's awesome.

I've decided to learn to prepare one of my all-time favourite side order at any restaurant that offers it - the wedges!

Can you believe that I dared to deviate from the written T? After saying that I don't know much about cooking, you'd think I wouldn't even think of changing anything. But it was all for the chance of producing yummy, tasty wedges.

I am chuffed to say that after tweaking the recipe I found on the Internet. I am now really a proud potato wedges maker, baker, whatever. I have made these wedges so scrumptious that my family prefers it more than the restaurant version.

And so here it goes - my chance to crow about my kitchen accomplishments again.

It's a simple enough recipe but for a kitchen disaster like me, it's a milestone. If you do attempt the recipe, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Stuff that goes into the making of the potato wedges.....The measurements are just recommended but not strict. I don't mean to be vague as this is how I prepare it.

1. Peel the potatoes, cut them in the shape you want your wedges to be. I use 4-5 medium-size potatoes.
2. Wash potatoes and place them in a cookie baking tray, lying on one flat side.
3. Pour 4 TBSP oil over the potatoes.
4. Pre-heat oven to 350F
5. Sprinkle a pinch of black pepper (I use 3/4 TSP) and garlic powder (I use 1 1/2 TSP).
6. Make sure you go through each wedge and that each wedge has some oil, pepper and powder.
7. Place wedges tray into oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

Turn me over!


8. Take out after 20 minutes and turn wedges over with a tong. Every single one of them so that they lie on the other flat side.
9. Bake for another 15 minutes.
10. Take out and lift wedges. Place them on some kitchen tissue to suck the oil out.
11. Place in the final plate, sprinkle seasoning salt (to taste) and shake and throw the wedges around the plate to spread the salt.
12. Serve. Enjoy!

Wow! My first ever recipe. On the blog. Ever. I'm never living this down.