A Celebration of Life

We just had our first summer vacation for this year and where else but in the Philippines! The trip was planned early last year as the thought of celebrating my dad’s 70th birthday came to my mind. You know, reaching 70 in our country is already a milestone and considering my dad’s health condition, to celebrate his birthday is a way of thanksgiving. What else could be the perfect way to celebrate this special day? As usual, surprise dad like what we did two years ago. He had no idea that we’re coming home and he’ll get to celebrate his special day with his grandchildren.

We also took this opportunity to get my father-in-law to fly in from Indonesia. Although he just spent his Christmas holidays there, we requested for him to go back in time for our vacation. We rarely spend time with him since he’s been working abroad. The kids doesn’t even know him! So weeks before our departure, we decided to shoulder his tickets. However, problem came up while we were trying to book his flight. It seemed we were not allowed here to purchase a ticket for him using hubby’s credit card since the plane ticket holder will be different from the name of the ticket buyer. We’re glad brother-in-law came to the rescue. He’s a holder of one of the best credit cards in the Philippines. Buying the ticket online using his credit card was just easy peasy. Not that I haven’t realized yet how credit cards make things light to us consumers, but what happened made me reminisce my banker days. How agents call us, newly-hires and offer the best credit cards which perfectly match our profiles. In a few days, we were granted our first ever credit cards. What I liked in credit cards were the perks that come with it. Those points you’ll have to collect and eventually exchange for premium items. Or those miles which were converted to points if you are a frequent traveller. I would have used that credit card to buy our tickets to Manila. Sigh…

Anyway, back to reality… Although the celebration was just a simple lunch in Max’s, nothing can compare the joy I felt and saw in my dad as he was surprised by hugs of Zyc and Ryz.

credit cards, best credit card in the philippines, credit cards philippines

The tears that fell on Dad’s cheeks just melted my heart. By the way, the kids knew they’ll surprise their Lolo. I told them that our trip is a surprise for his birthday and that them being with him on his special day will be their gifts. I was glad the kids, too were happy doing this.

Together with my whole family, we filled a long table for 20 persons and feasted on the Filipino dishes I have missed tasting. I got to eat Kare-kare, Lumpiang Ubod and the famous Max’s fried chicken just to name a few.

credit cards, credit cards philippines, family gathering

Hours were spent telling stories; hubby answering questions about the trip, me spending time with my side of the family and catching up.

Hehe… come payment time… Since we haven’t exchanged enough Euro to Peso currency, it’s one of those times I’m thankful I’m with someone (well, not just one but 4 of them) who has credit cards. Big brother offered to pay the bill so of course, the points will be his. 😛 Hmm.. I wonder how it is done now… I mean, it seems like having a credit card in the Philippines is easier nowadays. How do people apply for one? How much is the interest nowadays? Well, I wouldn’t wonder if googling “credit card Philippines” would lead me to a site where I could see and compare the best credit cards in the country.

I was glad for this simple celebration. Yes I know it’s incomparable from those grand parties of parents who reach such milestones but I think the physical closeness of each one of us brought more meaning to the occasion.

Just Dance

Last Christmas, hubby bought a game console as his gift for himself. He opted for a Sony Play Station 3 (PS3) over Wii or XBox. I don’t know exactly why but I guess  he’s always been a fan of Sony. Based on my inquiry from my brother-in-law who’s also a gamer, PS3 offers games which cater more on adults rather than kids unlike the Wii or Xbox and maybe this is the reason why hubby chose it.

Long before I’ve seen Xbox got this game called Just Dance and it has always been my wish to have one. I love dancing and I thought I could use this as my exercise. I was glad when I learned there’s also Just Dance for PS3. Hubby didn’t buy the game that time but it was on our list of games to buy.

When we went home in the Philippines last March hubby took the opportunity to buy the accessory for his PS3 which is the Playstation Move. He had see Zyc and Ryz having fun playing the Sports Champion in their Tito’s console. with a little persuasion he finally bought the Just Dance 4 game. As soon as we got home the kids immediately tried it out and it sure was fun.

just dance

The songs included were a mix of dance hits from the last 3 decades. Still all of us enjoyed it. Even mom-in-law and sis-in-law danced. It was indeed a perfect form of family bonding and exercise. My favorite? Call Me Maybe by Carley Rae Jepsen. 🙂

Hubby normally doesn’t dance but this time we got to let him dance and both of us with the kids had just a really fun time together. That time I realized buying the console and that particular game was all worth it.

When we got here, dancing has become one of our favorite past time everytime we don’t got plans for the weekend. In addition, we bought the Zumba cd for PS3 for my exercise.

A Fairytale Trip to Neuschwanstein Castle – Part 1

I have always wanted to travel or just drive to other places here in Germany. With its richness in culture and history no doubt that there are plenty of tourist attractions where we could visit. That’s why when time permits I would ask hubby if we could go somewhere.

School break started last May 21 and ended May 31 here in our place. Upon knowing this I had thought of maybe going some place so I asked Janelle, my Filipina friend. She hag gone to many places here and even outside Germany. They normally spend summer vacations out of the country. She suggested a number of places and one of these is a town called Oberstdorf in Allgaue.

I’ve never heard of Oberstdorf. I didn’t know any attraction there but when she mentioned Neuschwanstein Castle, it rang a bell. I didn’t know of Neuschwanstein Castle until an article about it was shown to us by our teacher from my last Deutsch course. There, I learned that it was where Walt Disney got its inspiration for the castle in the fairytale Sleeping Beauty. When I saw the photo in the article I really wished I could go there someday. Apparently the fairytale castle is just less than an hour away from Oberstdorf and two more castles are adjacent to it.

We decided to schedule a weekend vacation two weeks before and his husband, Micha found a place where we’ll spend the break. Unfortunately, weather forecast was not available until the week before and we found out that it will rain on the weekend that we have scheduled. We could not back out since we have already made the reservation. Adding to this unfortunate event, Zyc got sick just the day before we leave. 🙁 Nevertheless we still pushed through with it.

It was just a little less than a two-hour drive going to the castle and indeed it was worth it.

neuschwanstein castle, ticket office
The Ticket Office

From the parking lot we had to walk approximately 5mins to reach the ticket office. Good thing we need not stand in line since Micha had reserved tickets for us online. The line was short, Janelle remarked compared to peak seasons like summer. Although it was raining that day still tourist came in buses!

ticket, neuschwanstein castle
The Ticket

Each ticket costs 12EUR or approximately 16USD and kids are free. Printed at the back of the ticket is your time of entry to the gate and some details.

carriages, neuschwanstein castle

Since the castle is situated on a hill, buses and carriages are available for transportation. If you’re in the mood to trek especially when the weather’s fine, you can also do so.

We opted to ride the bus coz by the time we had to go up there were no more carriages available and we had to wait for one to come back. Besides it’s cheaper to ride the bus than the carriage. Tickets to the bus cost a little less than 2Eur, that’s to and from and the kids are free while the carriage cost 6Eur a passenger and half for the kids. Oh well, I guess you really pay for the experience.

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The Map (it just didn’t rain… hale fell!)
neuschwanstein castle
I saw the sign!

After the 5-minute ride came the stop and we had to still walk uphill. Understandably, due to the steep slope and narrow road, buses can not go any further.

You really wouldn’t notice those aching legs if you see this view on your way up. Well… except for the kiddo. He was really getting tired and cold that time. 🙁

I’m getting closer…

‘Til my next post!

The Fanatic in Me

It’s not a secret that I am an avid basketball fan. I root for San Mig Coffee Mixers team from the professional basketball league in my homeland. So whenever there’s a game I make it a point to watch their matches thru online streaming in Germany. Now that I’m here I’ll make sure that I get to watch a game live. I am glad that it’s still the elimination round and I guess it would be easy to get tickets and not worry for them selling out.

As soon as I learned that there’ll be a match, I immediately told hubby that I want to watch it. And who else will I be watching it with but my everdearest Big Bro and my Dad. We have been watching live matches everytime we get an opportunity. Actually I’m thinking of making it a family tradition, that everytime I come home from Germany we’ll see to it that we’ll watch a game of our favorite team live. Anyway, since my nephew also loves basketball I asked if he wants to come with us. He said yes and eventually the entire family went to see the game except for hubby’s sis and bro who were both working then.

The game was scheduled at 7pm but we went to the venue as early as 4pm because it was held in Pasay which we are  not familiar of. Since we were really early, we decided to watch the first game. While waiting for the gates to open we stayed near the parking lot where the basketball players park their cars and enter the venue.

I was so happy that we decided to stay there because I was able to see two of my favorite players from my team, PJ Simon and Marc Pingris. I saw Marc Pingris first and ran towards him. He was already heading for the entrance gate but the goodhearted man still accomodated me when I asked for a photo with him. I’ve been hearing good words for him actually. Some say that he really is kind and very approachable.

Marc Pingris, basketball, fanatic, basketball fanatic
With Marc Pingris

Still we waited and after a few minutes it was PJ Simon who arrived. He plays the Guard position in the team so I really didn’t expect him to be really tall. He seems to be the silent type. Even if I only see him play in the court on TV and watch interviews on him, I find him to be a man of few words and humble. Actually that’s what I liked about the team and the players. They have humble players. They don’t play dirty. If ever there’s an instance that they get too physical in the game or get involved in a fight, for sure they didn’t start it but they were just provoked.

PJ Simon, San Mig Coffee, basketball
With PJ Simon and my nephew, Kyle

Unfortunately I didn’t see my favorite player and the star of the team, James Yap, up close. He’s the only one missing in this photo collection as they are the Big 3 of the team. They are its heart and soul.

As we went in to watch the first game it was noticeable that the venue was not filled with basketball fans. The two teams playing really don’t have large number of fan base. Funny though, it was Zyc’s frst time to watch a basketball game and I was really glad he enjoyed it. Even rooting for a team he had only seen play for the first time. 😛

As the game nears its final buzz, people started pouring in. Empty seats became less noticeable and chants from the fans of the opposing teams started to fill the venue. As the players of San Mig Coffee enter the court, shouts and screams were heard. This just proves that San Mig Coffee is one of the most well-loved team in the PBA.

However the noise changed Zyc’s mood. Actually he hates noise such as this. He started to cry and wanted to go home. This added to my frustration as San Mig Coffee were losing the game. I had to hold him near me to pacify him. I could not shout or cheer or react to the game.

Sad to say, San Mig Coffee lost the game. It was just so disappointing for me because I didn’t expect them to lose over a less-taleted team (in my opinion). Oh well… that’s basketball. We can really never tell, momentum shifts, players have off-nights and there are lucky breaks.

Nevertheless I still was happy I came to watch a basketball game again with Dad and Big Bro. It was indeed our bonding time and still hoping it won’t be the last.

basketball

Welcoming 2013

I could still remember how lonely it was during our first New Year celebration here in Germany. We just stayed at home, I cooked a little and the kids went to bed early. There was no reason to stay up late as little fireworks were seen in our area. We were still in Oberkochen that time and it is a little town 15mins away from here. Last year was a little different, we let the kids stay up late so they can watch fireworks. Though there was not much to be seen but still, since our place is more populated, a festive atmosphere was felt.

This year we were invited by Janelle to welcome the new year at their home. I was really excited when she told me this. She was, too. The thought of having our fireworks made us more thrilled. Finally we’ll celebrate the new year’s eve with a bang! 😀

We joined Janelle and her family plus her in-laws. I felt like I’ll be having a nosebleed because her in-laws speak only Deutsch. So whenever we were asked a question we really had to try our best to answer back, but there was always the help of Janelle or Mica (her husband) if we were already having a hard time. Haha! Mica also speaks Tagalog because he had lived in the Philippines for 6 years. That really gives comfort to us.

We had a raclette dinner, same with what we had last Christmas eve. Raclette dinners are usually done here during new year’s eve as cooking your food with those little plates take time. While waiting for your food to be done, it is a perfect time to have conversations and share stories. It is a good way of catching up or bond with the whole family.

new year

The kids, while waiting for 12 midnight were busy doing their thing.

new year

That’s one good thing about raclette dinner, you won’t notice the time. Conversations went on and when we looked at the clock it was time to go out and prepare our fireworks and champagne. The kids also have a drink of their own.

We had fun watching the displays in the dark sky. I was trying to make decent shots of the fireworks but I just made 2. Haha! Nevertheless, I was so happy. I love fireworks I could sit all night watching them. The kids also had their sparklers. I was glad they didn’t get scared of it.

new year

After this we headed back inside the house for some final chit-chats and photos.

It was indeed a joyous, festive and colorful New Year’s eve. I know there will never be a place like home especially on occasions like this but with them, it just felt like home.

Our Christmas Celebration

Our day started by rushing to the supermarket to buy last-minute items we need for dinner. We even checked out the appliance store in case they already got the model of oven we wanted but to no avail. But I’m still hopeful that we could complete our kitchen before the year ends. We also dropped by the mall to shop for my clothe. When we came home, I started calling our families from the Philippines thru Skype. Unlike last year when I was so sad because we were just the ones celebrating here at home, I didn’t feel that much sadness this time. Maybe because I started to get used to living here and celebrating with them occasions like this only thru the internet.

Being a former student of Catholic schools, I know I haven’t been good especially in fulfilling our obligations lately. Since I came here I just established my own personal relationship with our God. I’ve been in a Holy Mass here for just a few times understandable because of the language. So now you know that attending Mass on Christmas day is just fulfilling an obligation for being Catholic. Anyway, as a product of Catholic schools, I may have become so familiar with the Holy Mass knowing almost every word that the priest utters and the commentator’s answers. I know when to kneel, stand and sit. One thing I observed here when I hear Mass is not all people are coordinated which makes me confused. Haha! With so much familiarity I don’t need to understand what the priest say but I still know when is the time to sit, stand and kneel. I was wondering why the Germans don’t. It seems they are waiting who will sit first and some follow. 🙂

The kids behaved in the church, as usual although I saw in their eyes that they were bored and sleepy during the homily.

When we get home, we prepared our food and started our feast. The thought of not cooking for dinner on Christmas day came to our minds when hubby and I saw this Raclette grill on sale in a supermarket. Although hubby doesn’t expect me to cook like a pro in celebrations like this, I feel like I’m “obliged” to cook a decent dinner which the birthday celebrator just deserves.

Christmas

After dinner is the usual opening of gifts. The kids gave me their gifts which, I wonder why, are both candles. Remember, they are not together in Kindergarten anymore. They were proud that they have made and designed the candles by themselves. 🙂

Next is opening of our gifts to them. The first gifts are decoys. We told them these are our gifts to them and not what they truly wanted.

Notice the not-so-happy face of Ryz?

The toys that they’ve wanted were just in front of them but without names. I just wrote it while they were busy with the other gifts.

With all the smiles and excitement!

Indeed we just had a simple celebration and despite all these material things we don’t forget that it is our Savior’s birthday. Merry Christmas to all!

Planning French Holidays for the Family

Paris, France is one of the top destinations for tourists worldwide. This romantic city of lights is teeming with sights and activities that attract people of different ages, culture, and social status. But once you get a taste of Paris, it becomes quite hard to resist exploring other French Cities that also offer a unique experience to their visitors. One French destination that piqued my interest was Nice, France. This cosmopolitan tourist destination in the French Riviera boasts of beautiful beaches, picturesque scenery, lovely promenades and artistic landmarks. The combination of modern conveniences, old age structures and natural scenery is just perfect for a French holiday with my whole family.

Booking a Nice Holiday for the whole family is easy when you have online travel sites that provide complete and accurate information. I simply had to look at package holidays to France and pick out tours that may interest the whole family. With rest and recreation as our objective for the trip, our itinerary options were centered at the beach, special events and cultural experience. The beaches in Nice are quite popular in the French Riviera because of the pleasant beach weather and the relaxing view of the sea. However, the pebbled beach may be a downside for those who have tender feet or those who are used to fine sand beaches. It is best to be prepared with comfortable flip flops or French beach shoes before strolling along this pebbled landscape. You may also bring your own parasol and padded mats if you intend to use the public beaches. Those who would like to lounge in comfort can rent the facilities of private beaches along the coastline. Food and refreshments on the beach are within reach with the numerous bars and restaurants that are located along the seaside.

Mardi Gras, Nice, France

A holiday will not be complete without experiencing the culture of a city which is why I always check for holidays or events before booking a tour package. In the case of Nice, France, one of their biggest events every year is the Mardi Gras Carnival. The 10 day festivity is highlighted by street parades of people wearing masks and costumes based on their theme for the year. Aside from the events, we would also like to visit popular landmarks like the Promenade de Anglais, Vieux Nice, Cours Saleya, Colline du Chateau, and the Nice Museums.

Plotting the itinerary and mapping out our vacation plans is the fun part of vacation planning. Preparing the budget and matching it with the right tour package can be tedious when you are working with a tight purse. Nevertheless, the effort is well worth it especially if it means giving the family one of the best vacations that they could have.

Image Credit: thedaily.com

50 and the Shades of Greying

As life expectancy increased we have families that are becoming top heavy, with more elder members than younger ones. We also need to distinguish between younger old and older old, since the younger olds may have children and grandchildren to care for as well as parents. As an aging population we are becoming diverse in terms of roles and functions, and this is impacting enormously on the pathways available to us as we age.

Changes in the lifestyles of families have meant that greater numbers of people are entering their mature years as single, or as part of a couple without children. Even where couples have successfully launched their children into the big wide world, they may have another 30 years together. With almost half of marriages ending in divorce, it is also increasingly likely that people will have remarried at least once in their life, making a reconstituted family the norm into today’s modern society.

couple, senior couple,So if you have just started dating again or are thinking about it, children might also be part of the deal. Think about your role carefully, it is to be a partner, and not necessarily a parent? What do the children understand about their parent dating? How can this be explored positively, since it will be influenced by past events. Young children or adult children will need time to get used to new people and changing roles within their family. Also think carefully about the role you want to take on. Being a partner of someone with two married children is very different from being a partner to someone with two pre-teen children and an angry ex-partner on the scene.

If you are single again after a long time of being a couple, or if you are a couple whose children have just left home, relationships are also going to change. You must remember that you will be a very different person from the person you were when you first started dating, and partners will be too. Changing the way you relate isn’t going to be easy, and the more entrenched habits you have developed the more difficult it is going to be to build new or better relationships. Loss of status is also something that couples need to come to terms with, so if your status was wrapped up in your parenting role, or in your job title before you took early retirement, these things are going to need exploring.

Sex is also something you need to consider as you age, or perhaps it is something you have never stopped thinking about. Remember, you have reached middle age, you are no longer Spartacus in the bed sheets, minds and bodies don’t always age at the same rate. Your sex life is only partly determined by your relationship with your partner. Culture also impacts upon how we deal with intimacy, so if you are comparing yourself to young couples you need to stop, and think about films/books/magazines that explore relationships in older years . Watching films together with sex scenes in, is a fantastic way to talk about it. You can ask questions about which parts seemed exciting, disgusting, boring, or exaggerated, and you can offer your thoughts too without offending anyone. This information should provide you with the ingredients for a hot recipe in the future.

Aging is pleasurable, and provides many opportunities to do things better than you may have done in the past! Grow older, happier and wiser.

Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Early Winter???

I usually check on the weather forecast every Friday so we’ll know if the weather will be friendly to us the following day. You see, Saturday is the only time for us, the whole family to go out. We stroll, city-hop, shop and do our weekly groceries during this day. I was aghast as I saw that we will be having a moderate snowfall today.  My initial reaction? “Oh no!” – Honestly, I’m really beginning to hate winter. Coming from a tropical country, I should love it right? Yes, I did love it when I first came here understandably. It was a first time for me to experience snow. But reality sunk in… I got chapped lips, cracked and super dry skin and the most I hated… I needed to wear tons of clothes to keep me warm. Haha!

Seeing everything white around me makes me sad, depressed actually. I suddenly remembered the first few months I came here. Missing my family, friends and the life I had and all the white surroundings just added to the sadness I felt, aaarggh!!!

winter

Despite these, I still was glad to see snow falling today. I love seeing my kids having fun and playing with those white flakes. They actually were excited when they learned last night that it’s going to snow today. So this morning I was awakened by their shrieks upon seeing whitecaps on our neighbors’ homes.

kids playing in snow

In spite of the “unfriendly” weather we still went out for our weekly errands. We knew we needed to be ready for the season, meaning we had to buy things to protect us from the cold weather. We drove to a nearby supermarket and bought shoes for the kids. I remember Ryz said her shoes felt like Mama Grace inside. Mama Grace is the name of one of her stuff toys. 😛

Snow fell throughout the day and even went a little stronger late afternoon. I just checked the weather and saw that temps will be dropping this whole week with rain showers at night. 🙁

 

Parenting The Younger Generation

Parents these days shouldn’t stick themselves with their generation. There is no other way to keep up with your kids but to somehow learn some of the things that their generation has been doing.

One of the aspects that had a major turn-around through generations is music. Different genres were introduced decade by decade. Different beats, different tempos creating various sounds that either the young and the old liked or not. Today, music has evolved and captured diverse audiences. There are instances that young and old prefer the same music. Both generations agree with the same genre. These kinds of music can either be created with the old style of composition or using software like sibelius 7 musicians friend. A software which is sought after by top composers and music professionals and yet could be easily used by beginners. There is no denying that technology had done a great change in our lifestyle and in music.

Another is fashion; We all know that clothes has been the subject of evolution. Trends come and go but expect that after a decade or so they will come back although with a diversified motif which suits the taste of the latest generation.

This doesn’t mean that parents should also wear these clothes although some just have that knack in fashion that they can carry them with confidence. For parents, they could at least you have some idea and could somehow give them their kids on how to further enhance their way of dressing. It actually feels good to be branded by your kids as a cool mom or cool dad because it would mean that you’re not considered as a villain to their lifestyle. In this way, parents can have full access to their whereabouts and make guidance more effective.

Present day kids or youth should be allowed to live their life to the fullest and with proper parental guidance, it can be assured that they would be able maximize their existence and be better citizens of the society. After all, these kids would become parents in the future and later pass on the values and morals that their parents taught them to their kids as well.