Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: Our year in Review

Before the year ends, I wanted to do a post on the highlights and things I am really thankful for that happened in 2013. It's the first full year that we're back in the Philippines and I think both Sofia and I have transitioned well enough. We managed to satisfy our jet-setting alter-egos with a quick trip here and there every few months or so. I love writing these posts because it's nice to look back and get reminded of what has happened since we live such busy lives. I just read my 2012 post and I was quite surprised at everything I did last year, since it feels so long ago. For this year, I am just going to do my list in chronological order.

1. Celebrating Chinese New Year in Taiwan
We don't normally celebrate Chinese New Year, but tickets happened to be cheap, and I mistakenly thought that February 25 is still a non-working holiday (it's not, but it's a no-school holiday) so we ended up in Taipei because we've never been there. It was surprisingly so much fun.
Taiwan is street food heaven, and home of Din Tai Fung's xlb and pork chop
 rice. I also love the XXL Crispy Chicken Chop (bigger than my face), and
 the roti with egg and bacon, sausages on the street, and chewy Mr Donuts.
You can read about my posts on Taiwan here.

2. Going to Europe for Easter Break - on miles (Sadly, I think this is the last of my accumulated perks!)
Dramatic much, but every time I go back to Paris, I fall in love with it a little bit more. Hahaha. Here are some not so typical Paris shots.
Glass Ceiling of Galeries La Fayette, Paris from Butte de Montmarte,
Houseboat on the Seine I want to vacation in next, and the Louvre.
I've never been to Pisa, so it great that we were able to do
a quick stop en route to Firenze.
View of the Arno River from Ponte Vecchio (Bridge with Jewelry sellers)
We saw the new Pope on the screen for Black Saturday Mass at
St Peter's Square in the Vatican.
You can read my posts on Paris here, on Pisa here, on Florence here including how to get to The Mall, which is the best designer outlet I've ever been to, and on Rome here.

3. Sofia was a McDonald's Kiddie Crew
I wanted to teach Sofia the value of work, so we got her and Viele in the
Kiddie Crew Program. You actually need to pay McDonald's but the kids
had so much fun.

4. Going to the US and going on a Cruise to Alaska
Our first stop was to visit Auntie Celit in CT (& NY),
but the closest we got to the Statue of Liberty was at
Toys R Us Times Square.
The we passed by San Jose for a Sebastian Reunion.
(San Agustin Lola's side of the family)
Then we got to do a day trip to San Francisco with Payaws and his family.
We did the important highlights, the Golden Gate bridge and Ghirardelli's.
Then we went to Seattle to catch our cruise.
It was another surprise for us that we really enjoyed Seattle.
On board the Oosterdam
Sail away, scenic cruising, and swimming on the deck in 10degrees weather.
Visiting Alaska and Canada was another first for us.
The Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska's Capital
Spotted a bald eagle in Sitka
(Yes, it's sort of boring if the animal's are the highlight)
At Creek Street in Ketchikan,
the Red Light District on stilts converted to souvenir shops.
Last stop on the cruise is Victoria, in Canada.
We stopped at night so it would been great if we could have explored more.
You can read all my posts on our US trip here.

5. Sofia starts studying in the big school and likes it
The only challenge is how much earlier we now need to
wake up.

6. CMD goes to HK
It's so much fun when the whole team goes on vacation.
No leave required. Happy Manila Day!
You can read about our Hong Kong trip here, but this is where the backlog starts! So many unfinished posts - added to my 2014 To Do List.

7. Sofia has her first Gymnastics Meet 
And she gets fifth place after several 1-on-1 training sessions.

8. We did 2 trips to Singapore 2 weeks apart in November
It's just like going home to eat your favorite food.
Foie Gras, Saboten's Special Katsudon and Kopi with Kaya Toast and Egg.
You can read about my posts on Singapore here.

The first trip was to maximize our Legoland Annual Pass in Johor Bahru
And we did this, not 1, but 3 more times, so that makes it a total of 4 visits,
with a visit to the new Legoland Water Park included as well.
Blog post to follow.

9. The second trip merits its own mention because I got my first invitation as a blogger to collaborate with http://traveldelight.biz/
They invited us to visit and write about Hello Kitty Town and
The Little Big Club in Johor Bahru.
You can read my posts on that here.

10. and last but not the least, Ady and I did a quick weekend visit to Tokyo (which I haven't been to since I was 5)
We saw Mt Fuji from the plane, then I dragged Ady to Sanrio Puroland,
to look for Sofia's Bad Madtz Bag bilin, but our food highlight was me
ordering 2 marbled steaks whenever I could to comply with my diet.
Blog posts on Tokyo have also been added to my 2014 To Do List.

I just noticed that my yearly highlights always center around 2 things I love the most. Sofia and Travel. Actually, Travelling with the Sofia is the best. Hahaha. I am so looking forward to going back to Taiwan with the family after the new year. 

2013 has been great for us, Here's to an even greater 2014!  
Happy New Year!!! just saying.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Celebrating Christmas 2013

Christmas in the Philippines is really something special. It's the time for getting together with friends and family, especially the people you really don't get to see in the normal course of things within the year. But no matter who you are meeting up with, it's always the same. There's always an abundance of food, and it always seems as if it was just yesterday when you last saw each other, except in gatherings where kids are included, because the kids always look so much bigger than the last time you saw them.

This year, Sofia caught a really bad cough the week before Christmas. She got a viral infection that manifested itself through fever in the middle of the night for several nights, so I let her stay at home to rest so she missed most of the Christmas gatherings, but she got well enough to be able to celebrate Christmas Eve with the family.

Some Christmas celebrations were also more simple this year because of the unfortunate calamities that hit the Philippines in the last quarter of the year. There was a strong earthquake that hit the cities of Cebu and Bohol, and a few weeks after that, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan) hit more provinces in the Visayas that brought on unbelievable destruction. While we were lucky enough to stay dry in Manila, Manila did not stay unaffected. A lot of the companies I know, including the company I work for, opted to forego or scale down their annual Christmas parties so that the funds can be donated to help the people affected by the typhoon. Even our own barkada, opted to have a simpler Christmas celebration with a KFC party, that was so much fun, we are considering doing it as a new Christmas tradition.

On the lighter side of things, another Christmas challenge for me was how to celebrate with all the food, and yet still comply with the diet program that I'm on. My self control sort of failed me at this point and I ended up losing some of the headway I've gained, which is incentive enough to make sure I comply through the New Year Celebrations coming up.

Here are some snapshots of the friends and family that made Christmas 2013 special for us.

Office Christmas Party
Team picture at the office Christmas Party
My #TRA compliant lunch
Pear, Veggies from the Palabok, Rice, and lots of Cebu Lechon 

ACLC Alumni and Applicant(s) Reunion
After dinner party at Chek and Aimee's

Home Care Christmas Dinners
Home Care Christmas dinner at Main Street
Team Christmas Dinner that tripled as Noel's Birthday and Farewell Parties
Yummy Potluck Buffet at the posh Yes na Yes Home
Thanks for all the lovely gifts!

Christmas with Jem and Tim
We ended up hanging out at home with Sofia because she was still sick, but because we were all low EQ, gift giving came before our Christmas dinner.
Sof was so happy with her new mini-me Onitsuka sneakers from Ninong.
Thanks for the Beach-ready and Cold-weather ready gifts.
We ended up playing a few rounds of Creationary.
(Lego version of Pictionary that's a lot of fun!)
Our Christmas dinner came 2 days later at Old Swiss Inn. Yummy goulash,
Raclette, Angus Prime Rib and Angus Rice, and Zurich Geschnitzels.
This was sort of compliant.
The chocolate fondue, may have been more than the
OK sign.

Cliquish Gives Back - KFC Christmas Party
We normally have exchange gifts with a specified budget and a gift wish list, but this year, all of us decided to donate that to the Yolanda Victims. Then the ber-month celebrants normally "sponsor" our Christmas dinner - so this year, when we decided to go simpler, the extra budget of the celebrants also got donated. 
It was a win for everyone (except maybe my diet) because we all love KFC.
We had our own function room, so we all brought white elephant prizes,
where we had some sort of raffle, as well as games for the kids.
Ashi won the Sodexho GC Grand Prize.
Me and Tians with the little kiddos who are turning 1 soon.
Thanks for organizing Vice, and  thanks Chips, Man, Tim and Kim
for the yummy eat all you can birthday treat.

Lunch with my some of my closest friends at work
We missed you Karl Cotaoco!

Sofia's date with Ninong Tim to watch Frozen
This was at Christmas Eve, when she finally got well.

Christmas with the Family
We normally have dinner with the Tansengco Clan in Angkong's house on Christmas Eve, then we spend time in the area so we can welcome Christmas together for Noche Buena.
Sofia with Ninong Jacob at their flat, where we normally love to hang out
before midnight.
We normally have Noche Buena before picture taking and gift giving.
Sofia with mom, Taikong, Taima, and Auntie Stell (aka Mrs Santa).
Sofia is such an adorable Santa's helper.
Tansengco Family Picture, with my mom (home sick with Sofia's virus)
 and my dad, and Ria all missing this year.
Since we get home so tired from Makati, Christmas normally starts at our house after breakfast on Christmas Day when we all gather around the tree for our annual Christmas picture before we start giving out and opening the gifts under our tree.
Christmas 2013
Sofia always gets the biggest pile of presents!
Thanks everyone for your gifts.
The hits this year were Timmy's Ukelele from the parents,
and Sofia's Bad Badtz Maru bag NOT AVAILABLE in Japan,
but easily available at Gift Gate in Megamall. Go figure.
Ma got an empty Mobile Phone box from Pa and a promisory note
to get her any phone of her choice. 
Sof loved her realistic 7-11 toy with barcode scanner and real
cash register which I bought her from Japan.
She also attempted to cook pasta for Christmas Dinner using
Mario Battali's recipe.
But it was sort of too tough that even truffle oil had a hard time redeeming it.
Good thing we still had the Traditional Christmas Turkey.
Sof gave out prizes to the brave souls who tried her cooking. Hahaha.
This was her own idea, i swear!

I hope your Christmas was as much fun and as filled with love as ours was! just saying.