Church Picnic!

Last Saturday our family enjoyed our first trip outside the city. We went with our church to a retreat center in a little town about 1.5 hours outside of Manila called Los Banos. I thought the name was funny the first time I heard it too. It is called Los Banos because of an abundance of hot springs there.

It is a beautiful area surrounded by green, rolling hills and mountains. From a distance the mountains reminded me of the Smoky Mountains in the States, but as we got closer we could see that the trees were nothing like the Smokies- these mountains are covered in palm trees!

After living in the city for seven months our kids were definitely not used to riding in the car. I couldn’t believe it when I heard, “Are we there yet?” in a distinctively whiney tone after only 45 minutes or so.

The retreat center was hidden down at the end of a little dirt road but when we went inside it was beautiful! A huge pool beckoned to us to jump in. When we did we were startled to discover that it was a hot springs pool! What a wonderful idea for a cooler climate! One nice part was that when we got out the air felt cool. The girls love to swim and didn’t complain once about it being warm.

We hadn’t been swimming in about 2 months even though we have a pool at our apartment complex. I never thought I’d say this, but swimming isn’t too attractive during rainy season here! It isn’t that it is cold outside, it is just that it is coldER and it doesn’t seem fun to swim. Saturday was sunny and warm so the conditions were right for a swim.

In between dips in the pool we snacked on our picnic food. It was fun to see what Filipinos eat on picnics! I did see some sandwiches, but it was mostly bbq-ed meat and rice. Our church friends were so generous- they kept bringing over their food to share. At one point Button asked me, “Why do people keep bringing us food?!” And it really was fabulous to see how much they shared with each other. It definitely was different than North American culture.

9th Anniversary

Dennis took me out for our anniversary last night. We went to a Greek restaurant and had gyros and Greek salad. So delicious. Afterward, we wandered around the mall and enjoyed a Wendy’s frosty and a Jollibee dipped cone. Jollibee is the equivalant of McDonald’s here in popularity. They have McDonald’s too, but Jollibee is even more popular. They serve burgers, fried chicken and rice as well as some uniquely Filipino cuisine- fast food style.
After having our ice cream, we went to an interesting yet somewhat bizarre 3D movie about fighting owls and a lute. The pop and popcorn came with our tickets, but we were pretty full by then and brought a lot of popcorn home.
Thanks for the fun date, Dennis. I’m so glad you are my husband!

Eight Years

Dennis and I celebrated our anniversary this past weekend. We were married on October 6, 2001.

Traditionally Dennis has surprised me with something on our anniversary. This year was no exception and he held fast to his secret as I tried to pry it out of him with much conjoling, bribing and begging. Most of the begging was half-hearted- I didn’t really want to find out!

We left the kids here with Grampa and Gramma and took off on Friday evening. Much can be deciphered based on which way the vehicle turns on the highway, but Dennis picked one of the directions I’m more unfamiliar with so I was still guessing an hour later.

We stopped in Belleville for supper (chinese) and were going to go to a movie. When we got up to the ticket kiosk we asked for two tickets to see the only movie we cared to see. “Um, we only have one ticket left for that movie,” the girl told us. I told Dennis that he could go and that I would stand outside in the rain. He decide to forego the movie and we went to our favorite store in the world instead. Value Village. Oh, yeah. We are that classy. Value Village even on our anniversary- twice. Heh, heh.

After that Dennis said something about hopping in the car to go across the road. I wasn’t sure what he meant and was still in the dark about our final destination. So I trustingly boarded our vehicle and he whizzed out onto the 401. “What about across the road?” I asked. Apparently it was all a ploy.

We headed down the highway and I could see that the signs were saying that Kingston was ahead. Having only been to Kingston a couple of times and most of those times were from the perspective of riding a bus, I really didn’t know what was down there. We actually stopped at Napanee and grabbed some Tim Horton’s on our way to a very nice hotel with a pool.

We were expecting rain all weekend, but the next day was beautiful- sunny and warm. I still didn’t know what we were doing that day. We headed down the road another 30 minutes or so to Kingston. I got out the map with Dennis’ permission and started speculating what we would be doing. I saw some interesting things on there and mentioned a couple to him. He didn’t give me any clues.

Our first stop was Fort Henry. It was actually closed until the evening, but we were able to walk all around and enjoy the view. There was a ceremony taking place across the bay at the military college and some jets and a bomber flew overhead. We thought it was very kind of them to honor our anniversary in that way.

Later we went downtown and walked all around. It was very scenic and there was live music going on in a park, as well as people milling around and the smell of lots of food. We walked around for about 15 minutes trying to figure out what everyone was doing there. There didn’t seem to be any signage or organization to the mass of people. Finally, I noticed a small piece of paper taped to one of the booths that said, “Chilifest.” It all made sense then, and we started noticing all the people eating chili out of tiny bowls and the sea gulls eating up everything they dropped.

We were sitting on the pier looking out over the water when I saw some boats sitting there. I had mentioned the 1000 Island Cruises as a point of interest on the map to Dennis. As we sat there, I asked him if we could check out what they offered. He acted interested but kept putting me off everytime I tried to go over to the information building.

Finally, he just had to tell me that he had already reserved spaces on the 3 hour sunset dinner cruise that evening. I was over the moon!

Hardly containing my excitement, we headed off for lunch- I wasn’t interested in chili. We ate at a nearby Cambodian/Thai restaurant. It was delicious.

On our way back to the car we were following a couple. The man who was quite tall stopped to look in the window of a men’s clothing store. He thrust his head forward to get a better look at the goods displayed in the window. BANG. He hit his head on the glass, left a little sweaty head mark and made my day. I giggled all the way back to the van and am still laughing about it as I write. A friend once told me that I have affliction humor, and I think he must be right.

After visiting another Value Village and a Salvation Army and taking a quick snooze in the van, we went down to the dock to wait for our boat to board.

The trip was wonderful. We enjoyed a delicious buffet and spent a lot of time on the upper deck enjoying the scenary. Very romantic! The most interesting thing of the evening was the live musical entertainment. The guy performing the songs had quite the personality. We found him funny and entertaining, but we were able to escape to the top deck when he got to be a bit too much.

I am unable to upload pictures tonight for some reason. I’ll try again another time.

Fun Day Outside

Wednesday was Field Day here for the academy. This is a fun day for our kids since we spend the morning outside watching the “big kids” race and do various other track and field events. At a certain point they have a preschooler race, which we’ve been psyching the girls up for for awhile. 🙂 Even Winnie participated this year. She and her little friend just calmly walked down the track, holding hands and smiling at the people on the side lines. Squeaky won the preschool girl race; never mind that her oldest competitor was Button… 🙂 They all received a box of smarties and some bubbles- I don’t know who thought to do that for them, but it was really sweet.

Squeaky had a nasty cold this week but that didn’t stop her from running the race or doing the standing broad jump and the long jump (just for fun).
This is one of Squeaky’s favorite people in the whole world- the son of friends in our class. She sometimes refers to him as “her sweet boy”.

Here’s my sweet boy (aww…).

And one of my sweet girls.


And a pack of kids who just love to hang out and be kiddish together.


And one little kid who pretty much entertains herself and ignores the other kids.


Here is Dennis trying out the long jump.


A fun day!

Yesterday was a pretty fun day for our family. In the morning Dennis suddenly decided that we should go and check out a conservation area nearby. So we packed up the girls and the bug spray and headed out. We ended up in what we thought was the conservation area but turned out to be just a fire access road that bordered the real conservation area. Oh well, it was fun anyway. We walked a trail and on the road. Winnie does better on the road when she’s “hiking” since her feet are the size of postage stamps.

We were treated to all sorts of sights in God’s green creation. We saw four snakes (or maybe just one really fast guy?), lots of cool bugs including a shiny blueblack beetle that we trapped for 2 minutes in Squeaky’s habitat until he Houdini-ed out of there, and many swarms of blackflies that apparently are just swarming and not biting yet.
Do you see the guy in this picture?


Then last night we went to our last class social held at a dam close to here. It was a gorgeous evening with a perfect breeze and warm sun. We all had a picnic supper together and talked while the kids played. Then we headed over to a local ice cream shop for cones.


Visiting the Sugar Bush

This week we checked out an authentic maple sugar bush. A family friend near Bancroft has tapped some trees so we all invited ourselves over to go tromping through his woods. It was a great day for it.

We walked back on a trail through the woods to the sugar shack. In many ways it reminded me of our little Jungle Camp home complete with the constant reminders to the kids to steer clear of the blazing stove.

We all got to try handfuls of sap that was coming directly from the tree. It had a mildly sweet flavor and was quite watery. Then our friend let us try some of the sap that had been boiling for awhile. It was a bit sweeter and thicker. Apparently it takes days for it to reduce to syrup.

It was my first experience in a sugar bush. I was impressed that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. Today Dennis suggested that we tap some trees here on camp- all we need to get is 40 cups of sap for one cup of syrup, he said. I reminded him that in Tech Tips we learned that time is a non-renewable resource.