Tag Archives: Vacay

Happy Easter!

28 Mar

We had a terrific Easter weekend!

On Maunday Thursday, Josh and I worked together to make individual Beef Wellingtons with some filets from the US, puff pastry from Australia, and everything else from here. That’s a meal from three continents, folks. Anyway, it was amazing! We used this recipe.


Ours didn’t look quite as beautiful as this one, but it tasted as good as this one looks!  Under the filet, there is a layer of spinach, bleu cheese, and carmelized onions. On top of the beef was a layer of sauteed mushrooms and some more spinach. Then it’s all wrapped up in a big puff pastry hug. We also made up some okra and mashed potatoes, but really, we would’ve preferred a side of….more Beef Wellington. (PS: the kids had chicken.)IMG_0213

We made our traditional, traffic-less drive to Greenhills to eat at Chili’s and enjoy the wide-open city roads on Good Friday.

We also decorated 4 dozen eggs, which is always a favorite for all of us.



On Saturday, one of our friends had their 13-year old’s birthday party at school, where each family competed in all kinds of games, including egg/spoon races, sprinting races, toe marble-grabbing in buckets of ice, melting blocks of ice races, giant tic-tac-toe races, etc. It was so much fun, but will only be remembered in our memories, as I left my phone at home. One of the birthday guests had a fancy schmancy camera, so we’ll see if those photos ever surface!

On Easter Sunday, we wanted to find a service where we could celebrate our Savior’s resurrection….at a different time than the KU game at 8:45 am. We ended up going to a 5pm service, where one of my favorite missionary speakers happened to be speaking! All that to say, we had a lot of time to get ready! (And a lot of time to get over our busted brackets…)


Since we ended up going to an evening service, we didn’t have time to make a special meal! So tonight will be our lamb dinner. Salivating over here, just thinking about it. We also didn’t have time for an egg hunt, so we’ll do that after school today.

All of this was so fun, but doesn’t even come close to the significance of Easter for all of us! We celebrate the resurrection of our Savior on Easter Sunday, but I’m challenged to celebrate, remember, and thank God every single day for our salvation!





8 Mar

Last fall, I got a text from our friend, Dave, saying, “Do you want to go to Bohol for Michele’s birthday?” Never have I texted, “YES!” so quickly. He treated both of us to almost a week in one of the most beautiful islands in the world!

We left at bright and early at 4:45am, hence the sleepy eyes! I took this pic because I woke up singing, “Two tickets to paradise!”


Boarding the plane outside always screams vacation to me. I think it’s because the island airports don’t have jetways, so whenever we board outdoors, it must mean we’ll deplane on an island. I spilled my coffee all over myself after taking this pic. I smelled like hazelnut latte the rest of the day…


The Philippines is made up of 7,000 islands, so I love looking out the window and looking at them, imagining what life would be like on one of them.


The teeny tiny baggage claim took just minutes to unload the luggage!


Our drive was about 30 minutes from the airport, so we got lots of provincial eye candy! I love Manila, but the province is so gorgeous!


As soon as we got to our resort, we did exactly what two moms would do to kick off a vacation…we shut the drapes, turned off the lights, and took lonnnnng naps.


When we woke up, it was just about 1pm, so we headed out to the pool area to eat, read, and lay out.


It was so relaxing and peaceful! Michele is getting her masters degree, so she had to do some reading for her class. I, on the other hand, read some Nicholas Sparks!


We moved the party out to the hammocks for a while. Michele and her textbook were no match for the gentle swaying in the breeze. I caught her in her second nap of the day while the sun set over the horizon.


That night, we just ate at our resort and talked at the restaurant for about 3 hours! Look at this giant plate of food! It cost $5. I love this country.


The next morning, I stepped out of our room to see our view. Pair-a-dice.


We pretty much did more of the same relaxing all day, with a walk on the beach thrown in. The nice thing that sets this beach apart from others that I’ve been to in this country is that there are no vendors trying to sell their goods and services while we’re trying to relax.


I managed to get a good sunburn this day. It just felt so perfect outside, I didn’t notice that I was paying for it with my skin!

That night, we took a trike down to Alona beach, which had a lot of restaurants and shopping. I bought some gifts for the kids and then walked to a resort that was having a company party on the beach. They were blaring 80’s music, so we settled in for the night, eating appetizers and rocking out. We stopped just shy of teasing our bangs.

The next day was our adventure day. Another unique feature of this vacation island compared to the others around here is that they have lots of activities and sight-seeing. We rented a car and headed out to see two things unique to Bohol – tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills.

The first thing we did was hit the Tarsier Park. These little primates would fit into the palm of my hand! They sleep during the day, but Michele caught a pic of one that was awake! They kind of look like an Ewok named Gollum.



Then we headed to the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park. They have lots of activities, but we were only interested in the bike zip line!

I felt like the Jurassic Park theme should be playing as we entered the park.



After paying and signing a waiver (eek!), we crossed a hanging bridge to the get to the zipline. It was wobbly and a little bit freaky.


As they harnessed us in, I made them double and triple-check our buckles!


The bike zipline overlooks the chocolate hills in the distance. It was beautiful! But this is the only time I enjoyed it, because while I was on the bike, I just looked straight ahead!



It was SCARY! I was tethered and the bike is attached to the cable by a steel bar, but when the cable would sway in the wind, I was a little freaked out by the 150ft of nothing beneath me! I had to stop myself from thinking about all the different ways that I could die on this 10 minute trip.

It’s a round-trip ride, and I was pretty shaky on the first trip. Meanwhile, Michele was ahead of me and on her return trip. She reached out to high-five me, but I couldn’t move my hands from the handle bars!

On my return trip, though, I was much more comfortable too! By the end, I was able to let go and give a thumbs-up to the photographer! It was a fun experience!

After that, we dragged our shaky legs to the Chocolate Hills. They are so interesting! There are about 1500 hills, all about the same size, and they are perfectly round or cone-shaped. I guess there are marine fossils in them, so they were first formed underwater, with weather and time molding them into these perfect shapes.They get their name because in hot season, all the flora on them browns, and they look like countless mounds of chocolate.

I also saw these sweet little flowers.


That night, we just relaxed in the chairs by our pool. It was perfect weather, plus we were a little chilled from our sunburns. I couldn’t help but order the mango creme brulee. It was delish.

Each morning, we dined beach-side. A girl can get used to that!


Our flight home was delayed, so we got a few more hours on the beach.

See? Tiny island airports = vacay!



When we finally made it home from Manila, we grabbed a taxi home and practiced our tagalog with the driver. I kept quizzing Michele and he would jump in with the answers!

It was such a great trip! I always have a great time with Michele. We are already planning our next one!




No Cuts, No Buts, No Coconuts

11 Oct

Judging from the two 10-hour sleep nights I’ve had since returning from the beach, I’d say that we had a fun vacation!

We left early on a dreary and rainy morning, which I actually liked because it made our coffee stop just a little more cozy. The kids snuggled in to watch movies during our 3-ish hour drive to the port.


Here is Bella and her buddy, waiting to get on the bangka. Josh is in the background, about to journey across the 10″ wide gangplank with a suitcase in one hand and Simeon in the other!


The trip across the ocean was uneventful and fun. Mackenzie had made puppy chow for the trip, so we busted that open on the boat.

When we arrived, we settled into our rooms. Our friends had some issues with their door not locking from the inside, and when they asked management to fix it, they blew them off! They kept saying, “It’s ok, you can lock your valuables inside when you leave.”

Our friends replied, “What about at night time? We want to lock the door while we sleep.”

They argued, “No one will break in while you are in there.”

“We don’t want to feel like we could get kidnapped while we’re here.”

“Hahahaha! That has never happened here.”

….and so on and so forth. At this point, we were all kind of shocked that management was arguing with the customer about why it’s ok for their lock to be broken! When my friend said, “It isn’t safe,” the manager responded, “Well, you have your opinion and I have mine.” what?!

Anyway, they got it figured out and we all had a relaxing afternoon, followed by one of many delicious meals.

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We had two double beds and a bunk bed, so we were all taken care of. The kids loved mixing and matching, as well as watching a movie every night as they fell asleep!

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The next morning was gorgeous! Simmy and I took a morning nap together, as he was getting over a fever and had been up a lot in the night, which meant I was up a lot in the night. When I joined the others at the beach, this was our view.



The kids got right into snorkeling and came back with lots of treasures!

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Simeon and I stayed in the shade and played in the sand (ie: ate the sand.)


Bella found a coconut laying around, so Michele cracked it open for her and the kids went and got straws and spoons to dig in.

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I love this pic of the kids playing on the outriggers in the evening!


Our place had two pools as well, which is always nice to have after a day in the saltwater. Plus, they had wonderful lounge chairs for us to supervise/chit-chat/enjoy frosty drinks/eat potato wedges.


One of those afternoons, I was so comfy in the lounge chair that I didn’t want to keep looking up to check on the kids. The brim of my hat came way down over my eyes, so I couldn’t see them unless I really extended my neck. Once again, my phone came to the rescue! I could hold up the camera and see what they were up to without moving at all. That’s how a vacation is supposed to work anyway, isn’t it?


They would even move those lounge chairs out to the beach for Michele and I each day! We were trying to figure out how we could sneak them back to our condo in Manila…


Simeon had zero issues with a mouthful of sand! Ick.



The next day, we rented a bangka to take us to some snorkeling sights.

Here he is, bringing it in and the kids checking it out.

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Here is the entire crew.


Mackenzie and her friend, ready to see some sea-life!


I’m not much of  snorkeler. I’ve tried it many, many times through the years, and I spend the entire time thinking, “OK, this is cool. Can I be done now?” I know, it’s a waste of living here, with some of the world’s best snorkeling! But it worked out, because I could stay on the boat with the littles.

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Our driver took the opportunity to catch his supper while we were anchored. I think he caught five fish and the kids loved watching him. All he had was a shrimp, hook, and some fishing line on a spool.


The kids caught a ride back to our boat from the reef.


Along with the kids, he brought a bunch of coconuts to sell. I also am not a fan of buko juice (I know, another waste of living in the tropics), but how can you NOT buy a coconut when he paddles up to you and gets it all ready to dig in to? Simeon loved it!

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Some more highlights:

-The kids spent almost every waking hour playing together in the water! It was so much fun.

-The daddies took all of the kids down the beach to a mongolian bbq one night so that Michele and I could enjoy a quiet evening together.

-Each night, we’d put the kids to sleep and the four of us would just hang out in those heavenly lounge chairs just outside our rooms.

– The pancakes and home-baked bread! I would go to sleep at night dreaming of breakfast the next morning.

-Deacon and I checked out some tide pools and found some great little critters!

-The main highlight was on our trip home…


In the middle of the ocean, our boat driver slowed down and pointed  in the distance. We saw dozens of dolphins leaping through the air!!! It was incredible. Even more amazing was that a few swam right up to our boat and stayed with us for a few minutes. It was overwhelmingly fun! Josh has a great video on his phone, but it’s over there and I’m over here…

On the boat ride home, I realized that I didn’t have any pics of Josh and I!


Simeon was getting fussy on the ride, so Bella went into entertainment mode. He was much happier after that.

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The kids spent the rest of the trip looking for more dolphins. It was a once in a lifetime moment!

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I love the memories that my kids are racking up living here!!!!

Girls Only!

2 Aug

Mackenzie is about to turn 11, so pre-teendom is right around the corner! We took the opportunity to get away together before school starts and do Passport2Purity, a 5-session CD program that covers all of the info that a preteen needs to know, as well as sets them up for healthy teenage years, and encourages and advises them how to protect their innocence and purity until they’re married.

It is set up for a mom to do with her daughter or a dad to do with his son, so I’ve been having fun planning a getaway for Mackenzie and I! Mackenzie loves going to hotels and buffets, so I booked 2 nights at a hotel in the new, bustling part of Manila that included a breakfast buffet. I shopped for the projects that we had to do, I bought lots of snacks,  planned all of our meals and activities, and prayed a lot about our time together, the things she’d learn, and decisions she’d make. Oh yes, and I pumped like crazy to set Simeon up for two days.


We left around 1:15pm last Monday and listened to the first session on the way to the hotel.


As soon as we arrived at the hotel, we went up to our room.

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Mackenzie immediately wanted to go swimming (even though she had just spent 4 hours swimming with her friend that morning!). I love to see her enjoy still being a little girl (doing handstands, staying under as long as she can, pretending to be a mermaid, etc) even though this getaway was emphasizing that she’s definitely growing up!


After swimming, we had to do our session 1 project. We both had 5 minutes to do different puzzles, only I got to have the box top and she had to do it without any reference. It stresses the importance of having and using the Bible to guide us through life. This is what our puzzles looked like after 5 minutes!

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Lesson learned, now let’s finish the puzzles!


After the project, I took her to my favorite girls night out spot. It’s a little corner restaurant in the middle of the city called Wild Flour. We got that same thing that my friends and I always chat for hours over. A garlic knot, the croque madame, and a big ol’ slice of the salted chocolate cake!

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After dinner, we walked back to the hotel, with a detour at Gourdos. It’s a fun cooking/scrapbooking specialty store that actually has great sales, which is hard to find here! Mackenzie, just like me, loves to look at all the kitchen gadgets.

We did one more session before bed. It was all about friendships and the influence that they have on our lives. We spent a lonnnggg time on the project for that one! It was a playdough project.

There’s something so beautiful and satisfying about a brand-new container of playdough!


Mackenzie had to make 2 playdough people. The yellow one represents her, the blue one represents a good, positive friend.


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Then she had to mix the two and create a new person, which became a lovely green, the color of growth.


Meanwhile, I was making a red person, who was to represent a negative friend. I don’t think she looks so mean…


So when we mixed the red friend with the green friend, it became a  dirty shade of…yuck.

I just have to interject and say that mixing playdough colors goes against everything I believe in! This project stretched me in ways I can’t describe.

Then we both tucked into bed and fell asleep to George of the Jungle. I think Kenzie stayed up later than I did!

In the morning, we headed to the breakfast buffet. Mackenzie would make a good Brit with her double helpings of baked beans for breakfast!


I told her that she could have coffee for breakfast if she wanted. I think she didn’t love it, but she loved getting to be a “grown-up!” She was terrified that it would stunt her growth.

We did the 3rd session, the birds and the bees, (“Ok, I’m never getting married” – Mackenzie) and then headed out for our fun activity. We both wanted to go ice skating, so we grabbed a taxi and headed to the Mall of Asia. I would’ve loved to take some pics out on the ice, but I didn’t trust myself to not fall on my phone and shatter it all over the ice!


So, on the ice, there were two people having lessons, so they were jumping and spinning all over the place. Then there was Kenzie and I, just doing our laps, with an occasional “trick.” Then, there were about 75 people just standing on the ice, taking selfies. “How sad that we can’t actually ice skate while sharing with the world how much we love ice skating!”

It was an all-day pass, so we skating for about an hour, then broke for some shopping and lunch, then went back for another hour or so. I hung in there until I finally fell, which finished the day for me, making me feel all of my 35 years. I fell right on my wrist and almost a week later, it’s still hurting!

Mackenzie discovered these dessert siopao at Chowking, and wanted me to try them, so we got some for the taxi ride home. I was shocked at how delicious they were! It’s basically just a steamed bun filled with yummy molten chocolate.


When we got back to the hotel, I would’ve paid money to grab a nap, but my energetic pre-teen wanted to swim some more, so I sucked it up and we jumped around the pool for a while. Then we walked over to IHOP for dinner. It’s a fancier restaurant here than it is in the US, and Mackenzie and I love it!


On the walk home, we stopped at Starbucks for chai tea lattes. We both really love being in the busy city, and loved walking around with our drinks together!

We finished up the day with our 4th session and project. This one started off with a nice, full water balloon, representing one’s purity. Then I stuck a pin in it, which didn’t make it explode, but just let the water trickle out. Then I stuck more and more holes in it. It was all to represent what can happen in a dating life, if one is giving out bits and pieces of themselves and their purity. It doesn’t seem like they mean much, but when you finally meet your spouse, all you can give is the sad, deflated and empty balloon!


In the morning, we had made a last-minute plan to walk over to the Mind Museum. However, it sold out before we could get there! We both decided that was ok though, because we didn’t want to be there if it was that crowded anyway. So we went to S&R across the street. It’s the closest thing we have to Sam’s Club or Costco here. They have lots of imported items and of course, samples. We didn’t buy much, but just enjoyed the wide, quiet aisles, and samples!

Finally, we finished up with our last session. I forgot to take pictures because I was busy giving Mackenzie a pedicure while she took notes. George of the Jungle was on again, and since we both fell asleep in the middle of it, we were able to watch the end of it.

We finished up the getaway with a special lunch. It was at a rotating restaurant, high above the city. Josh met us there, which made it extra special. All the talk about dating and “the one” made me extra excited to see him! I have no idea why I didn’t take any pictures here!!! It was definitely a highlight! Mackenzie loved the rotating restaurant. She and I weren’t too hungry, so we just shared a cheese souffle, a chocolate souffle, and a lemon souffle. Yeah. They make excellent souffles. Josh had a fish that began with “s,” either swordfish or seabass.

Josh also gave her a ring to signify the importance of everything she learned during our time away. Would’ve been an excellent photo op, right? What in the world?! Maybe I was more smitten than I thought, and my mind turned to mush with Josh around!

I’m so glad that we got to do this together! It was a super special mom-daughter time, and I’m praying that it laid the groundwork for a happy and successful teenage life for Mackenzie…and for me!


Sail Away With Me

8 Jun

The last time Jennifer came to visit, we didn’t do a very good job of showing off all that our archipelago-ous country can brag about. So this time, we wanted to rectify that (in a way that is affordable and convenient with 5 littles – or 1 big, 2 mediums, 1 small, and an extra small)

Enter Boracay! It’s been on Top 10 lists for beaches in the world a time or two. It has, unfortunately, become quite commercialized, but with commercialization comes convenience, so I can’t complain! How can I ever post the necessary feet pictures if I don’t have Wi-Fi!?!


We have friends here who graciously gave us their rental for our stay! That was a huge blessing! Plus, Cebu Pacific was having a sale on flights to Boracay, so we jumped on that. We left on Saturday evening. Our flight was delayed a bit, so we had to hang out in the airport. Our gate was right next to Jamba Juice and Krispy Kreme, so we managed to pass the time. Somehow.


When it was time to board, they hustled us all onto a bus to take us to our plane.

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I like to pretend I’m so fancy when we board from the stairs as if it’s a private plane or something.

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When we landed, we had to take a van ride to the jetty port. Then a short boat ride to the island. Yeah, my phone picked up the vibrations from the boat.

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By the time we arrived at our house, it was about 9:30. We had just snacked around, so we headed down the beach to get some food and buy drinking water and other necessities for the week. Everyone, especially the kids, were so tired! We all ended up asleep around 11 or midnight.

We had a lazy morning, but as soon as everyone was up, we headed straight to Jonah’s for fruit shakes and breakfast. The favorites were lemon (calamunci), banana lemon, mango, mango lemon, and vanilla peanut choco.


We spent the morning playing in the sand and waves in front of Jonah’s, but there was a lot of seaweed there, so it definitely wasn’t the award-winning experience that Boracay has to offer! I love it on my sushi, not so much in my swimsuit.

After we all took long naps, we headed to a Boracay favorite, Mongolian Barbeque. I’m not a huge fan, so I ordered a la carte and took selfies.

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Yeah, I look incognito in all my photos with my hat and shades. I don’t do sun anymore, so I tried to stay out of it as much as possible. Actually, I realized that I’m getting sun from all my running, in the form of tank top and Garmin watch tan lines!

The next day was pretty much the same: breakfast, playing on the beach, lunch/fruit shakes, naps, dinner, playing on the beach, bed. However, Boracay really stepped up its game. We ate breakfast at The Sunny Side Cafe. Just the sight of their brioche french toast jettisoned them to the top of my list of favorite restaurants. Freshly baked breads, fat pieces of bacon, and homemade jams and curds were just a few highlights. The pancakes rocked my socks too! They came with a slice of candied orange that I may have stolen off other people’s plates at our table.


The beach in front of the cafe was also amazing! There wasn’t a piece of seaweed in sight! We did some frisbee together…


…and some hole-digging.


That was Jennifer’s birthday too, so we celebrated at a Mexican restaurant, with our toes in the sand.


In front of that restaurant, the tide went out but left fun little tide pools to play in. This was a sunset selfie, but…


…my friend took a slightly better sunset pic.


The next day, our friends who let us stay at their place arrived on the island. They took us to their favorite hang-outs, starting with the Spider House. Just writing that gives me the heebie-jeebies. I don’t know how it got that name, I just know that I was flailing at the air every time anything brushed up against me.

It was a great little secret of a resort though! It was on a different side of the island, so there was a great breeze. There was also a raft and a platform for the kids to play on and jump off of.


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If you can see all the little flecks in the water next to Kenzie, there were schools of fish around at all times.


Simmy had a cuddle with Nana in the shade.


Our neighbors at the next table couldn’t wait to get their hands on him! They were taking all kinds of pics of him and pinching every last dimple on his body.


After playing there, and of course, eating, we went to another hang out. Since our friends are friends with everyone, we got to hang out all day at one of the nicest resorts on the island! It was insane, all the freebies and special treatment that we got. At one point, a staff member just came over and cleaned my sunglasses with his special spray and cloth. Another time, they just gave us pizza and veggie sticks…for fun! Every day, there is a snow cone station set up! They even had a kids activity time, and my kids came away with bags full of plunder.


We hung out by the pool for a while, and then we headed out to the beach where they were preparing for a sunset wedding.


There were lots of shallow areas as the tide went out, so Sim spent a long time just sitting in the sand and splashing.



It didn’t take long for the peaceful sound of waves crashing for him to be lulled to sleep! I know the feeling….


Meanwhile, the kids (and Josh) played and played and played in the sand!

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I snapped these photos back at the house. Simeon kept trying to eat Josh’s phone, so when Josh sternly said, “No,” this was the face we had to try not to laugh at.

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All was forgiven the next morning though, when Simmy snuggled up to Josh while he was sleeping.


All smiles again!


Our last day, we had to eat at The Sunny Side Cafe again! Then we made one more Jonah’s stop,  and headed back to the fun resort.


We spent all day there, and then our friends treated us all to a paraw ride. It’s one of those boats where, instead of sitting in the boat, you sit in nets on the outside of the boat.

Josh, Deacon, Simeon, and I were on one side of the boat.


Jennifer, Bella, and a teacher from Faith who was also vacationing were on the other.




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Simmy was totally mellow the whole ride. I think all of his senses were engaged.


I loved it! It was my favorite part of the entire trip. I could’ve spent all day out there.

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Mackenzie rode in the other boat with the middle school (ahem) boys. We sent Caleb along with them to chaperone.



After the paraw ride, we went back to the house where our friends hosted an amazing filipino fiesta for us! I wish I had a picture, because it was an amazing spread, including whole fishes and raw oysters. There was also lechon manok and liempo, as well as prawn, and of course, rice. Everything was fantastic and I over-ate.

After all the kids were tucked in, Josh and I got to hang out with our friends a bit. It happened to be open-mike night at one of the restaurants on the beach. They had Josh at “hello.” He sang a little Simon & Garfunkel and got lots of cheers for it!

Our flight the next morning was at 6:50 am, so we had a very early morning. But after a van ride, a boat ride, a trike ride, a plane ride, a bus ride, and a car ride, we were back home!

It was a fun vacation with lots of memories that we’re so happy included Nana!



Beach Bums

22 Mar

Since my parents are here during Spring Break, they treated us to 3 nights/4 days at the beach! We headed to our favorite part of Puerto Galera, a well-known and popular area for “scooper diving,” as Bella calls it. Since none of us are divers, we spend the hours playing on the beach, in the ocean, and of course, eating. We were joined by a friend, who is a diver and also whose son is one of Deacon’s besties, so he was in friend heaven!

We left at 6:15am, and after some traffic, a breakfast stop (McDonalds was giving out free McMuffins, and Starbucks was have buy 1 take 1 on Caramel Macchiatos – boom), and an hour boat ride, we were on the beach by lunch time.

Here are the older kiddos on the banca. Yeah, I’m not sure how helpful those huge life vests are, but thankfully we didn’t have to find out!


When we arrived at our resort, they greeted us with welcome drinks. For the rest of our stay there, Deacon would ask if he could have a “welcome drink.” I think it meant, “I’m thirsty, but I want a fun, fruity drink, not water!”


We ate almost all of our meals at LaLaguna Beach Club. It is by far our favorite restaurant in the area. The beach in that area is pretty rocky, but the restaurant trumps a rocky beach, in our humble opinions! The kids were allowed to have one fruit shake per day, so their top choices were mango, green mango, banana, and watermelon.


Before and after our meals, the kids just played in the ocean until the food arrived. It’s a win win for all, as the kids get their fun and the adults get quiet conversation.


Because of rocky and coral-licious terrain, the snorkeling is fantastic. Mackenzie especially did a lot of snorkeling and was pretty far out in the ocean most of the time! She really wants to start scuba-diving, and next year she’ll be eligible for certification! That’s one part of her life that she’ll never experience with her terra firma-loving mama.


It was fantastic to have our friend, Kim, there because she took the kids out snorkeling and knew just where to find and how to identify all the sea creatures. Both of the girls came back with starfish. They ran them up on the beach for a quick picture and then took them back to their home.

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Here is the view from our room. We actually got upgraded to the penthouse, with a patio overlooking the ocean. It was really beautiful! The tide is out in this pic, so you can see how rocky it is. We found that wearing swim-shoes or flip flops made it wayyyyy more comfortable. There are other smooth, white-sand beaches in Puerto, but they don’t even come close in the food department, which is priority in in our vacay destination choice.


The rocks also made for some awesome tide pools, full of critters! The kids spent a good hour and a half exploring the rocks the first night we were there. Here are some of their finds – sea cucumbers, spidery star fish (I don’t think that’s their official name), and crabs.



The next day, we rented a kayak. It cost $6 for four hours, so yeah, vacation fun is CHEAP here! The kids all loved it. Caleb was ticked when his turn was over. He just stood on the beach crying while the next round of kayakers paddled away from him.

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….but all was well again when he found a cool rock.


Another attraction for the kids was all the boats. I remember playing on bancas when I was a kid, and it’s so great that the owners just let them play all in and around them!


You might need to zoom in on this picture to see the detail, but one day while we were waiting for our food, Caleb was playing on the beach. I don’t know what happened, but he raced over to me and wanted to show me that his face and head was completely covered in sand! I think he must have just face-planted (voluntarily) right into the beach.


One of the must-do’s at the beach for the girls is getting their hair threaded. It’s basically a friendship bracelet threaded into their hair. It only costs $2.50, so we’re all over it!


They even taught our girls how to make the super intricate friendship bracelets.


Me, I did a lot of relaxing on the beach. I spent my first 30 years trying to get as tan as possible, but I’m a sunscreen queen now! I notice that sun really ages me now, so I use the kids sunscreen whenever we go out in the sun. I still like the tan look, but now it comes from a bottle! Anyway, I fell asleep every afternoon while reading on the beach. How perfect, right?


When I’d wake up, Caleb was always there to greet me with a smooch!


These two loved rolling around in the sand! Caleb is totally opposite from Mackenzie at his age. She HATED sand and didn’t want to go anywhere near it. Caleb can’t get enough of it. With that blonde hair, and the hours spent in the ocean, he looks like a little surfer dude!


Red Sox Nation proudly represented on a little island in the Philippines!


This floating fun bar sailed by one afternoon. It looked so fun!


During the banca ride back to the mainland, Caleb fell fast asleep in Grandma’s arms.



Alas, all good  things must come to an end! We are back home, but still have a week of fun planned with my parents. My dad will visit some of their missionaries in Samar that were affected by the typhoon last November. They only just recently got electricity back, after months without! The kids head back to school on Tuesday. Josh was up ALL NIGHT watching March Madness games. Mom and I are hitting all of our favorite shopping spots. They’ll head back to the US on Friday, but we are all getting to stay at our favorite hotel the night before! We are all so excited – the kids for the pool, Josh and I for the buffet, and all of us for the air conditioning!

NYC Girls Weekend!!

13 Nov

Now that I’ve written all my marathon tidbits down, I can write all about the other highlights of our NYC trip! When Michele and I decided to hop over the pond to NY for the marathon, we thought that it wouldn’t be complete unless we were joined by one of our great friends, Susan! We all moved to the Philippines the same year, so we instantly had that bond. A billion and a half kids later, we’re all still close even though Susan lives back in the US.

On Saturday, Michele and Susan were both flying into LaGuardia, I was taking the train in from NJ, and somehow we’d find each other on the island of Manhattan! I was shocked when we all met up outside Penn Station without a hitch. If we had just moved our rendezvous point a few blocks east, we could’ve had an epic reunion that would rival Tom and Meg’s finest moment on the top of the Empire State Building!

My parents dropped me off at the train station. It was intimidating to realize that the next time I would see them would be 17 miles into the marathon the next day!


I snapped a selfie on the train. It was supposed to capture that beautiful fall leaves behind me, but it didn’t work so well. Next to me was a girl who was wearing last years marathon shirt and chatting on the phone with her friend about running the next day. It shot my nerves through the roof!


Even though I was too nervous to eat, I made myself eat the turkey sandwich that I made from the leftover Thanksgiving dinner that my mom had fixed the night before.  It was a carb-tastic meal, which was perfect for me. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, Swiss Vegetable Medley, brussel sprouts, pumpkin and pecan pie!

After a 73 minute train ride, I came out of Penn Station and Susan and Michele were waiting right there, under the Madison Square Garden sign! They had found each other no problem at the airport, took a bus to the Port Authority, and then a shuttle to Penn. A bunch of roads were already closed for the marathon, so getting around was a little more challenging than other weekends.

Since we had all of our luggage, we grabbed a taxi to the financial district, where we stayed for the next two nights at the Double Tree. We were greeted with those complimentary chocolate-chip cookies, so I officially declared my no-sweets marathon complete!


Our hotel was right next to this famous financial district guy…


Susan and Michele were famished, so we walked around a little until we found a deli and they got a sandwich. I was still not at all hungry, but I knew I needed to fill up those glycogen stores, so I grabbed a pretzel from a street vendor down at Battery Park. We walked around until we found a place to sit and eat. I was supposed to go for a 2-mile run to shake out the legs, but we walked around so much, I considered my legs sufficiently shook.

We settled in Battery Park, looking out onto the Statue of Liberty! I guess I was too nervous to take any pics. Here are some to give you an idea. However, there was a ton of construction paraphernalia around, so it wasn’t quite as beautiful as it usually is. I’m guessing they are still recovering from [stupid] Sandy.



After lunch, we headed a few blocks north to see the 9/11 Memorial.On our walk there, we saw and heard sirens coming from all directions! There were police cars and fire engines all around us. I have to admit, it was very eery to be in Lower Manhattan and hearing those sirens. All footage from Sept 11, 2001 includes those sirens and it was overwhelming to be in the very place where it happened!

One thing we noticed was how firemen in NYC have a genuine celebrity status, and rightfully so! Tourists were always taking pictures of the FDNY fire engines and their brave firemen.

The last two times I’ve been there, there wasn’t anything for the public to see, so we were excited to see the memorial and be up close to the Freedom Tower/One World Trade Center.


The line to get in was CRAZY! There were people everywhere, lines wrapped around everything, and since I didn’t want to be on my feet for too long, we decided to go another time. Instead, we headed over to the St. Paul chapel, which served as an amazing ministry in the days, weeks, and months following 9/11. It was a place where volunteers could rest, refuel, get medical help, and re-energize before heading back out to the physically and emotionally exhausting work at Ground Zero.

“For eight months, hundreds of volunteers worked 12 hour shifts around the clock, serving meals, making beds, counseling and praying with fire fighters, construction workers, police and others. Massage therapists, chiropractors, podiatrists and musicians also tended to their needs.”


Here it is on that horrific day, surviving the attack and going on to be one of the the vital tools in NYC’s recovery.

St Pauls Chapel on 9-11

The highlight of that visit was that there was a First Responder who served in one of the Towers that day. He had written a book and was signing it that day. A lot of the pictures in the book he took himself, and are unique because he was allowed in areas that others weren’t because it was a First Responder. It choked me up when he said that he wants kids (and probably adults too) to know exactly who are America’s celebrities, role models, and heroes.

After walking through St. Pauls, we headed back to the hotel where I got in bed and didn’t move much the rest of the evening! (It was only like 5:00pm) Susan and Michele ran back out for bit and returned with the perfect night-before meal for me. Chipotle.


I was only able to eat about half of it, thanks to those nerves of cottonballs (or whatever is the opposite of steel). Michele came to the rescue and finished the other half.

I laid out all of my gear for the next morning, so as to save time when I woke up to get ready.


Little did I know that I had plenty of time to get ready, since I woke up at MIDNIGHT and never went back to sleep! I had gone to sleep at 8pm, so I got a whopping 4 hours to carry me through the marathon.

Those gloves are cute Asics NYC Marathon gloves that my mom bought me at the Expo. They have each of the five boroughs on each finger.


We didn’t get to see it because we were in lower Manhattan, but the Empire State Building put on blue and orange lights for the marathon!


So this post is interrupted by the marathon post, and picks back up on Monday morning. I had fallen asleep at 8pm after the marathon, so Susan and Michele just hung out together. I stirred at 4am, and when I checked my phone for the time, I saw over 200 emails! So that woke me right up, and I just had to read them all. Some of them were Josh’s facebook posts during the marathon. Some were junk mail (Adidas, I’ve unsubscribed to your mailing list like 10 times. Please let me go!). The rest were “Congrats” and I loved every single one of them! Of course, I was too excited to go back to sleep.

One thing that excited me was wearing heels again! I had eliminated them for about 6 weeks prior to the marathon, as they are a runner’s nemesis. I may have been the only marathoner to wear heels the day after the race, but I was excited! Besides, they’re wedges….


Susan and I decided to head back to the 9/11 Memorial and this time, we got in before that long line had formed.While we were in line, I saw this flag made from the names of lost lives. We also remembered our own Sept 11, 2001 and heard others talk about theirs.


It is an amazing tribute to those who lost and sacrificed their lives. I thought that we would also be able to see the museum, but it isn’t completed yet. It will definitely be on my must-do-in-NYC list when it opens!


“Two pools with the largest manmade waterfalls in the United States (the center goes down another 30 feet!) cascading down their sides are located within the footprints of the Twin Towers. Each pool is 1-acre (4,000 m2), and together they are intended to symbolize the loss of life and the physical void left by the terrorist attacks.

The names of 2,983 victims are inscribed on 76 bronze plates attached to the parapet walls that form the edges of the Memorial pools. This includes the names of 2,977 victims who were killed in the September 11 attacks  in New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, as well as the names of six victims who were killed in the 1993 WTC bombing.”

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Susan and I were especially touched by the phrase, “…and her unborn child,” that followed the names of the 11 expectant mothers who died in the attacks.


Also at the memorial is the Survivor Tree. It was the only tree to survive the attacks, even though it was badly burned and had only 1 living branch. It was transported to the Bronx, where it was nursed back to life, even though its caregiver initially doubted its survivability. It was moved back to its home at the memorial in Dec ’10 and now serves as a “reminder of all the survivors who persevered after the attacks.”

It was a powerful and remarkable to see!

After we finished up at the memorial, we headed back to the hotel, by way of the Sprint store to fix Susan’s phone. We decided to check out of our hotel and head uptown to our next hotel in Times Square. There was a Dunkin Donuts on the way, so I made everyone cart their luggage into the tiny store so that I could have something that I hadn’t allowed myself to have for months!

Susan got us a night at the Crowne Plaza that was literally right in the middle of Times Square. I loved imagining staying there on New Years Eve!

We dropped off our stuff and headed back out to explore mid-town. We found an adorable little Italian restaurant. It was straight out of a movie. It was down some stairs off the street, and long and narrow, so that all the city noise is replaced with quiet Italian music. The food was incredible! We split two entrees, a manicotti and a chicken with mushroom dish. We all loved it!


Susan and I made fun of Michele for taking a picture of the bathroom, but now I wish I had one! It was incredibly and beautifully decorated!

After lunch, we sought out some cheesecake! Susan and I split a plain slice and Michele had a cherry. It was incredible and I love New York City for its cheesecake if nothing else!


A few steps later, I bought some cannoli’s (I think the plural is actually just cannoli) from a little Italian bakery. They looked better than they tasted. I was disappointed, especially because it was Susan’s first cannoli!

Somehow we found ourselves on 5th Ave and happened upon the American Girl store. Yep, three grown women walking around the doll store without any children. They make TV shows about people like that! Anyway, I snapped this photo for my girls.



it was time for Chicago! This was the highlight of our girls weekend. Susan didn’t know it, but she had booked the hotel that is directly across the street from the theater where Chicago was playing. We were thankful because the temps had dropped to sub-zero, give or take 40 degrees.


We were very aware that we had already spent two nights in NYC and I had been asleep by 8pm on both nights. Pretty disappointing huh? Well, our show started at 8pm, so I felt like a big girl in the city that night!

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I love Broadway theaters! They look so historic…because they are.


The show was amazing! I feel like I missed out on so much because there was just so much amazing choreography on stage, I couldn’t capture it all with only two eyes! It was so different than the other two shows I’ve seen on Broadway, because there weren’t any sets really. The jazz orchestra was on stage and the choreography created all the eye candy we could handle, so there wasn’t any room for sets.

After the show, we walked over a couple of blocks to Ray’s Pizza at 11:30pm. I may or may not have been singing “Roxie Hart” the entire way there.

Ugh, I need to get Susan and Michele’s pics, so that there will be pictures of us doing things OTHER than eating!


The next morning, Susan had to catch the shuttle back to LaGuardia early in the morning, so we said our goodbyes at about 6am. Boo. It was so much fun to do NYC with her!!!

Michele and I lazed around the hotel room for a while, and then we headed to a diner for breakfast. We sat, chatted, drank coffee, and ate for a long time! It was a great setting. Next to us were old folks sitting in a booth by themselves, with their paper and breakfast. I’m sure it was routine for them and I loved it!

Then we headed towards Central Park, but stopped at the Plaza hotel for a quick bathroom break.


While we were there, we saw a store dedicated to “Eloise at the Plaza!” It made us miss our daughters because they would have loved it! There was a tea party room, a reading room, a closet, and a play room. It made me smile until I saw the $200 little girl dresses. That just makes me angry.

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Then Michele treated me to a romantic carriage ride around Central Park! It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, so I’m eternally thankful to her for the treat!

It was amazing and beautiful and everyone needs to ride a horse-drawn carriage around Central Park in the fall. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.

As we pulled out onto Central Park South, I realized why the last mile of my marathon was so tough! It’s two long blocks of incline! I’m sure my horse was annoyed with me when I just kept saying, “Look at this! It’s totally uphill! It’s really and totally uphill!”


When we turned into the park, Michele and I were just completely blown away by its beauty. Nothing makes a girl feel older than when she finds herself taking foliage pictures! But when you live where we live, you can’t get enough of the crisp, cool air and the beautiful fall colors!


See that orange flag? It says “Marathon Route,” which means that I was running on that very road two days prior! Wish I’d paid better attention instead of thinking about how tired my legs were!

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C’mon, seriously!? Little kids playing football in the fall in Central Park? How perfect!


This area is in all kinds of NY movies, and you can see why. It would be gorgeous in the flourishing spring, the sunny summer, the snowy winter and of course, the fall-y fall.


Really?! iPhone, you capture the gorgeous nicely. I can almost forget about the giant rat that I saw scamper across the leaves.



Michele loved seeing Yoko Ono’s house, the Dakota house, outside of which is where John Lennon was killed.


Meanwhile, I was still taking pics of the orange Marathon Route flags.

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Michele got herself a NY pretzel on our way back to Times Square. Throughout the weekend, we were quoted $1-$4 for a pretzel! There are no posted prices, so they just take a look at us, can give the price they think they can get out of us!


We happened upon The Late Show on our way back to the hotel. It looks like they were about to start filming.


My first NY celeb sighting! It’s about time. It’s Peg Bundy!


And since we were by the Late Show, we went around the corner to the Hello Deli. He was very nice to pose for a picture with us, even though we only bought a bottled water!


And that’s about it! I might do another post when I get Susan and Michele’s pics, because I know they took different ones than me. It was an unforgettable weekend with my girlfriends and I’m so thankful that we got to do it!

Two parting shots of my RETURN TO SWEETS.

The first is my first ice cream in 4 months. Chocolate Peanut Butter of course.


The second is a bakery box from Carlo’s, TV’s Cake Boss. My sister-in-law, Sarah, brought a box of to-die-for cannoli! They were spectacular.


I saw at Michaels that you can buy bakers twine. I almost bought some just because baker’s twine always means good things and brings a smile to my face.