Monday, March 27, 2017

The Weather Made Me Do It!

It's already freakin' summer here, but first everybody had to go and get sick first. The shift in temperature can really mess with the body. Don't ever tell me again that discussing the weather is banal. The thing obviously rules our lives.

Ever since I finished high school, I couldn't care less about summer. The only good thing about it had been that we didn't have to go to school. Living in the tropics, I can't get excited about warm, well, even warmer weather. I just can't. It honestly fills me with dread, especially now that I'm an adult who has to worry about the spike in our electricity bill with the air conditioning running practically the whole day. 

With that no-school perk gone (we're unschoolers), I couldn't find any other redeeming quality. Except maybe it does give me an excuse to binge on ice cream, snow cones, paletas (popsicles), and halo-halo.

Last Saturday, the freezer was stocked with ice cream.

There was marshmallow fluff, leftover from the marshmallow bars I'd made earlier that day.

There were syrup and sprinkles as well, so out came the sundae glasses (a present from my sister Chipi) and we commiserated the miserable (to us - we thrive better in muuuuch cooler temperatures) weather by putting together the most decadent sweet-cold concoction we could from what we had on hand.

If I gain weight and diabetes, the weather is to blame, right? Right? No? Oh well.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Ditsy Tale of a Non-Rescue

*Warning: pictures of lifeless pre-peep.

We missed church yesterday (it was Monday when I started this blog post) because this family's health is still a mess, but we're getting better, don't you worry. It's mainly our bodies adjusting to the shift in weather and the approaching summer.

Anyway, as I set out to water the plants yesterday, I immediately noticed something resting on one of the mulberry's leaves. I thought it looked like chewed up food that somebody flicked off. As I came closer, I could tell that it was a bird and surmised that it was perhaps part of a balut's chick (a balut is a boiled fertlized egg, a common street food in our parts).

Upon closer inspection, however, it became clear to me that it was a partially hatched peep (pre-peep?) with some of its egg shell still on it.

The image clutched at my heart and squeezed. The poor thing. I supposed that there was a nest somewhere overhead because that would have been the second time an egg had landed in that area to my knowledge. The first time, the egg was really young (I don't know how to term it) and the yolk and white splattered on our windshield when it fell.

This one, though. The peep was pretty well-formed, and it looked so peaceful nestled on that mulberry leaf, so the mother in me kicked in. In my mind, that was a baby and I had to do something. I observed that the ants hadn't gotten to it yet so I deduced that it hadn't been there long yet.

This is where I let pure science dictate my actions.

Even though the thing wasn't breathing and I was mostly ignorant when it came to birds and their birthing/hatching system, I decided to go ahead and try to revive it. I placed the peep in a nest I'd made using a plastic bowl and shredded paper towel. I then found a goose neck lamp and tried to warm it up. Belatedly, I realized that the bulb was no good because it was LED.

What to do, what to do? I had to get it warm.

I was in the kitchen, so my eyes lit on the microwave, the oven toaster, the stove top, the actual oven... Don't worry. I didn't stupidly end up roasting the peep I was futilely trying to save. Obviously, those weren't viable tools in this undertaking. I did find something that I could use though. It wasn't the best option, but it was the only one I could come up with at the time - a candle.

So this is where I got really scientific.

I had several candles, all of them scented. The choices were vanilla, apple pie, cinnamon, peppermint, and apple. I decided to go with cinnamon because it would present the best suggestion of that Ikea bowl-paper towel nest being on a tree, considering that cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree. Also, that particular candle was brown, so... Like I said, these were decisions borne of scientific data, hard logic, valid reasoning, etc. 

I know I was being an idiot. When my husband came down, he took in the candle and the lifeless peep and asked me if I was holding a wake. It's just another one of the long list of things I do that he thinks are pointless.
I knew right off that it was an exercise in vain. It did feel foolish (and felt even more so after I read that mother birds sometimes push eggs off the nest themselves), but, hey, that had never stopped me in the past. I had to do it. It's kind of like when I'm at the store and an item falls to the floor. Others walk past it and I tell myself that a clerk will take care of it, but, noooo, I can't bring myself to not pick it up and place it back or put it somewhere safe.

What would you have done? Let nature take its course? Buried the poor thing? If you would have gone through the same trouble as I did, then I hope we're friends because we can have fun doing a lot of impractical things together. :)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

No Rest for the Weary

We're a miserable bunch here. My eldest has been nursing a cold since Sunday. My second seems to be starting his own bout. My youngest is fine except for what I suspect to be corneal abrasion, so we have to bring him to an eye doctor. I've also heard some coughing from my husband.

And then there's me.

Every month, Aunt Flo comes for a visit and my immune system seriously plummets. I mean, it. Plum. Mets. It takes a plunge into depths unknown and leaves me suffering with all sorts of inconvenient maladies. There's almost always a cold or an allergy attack, both of which may lead to asthma if I don't get any rest always lead to an asthmatic episode. Of course, there's also some sort of body ache, usually a back thing, but it's often compounded with some leg or arm issue. And then there's the migraine, which is a real treat to have if you're also wracked with cough. Every tickle in your throat fills you with dread because you know to cough is to take an axe to your skull and split it open - or it feels that way, anyway.

That's not even getting into the abdominal cramps and the depression.

Now, it's my own fault because I refuse to take drugs as much as I can help it. I pickle myself in vitamin and mineral supplements and just hope for the best. They'd have sufficed too if I could just reinforce them with some rest. There's the rub. There's no rest for the mother of young children,

And so the ailments persist with the invasion until my immune system finally staggers its way up, swinging for all its worth, It usually manages to knock away the migraine and the pains, but the cold/allergy/asthma has the tendency to linger and fester.

This is my roundabout way of telling you why I'm out of commission for one week every month.

I'm in the middle of such a week.

Funny anecdote: Earlier this week, I told my husband, "Aunt Flo is here!" Marguerite was there and happily exclaimed, "Really?" That reaction didn't make sense until I realized that she thought my real aunt whose name is Flor is here for a visit.

My head is beginning to pound and my right eyeball is throbbing, so bye.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Birding in Intramuros

We joined the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines' free guided birdwatching in Intramuros the other day. We were to scout for birds at Plaza Mexico along the Pasig River, and as we approached the area, we already spotted flocks of white birds swooping up and down the water and resting on the power lines.

whiskered terns at flight
We left the car at the Maestranza parking lot and headed to the Bureau of Immigration building to meet with the other participants. It so happened, however, that that was also where legions of fire departments gathered as a starting point for their Fire Prevention Month motorcade.

As we approached the building, the motorcade began with the fire engines' sirens going off at full blast. It was pretty thrilling, but that wasn't the kind of thing that my kids found impressive, so we continued our walk to the quay where the birders had already congregated.

I was so relieved to note that the water didn't smell foul at all. I was afraid there would be a rank odor and we'd have to leave because of the kids, but it was all good. The weather wasn't too warm either, probably because it was later in the afternoon. 

All in all, it was a great trip. We saw a whole bunch of whiskered terns, a couple of little egrets, a black-headed seagull, a glossy starling, a java sparrow, a yellow-vented bulbul, a zebra dove, a brown shrike, a common kingfisher, and a pied fantail. Of course, my back will never be the same again from carrying the baby the entire time, but what else is new?

whiskered terns on power line egret brown shrike java sparrow

I also decided to become a member. I've been meaning to do it forever, but I kept on waiting for a good time. The first time we joined a guided birding trip, it was back in 2010 and Marguerite was only three, so I thought I'd wait until she was a little older, so it would be easier to take her along or leave her with a sitter. The second time, it was 2013 and Cameron had just turned two. Again, I deferred joining until he was a bit older. The third time was last Sunday and Sawyer is all of two. I got tired of my own delaying tactics, and finally made the commitment.

I expect to go birding more often this year and I'm excited. The benefits are awesome.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

View Bingeing in Antipolo

I love nature - love, love, love it. But. I don't seem to be cut out for it. It usually triggers violent sneezing fits or the onset of hives. And then there are the bugs. They love me. They ignore the rest and flock to me. That is, unless my kids are around too. They seem to have the same tasty blood, so they luckily inherited my appeal to the bloodsuckers.

My husband and I like to take the kids for long car rides. We usually park somewhere with a nice view and eat our lunch in the car. This means that the car enjoys more than its fair share of spills and crumbs. It can get pretty disgusting. Fortunately, my husband is a car nut and is manic about maintaining our vehicles.

Recently, while we were parked along Marcos Highway, somewhere between Cogeo and Paenaan (I don't know what that spot is called, but people often stop there to take in the very green vista of the valley below and the mountains across), I suddenly felt a bite or a sting, first on my neck, and then another a bit later on the cheek. We had the windows down so we could enjoy the nice, cool breeze. I didn't see a mosquito, not even a fly. Basically, some noseeum got me. Funnily enough, there was actually a Midge in the car; she's just the human, visible kind. ;D

The good thing about those bites though is that they didn't bother me for long and they didn't leave any lasting welts. They were red while I could feel them, but the color and bump subsided when they stopped being uncomfortable.

After lunch, we took a turn and went up Sumulong Highway. We checked out some properties for sale in a couple of subdivisions up there. We spotted lots of pretty birds, black-naped orioles and many I can't recognize yet.

It's frustrating not to be able to identify the birds. I plan to remedy that and be more knowledgeable about birding. I've been saying that for the past twenty years, but it's not that hopeless. I got a little better. After two decades.

My husband also went a little crazy with all the dill out there. I don't know why he loves the plant so much. It's not like he uses dill a lot. I'll have to ask him because it's obviously a real mystery. I may never rest until I get answers.

It was a good excursion. I've found that I'm willing to suffer through bites, hives, and sneezing fits to get my kids to see nature. The rewards are definitely worth the discomfort. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Birds Menacing My Herb Garden

I love birds, I do, but not enough to just let them devour my herbs. I discovered the other day that the two rosemary cuttings I had just started cultivating were missing. The rooted rosemary plants were fine. The cuttings, I suppose, were easily plucked out from the soil.

And then I noticed our new dill plant starting to bald - is that the right term? - but the leaves were definitely much fewer, and then yesterday, a stalk was actually broken.

I'm going to roast the culprits if I ever catch them!

Relax - that's just an empty threat. I don't have it in me to hurt a bird.

Those birds are also the reason why we don't bother with sunflowers anymore. They finish up a bloom in just a couple of day, the little gluttons!

Before they make off with every herb in my garden, I need to take steps to thwart those sneaky thieves. Some of the recommendations I've found are:

  • Making a tunnel of bird netting.
  • Using cut soda plastic bottles.
  • Putting up a scarecrow.
  • Hanging or sticking shiny ornaments (CDs, mylar, etc.)
  • Hanging wind chimes.
  • Getting a cat.

I'll probably do the soda bottle and the wind chimes. It might also be fun to put a little scarecrow out there. I'll let you know soon how effective they are.

Do you think they'll leave the plants alone if I install a bird feeder? In any case, if you have any tips for stopping birds from eating up the garden, please comment below.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Getting Acquainted with the Animals at the Avilon Zoo

I grew up in the city/suburbs, so I tend to get too excited by nature. This means, I flip out when I see birds other than sparrows and pigeons, trees bearing fruits, animals that aren't dogs or cats, mushrooms on the ground, fish in a natural body of water... You get the idea.

Now, I've been wanting to take the kids to the zoo. The last time we went was on my eldest child's second birthday, and it was a small, mini mall-kind of zoo. I don't even know what I mean, but it was more of a building with exhibits. Anyway, you can read about that experience here.

That was eight years and two more kids ago. We'd actually gone to a place called Paradizoo in Tagaytay a few months later, but that mostly had farm animals, plus some camels and llamas. Our family was ripe for another trip to the zoo, so my husband and I decided that we should do it as part of our youngest child's second birthday celebration.

We were really stumped for a long time as to what we would do because Sawyer's very suspicious of new places and gets overwhelmed by crowds. However, when we were driving around the neighborhood one time, we came across a neighbor's chicken and turkey run. S was so delighted to see the birds, so my husband and I agreed that a trip to the zoo made sense.

We chose Avilon Zoo in Montalban (honestly, who calls it Rodriguez?). It was the nearest, we believed. The other choices were Manila Zoo and Malabon Zoo, and they were just too far. (We might give them a whirl later this year, and then I'll do a comparative post on my other blog.)

As far as Avilon Zoo is concerned, however, I liked it just fine. We went on a Saturday afternoon, so there weren't many people. I imagine there would usually be school children on field trips during the week.

I wish we'd started out earlier because it probably takes an entire day to properly enjoy the place. We explored as much as we could, but it felt a little rushed.

I thought it was just a small zoo, but there were really a lot to see. There were many different kinds of lizards, birds, rodents, big cats, farm animals, apes, crocodiles, etc.

You can't help but feel sad that the animals aren't free in the wild, but you can also appreciate that you probably will never get the chance to see many of them in their natural habitat, especially if it would entail going on an African safari.

The conditions weren't quite up to the standards of world-class zoos, but you can tell that management is doing what it can to keep the animals healthy, clean, and comfortable. There are many areas for improvement, of course, but I don't want to focus on them.

I think most of the zoo is wheelchair/stroller-ready, except maybe for the area where the crocodiles are. You should definitely wear comfortable shoes as there would be a lot of walking, some of it, uphill.

I wouldn't mind going back. The kids had a lot of fun, although the boys were a little freaked out in the beginning. Marguerite's favorite was the bunnies (there was a petting area where you could touch, but not hold, bunnies and guinea pigs); Cameron's, the ducks, geese, and swans roaming around, plus the giraffes; and Sawyer's - well, he was happy to see everything, but I think he was most interested in the farm animals (Old McDonald, you know).

You can find out more information on the zoo's exhibits and other features, as well as its rates, here.

Mama Pig and Her Litter (Avilon Zoo) Tortoise (Avilon Zoo)
Pelicans (Avilon Zoo) Zuzu the Hippo (Avilon Zoo)  Leopard? (Avilon Zoo) Lion (Avilon Zoo)  Some Kind of Crocodile (Avilon Zoo) 

This is my favorite, lol. Can you spot the squirrel? Some of the animals, like I said, were loose and free to roam around.
Squirrel on the Loose (Avilon Zoo)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

When Your Husband Gets You

...he'll know what to get you, lol.

I love my Valentine presents. You really hit the mother lode if your husband knows the right gifts to get you. My husband knew that I'd prefer the following to flowers and chocolates.

Mulberry Plant

Mulberry Seedling

Strawberry Plant

Strawberry Plant

(This is really his. The man is obsessed with the herb for some reason.)


A new saucepan


We made out pretty well for people who don't celebrate Valentine's Day. :D

Monday, February 13, 2017

Our Kombi's Brush with Fame

There has been some buzz lately about Jollibee's ads. Some were turned off by the overt sentimentality, while others thought the ads nailed it. I don't have a TV anymore so I had no idea what everybody was talking about until my husband posted something on Facebook about McDonald's winning the ad wars without any effort. I commented that I didn't get it, so he had to explain about some people noticing that Jollibee's "The Vow" ad is strongly reminiscent of an ad McDonald's showed back in 2009. It was most likely coincidental, but because people are curious, the old McD's ad is getting a lot of attention too.

I'm the type to prefer funny commercials to mushy ones, although I've been known to cry over some really touching ads. Of course, the things have to be masterfully done to move me or I'll just end up finding them annoying, but mainly, I don't really care about any other ads besides this.

Jollibee used our VW Kombi for their Framily Road Trip ad. We were so stoked the first time we saw it as a "Skip Ad" (that's what my daughter calls it) on YouTube. Naturally, we didn't skip it. :D It's so exciting to have a commercial model in the family, lol.

Our VW Kombi in a Jollibee Ad

And the ad barkada had the right idea. We intend to take the Kombi for a road trip soon. My husband and I have been talking about doing a lighthouse tour for a decade now, so maybe we'll finally do that. Maybe on our way to visit my sister-in-law who lives in Isabela. Maybe we'll take it all the way to Ilocos. Maybe. :) I wish there was a ferry to bring us all the way to Batanes. Does the RoRo include that route? I guess I'll have to do more research and planning so we can finally do that road trip. Gotta hustle. Summer's almost here. Good thing the Kombi's airconditioned.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Non-coffee Drinker's Ramblings on Muji's Maple Marron Latte

muji maple marron latte

My sister Chipi recently came back from a trip to Hong Kong, and one of the things she got me was a pouch of maple marron latte from Muji. There are Muji branches here, but the girl loves the store, so that fact isn't going to stop her from doing some Muji shopping in Hong Kong.

The present actually made me wonder when I saw it. My sister knows I don't drink coffee. I don't even like mocha-flavored desserts because of the bit of coffee taste in them. The irony though is that I love the smell of coffee. I think it's one of the coziest aromas in the world. I hardly think though that Chipi would have bought me real coffee just to sniff.

This shows just how ignorant I am of designer coffee culture. Basically, I know there's plain black coffee to which you can add creamer, sugar, or milk. I know cappuccino has foam... I think that's about it. I don't understand Starbucks talk. I can't tell a macchiato from a frappuccino. Obviously, I don't know what a latte is either.

Now, the maple marron latte sounded very promising as coffee drinks went. I liked maple. I liked marron (chestnut). I only had misgivings when it came to the latte part. Since Chipi had given it to me, and I trust her taste and judgment when it comes to food and fashion, I gave it a try. 

Apparently, latte is coffee that's practically diluted to non-existence with milk. Or that's how it seemed to me because I loved it. The flavor was sweet and nutty, a combination I usually like. I don't think I could even detect any coffee flavor in it, but then again, I don't have the most discerning taste buds. My tongue doesn't do subtle. Flavors have to be in my face for me to register them.

So, thanks, Chipi for introducing me to the treat that is instant gourmet? dessert? coffee. I don't know what to call it. It went especially well with the sweet crêpes we had on Crêpe Day. I won't specify what kind they were because I know you just love one of the ingredients. *Shush, my sister hates bananas.*

Now, I'm not likely to buy any myself because I'm cheap, but feel free, anybody, to gift me with some more of this maple marron goodness. You can rest assured that I'll enjoy it.