Monday, June 28, 2004

The boys.

Over our trip, the boys were just a joy and oh so funny.

Nothing beats hearing an exchange that goes something like this.

Jonathon (in the elevator): Why daddy push buttons?

Dad: Because I'm special

Jonathon: I 'pecial!

OK, you had to be there.

Katherine received some mail today.

Katherine received an envelope "from" Daniel Radcliffe which included a photo of him and his fan club newsletter of what he's been up to. It seems that he's been learning to SCUBA for the underwater scenes in _Goblet_.

Katherine was thrilled and wants to bring it to school to prove that she wrote a letter to an actor.

Over our trip, Harry Potter was a frequent topic of discussion and we've figured out that she'll be old enough to become a student at Hogwarts for the 6th movie. We've told her that she could play the role of Draco's little sister, Draconia. Of course she'll need to include a photo of herself in her next letter.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

NZ or bust....

Oh wait, we're already here. We've made it through most of the North Island, and we're having a great though challenging time (in every sense of the word). Looking forward to a hot bath! Miss everyone, but wow... what a gorgeous country.

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Saturday and yet more parties, but Sunday was quiet.

While the girls were off to a birthday party for Rebecca's classmate Ryan (whose sister Tierney is in Katherine's class), we got ready to take the boys to a preschool classmates birthday party at Seafront. Was that confusing enough?

Steven Lee was turning 3, so we attended his party on Saturday. Jonathon wouldn't take a nap so I feared the worst but he hung in there for the moonbounce, balloon animals and bubble show. Either the balloons were weak or the grass extra prickly, but not an animal survived touching the ground, which made it really difficult when the balloon guy switched from animals to swords. Every time a kid swiped downward, *pop*. At least they kept busy though. The bubble show was new to me. An inflatable swimming pool filled with bubble solution, a fan and giant bubble wands was all it took for the show to be a hit and kids to be covered in slippery wetness. I have photos, I'll try to get some up.
For the adults there was a Mongolian barbeque which, besides the flies, was really excellent. For the clueless (like myself) it's bowls of rice vegetables and raw meats that you pile into your own bowl at the rate you choose, pour in some sauces (chili, teriyaki, soy, etc) then bring it to a giant wok where it's cooked up in three minutes or less. Yummy and to taste, can't beat that.
The boys had a great time and mom and I sat back and watched. There were quite a few adults present but the topics discussed weren't always appropriate for a child's birthday party, so we basically hung out together. Ian arrived later with the girls who had finally returned from the club party. Something like the Orchard Club? I didn't catch the name but it sounded like they had fun swimming and playing pool.
Jonathon was thoroughly exhausted by the end of it all and fell asleep on the way home. The rest of them were completely ready to hit the sack too. Come to think of it, we all were. Attending parties can be so tiring. Sympathy please.
Sunday I had every intention of getting everyone out the door at 7 a.m. to plant flags at the American Cemetery for Memorial Day. Jonathon, grandma and I were the only ones awake, everyone else slept and slept and I felt really bad that we didn't help out. Thinking back, the 3 of us should just have gone ourselves and done our patriotic duty.
The coming week would be the final week of school for the girls and that's always a busy time wrapping up and switching gears. So we had church and then a quiet afternoon, something we all desperately needed.

An Anniversary Night Out, 5/28/04

So, last Friday night, we hit the town. My mom had given us a night out and we took it and then some. Ian had made reservations at the Mandarin Oriental here in Makati City.

Earlier in the week part of Ian's tough job included a taste testing for our Embassy Fourth of July gala, and it was at the Mandarin. He had made reservations for a "superior room" with a spa package. At the taste testing one of his co-workers mentioned within ear shot of the sales manager that we would be staying a night to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary and wouldn't you know, when we checked in we were no longer in a superior room. Upgraded to a suite, we now had more room than 2 people would ever need.
But let's back up. First thing once we departed the house was a stop at Greenbelt cinemas. Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban was coming out and we wanted tickets for opening night. Lucky for us, we scored enough for the four in our family who would be attending and 10 of our closest friends. Well, ok, they were the 10 other people who said "Oh me me me!! Get me a ticket too!" and we obliged. Eight of those tickets were not children.
So the valet took our car away and we settled into our room for a bit. The silence. The space. The fruit bowl. The congratulatory wine bottle. The bidet. What luxury! It was almost dinner time, so we popped into the spa for bit to see what our options were (and yes, it was a real spa, nothing fishy going on. Just in case you were, you know, wondering). We had four different treatments available with out package. Ian opted for the Swedish massage, I chose the Thai massage that involved some oils and stretching.
But before that wonderful bit of excess, we needed to have dinner. The Mandarin Hotel is a great place in a nice part of town. But even nice parts of town have their slightly seedy side and in Makati, it's P. Burgos Street. On the other side of Makati Avenue is Jupiter Street which seemed to have a wide assortment of food options but we discovered they weren't quite what we were looking for. Jollibee, McDo, and KFC didn't fit the bill. The other ramshackle places didn't look quite as inviting as they did in the daytime and the one potential I'd passed numerous times, Gaudi's, no longer existed. We walked back to Makati Avenue and decided Pizza Hut wouldn't cut it and we didn't even want to see what Quick Stomach had to offer. We did find out that A&W has a drive-through. Woohoo! OK, so after a bit of wandering we passed by a possible Italian place, but then nixed it for the upstairs Hussein's Persian Kebab Restaurant (here's a Manila Times story that mentions it), and we were so glad we did. We were the only people there for most of the evening and couldn't understand why. Ian ordered mixed kebabs, I had shrimp in a spinach sauce and we shared a plate of rice with tomatoes in Persian essence (aka saffron). We ate, we talked, we stared at the blinking lights across the street on P. Burgos street. Ian admitted that perhaps he didn't hate spinach as much as he thought he did. After 8 years of me forcing it in him in spinach lasagna, in salads and restaurant foods like this, he's come to realize that spinach plopped out of a can isn't the end-all of the vegetable. I rather like spinach out of can, but that's me.
It is, of course, nice to have dinner with Ian and be able to talk. Friday's conversation centered largely around the imminent return of the Ambassador to post. For the past 6 months he has been in Washington working on the Iraq project, but now he's headed "home" to retake the helm of Embassy Manila. His return is being viewed both with relief and with fear. Ian's staff aide job ends practically the minute the Ambassador returns (his 6 months are up) so we won't be quite so stuck.
We decided against dessert, both because we were stuffed and because we didn't want to ruin a good thing. It was time to go and see what the night had to offer. We strode down Burgos and quickly discovered that I was putting a damper on the possibilities. A single white guy would attract attention. A white guy with a Filipina would attract attention. A white guy with a white girl and we were left completely alone. Trust me, I'm not complaining.
The street was littered with little clubs and bars. The first one we checked out was "Tickles" and it was as silly as the name. I didn't have any expectations and it met them all. Honestly, it was very dark and very small. Three bar stool tables and four booths, most of them empty but for the extra dancers/bargirls. The dancers were in silky gold short shorts with matching short shirts. With no exception they all looked a bit sad and very bored. Since I was viewing our evening as a sort of sociology study, I was people watching. With boring dancers that left the rest of the club to examine. Not much to see in the dark but the tin foiled ceiling, the overweight guy at the bar manhandling a couple of bargirls, another guy in the corner booth with a couple of girls and the new arrival guy who danced badly for a bit surrounded by potential dates. The most interesting part besides the Bailey's coffee I drank was the TV behind the stage crew with some form of WWF playing. Ian and I spend more time trying to figure out the storyline than anything else. We left.
A little further up and we stopped at Jools. It's a cabaret club, but showing our age we decided that waiting around in other clubs until 10 p.m. wasn't in the cards. What to do, what to do. We turned around and chose Bottoms instead. It's actually a pretty well known club, bigger with the outfits more risque', but the girls seemed to be enjoying themselves quite a bit more. I'd asked for another Bailey's coffee while Ian had another beer, but I received Bailey's on ice instead which my stomach did not appreciate. I drink any form of alcohol about 4 times a year, so twice in one night was pushing my limit. At least we were walking back.
I was, of course, the only white woman present. Every male who entered was Caucasian and every woman was a Filipina. It was a giggling mass of skimpily clad girls while the managing "mother" tutted around giving random men backrubs to encourage them to drink more and get comfy. All in all, the feel in the clubs was plain old icky. It was interesting to sit back and watch for a bit but Ian and I were both ready to leave in a short time.
Our sweet suite awaited us, but with a spa that was open until midnight with in-room massage service (yes, you read that right) available 24 hours, we couldn't sit around. Our room was nice, but the spa was nicer. Since it was about 10:30 we asked if there were schedule openings knowing fairly well that the place was empty. We sat down, took off our shoes, had some tea then quietly made our way upstairs to a double room where we prepared then rang a set of finger cymbals. It was everything you could imagine... dim lights, music, candles, scented oils, hot towels and 2 great ladies to work out all our tensions. For a solid hour we were pampered and what a wonderful feeling it was. Pulling ourselves together to get back to the room was an effort, but they made it easier by serving some hot tea and letting us lounge for a bit by a small waterfall. Neither of us wanted to move. With a groan we reclaimed our shoes and slowly made our way down the hall.
The next morning I had planned on attending a yoga class at 7 a.m. The time was wrong on the alarm clock, the alarm rang at 5:30 instead of 6:30 and wasn't reset, I dozed off and before I knew it my watch read 7:15. There went the yoga class. But the quiet, the peace. Ah.
Eventually we rose and had some International Breakfast in the Paseo Uno restaurant downstairs. Ian was the brave one, trying out a mangosteen. The outside skin is thick, brown and slightly rough. the fleshy part looks like a clove of garlic, there's a large seed in the middle and it tasted similar to a pomegranate. I think. It was very good, but seemed like a mix of several fruits so I couldn't pinpoint an exact flavor.
Reading the paper over breakfast a novelty. Having waitstaff hovering nearby picking up every used sugar packet practically before it hit the table was annoying.
Our time at the hotel was nearing its end but there was still time for a few more things. Ian headed home to pick up the girls and drop them off at a friends house for an out-of-town party and while he was gone I had a *drum roll* bath. I miss baths so much, I really hope our next place has a tub of any sort. We also had some time to check out the hotel shops and pick up a couple treats to bring home for the kids.
After such an amazing time, both fun and rejuvinating, we came home feeling great. We're going to try to get some time together like that more than once every 8 years, I think it'll be good for us. Not just physically and emotionally, but mentally too. We get to use a part of the brain that is normally on autopilot during our daily life. And we get to figure out new and exciting things we wouldn't necessarily want the kids to see or mess around with.
Like how to use a bidet *wink*