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Starting solids

18 Sep

We started Z on solids when she was 6 months. We didn’t give her rice cereal nor put soup in her bottle (that was the first time I’ve heard about that – wala nyan sa pilipinas I guess). Her first solid food was pureed carrots and she surprisingly loved it. She didn’t gag or spit everything out. She actually opened her mouth and gobbled up the puree. I guess that’s the advantage of waiting until 6 months – the digestive system is more mature and they have outgrown the tongue thrust reflex so it’s easier to spoon feed.

We started giving her pureed vegetables for lunch. One kind for 2-3 days just to make sure she has no allergies plus her usual bottle of milk. She first had carrots, then green beans, sweet potato, green peas, broccoli. Then we started mixing the veggies up. After two weeks, we started giving her fruit puree at 4pm plus milk. Then we started giving her yogurt instead of milk for her 4pm snack. When she was 7 months and a half, she started eating meat. Now that she’s 9 months, she’s eating pureed veggies for dinner plus milk.

I was really excited when she started solids because it really felt like she was growing up and was able to share the wonders and flavors of real food with us. I’d make a batch of puree for her and freeze some of it for the next feeding. When we were traveling over the summer we had to resort to ready make bottled purees. It wasn’t that bad. When I can’t find organic ones, I’d choose the ones with no salt (Nestle’s Naturnes line was our favorite). Although we encountered a snag when we were in Italy. It was very hard to find vegetable puree in the supermarket. All they had were meat. And really grown up meat for that matter.

Baby food in Italia. Uhhhmmm, no thanks, will stick to parmesan and veggies for now. Bukas nalang yung rabbit.

rabbit, ostrich, horse – we’ll stick to parmesan and veggies for now, thank you very much

So it was a relief when the holidays were over. We were able to slide back into our old routine and give Z fresh home made food. It’s not that hard, really. I just puree the same vegetables that I make for our dinner et voila. It’s just a pain now that she’s getting picky with what she eats. But we just try the same food again another day until she decides it’s actually not bad.

The next thing we’ll know, she’ll be eating bowls of pasta and pots of creme a la vanille  with her dad in no time.

Or rice and tuyo or adobo or sinigang.

We made it. Bom Dia Brazil.

24 Mar

We made it. After a 16 hour plane ride and a 2 hour bus ride, I was finally able to lie down in bed and appreciate the start of this trip. It was mostly uneventful.

The most exciting thing that happened was the bus ride into town. We don’t speak Portuguese so asking where the bus stop is was already an adventure. We had to wait for 30 mins and when it arrived, it was already 3/4 full. The dispatcher told us there was only 1 seat left so we need to wait for the next one. I argued (in a nice way) that we were actually there first but just didn’t know that we had to fall in line. After a few cute smiles and making paawa, even asking if Greg can sit on the floor, he finally allowed us to board but warned us that we would be standing. ‘Sus, yun lang pala, so go na! Instead of standing on the curb waiting for the next bus to arrive.

Rio bus drivers are Crazy, with a capital C. Good thing we are used to roughing it so we sort of knew how to “balance”.

Also, once we were in the city, the traffic was bad. Like Manila bad. It took us 2 hours to reach Ipanema from the airport when it wouls have only taken 45 minutes with a cab. Well, you get what you paid for. It also didn’t help that like in the Philippines, one can ask the driver to stop anytime, anywhere. And like in the Philippines, people would ask to get off every 5 meters or so. Nakakaloka siya.

Then there was the mad dash between the bus stop and the hotel. Okay, it was just 1 block from the beach, but this is Rio. Everyone has warned us about Rio. A friend’s friend was threatened with a machete just for a necklace. Enough said.

But here I am, in bed, blogging. We arrived safe and sound. Thank you!

So now my head is spinning. I guess it’s a sign that I need to sleep now. We have a long and early day tomorrow. We need to get out tickets for Ouro Preto. Then we might do the Sugar Loaf and of course the beaches.

I hope tomorrow will be another safe and fun-filled day.

Good night Brasil!

BRRRRRRRaaazzziiiilllllll

21 Mar

So I’m 5 months late in posting my Japan entries. I stopped at Kyoto – the same date I stopped writing on my Japan travel diary/notebook. What a koinkidink.

I haven’t finished sorting photos from our weekend in Lille and the Dunkerque festival (where the men dressed up as girls!! Yes, I’m looking at you, my hoosband!).

Then there was the weekend in Venice where the hoosband was sick. Le pauvre! But he had his pasta and sun dried tomatoes so at least all that walking while coughing/snorting wasn’t for nothing.

And now I’m going to add to my backlog.

Tomorrow’s my last day before a very short 2 week break in Brazil. We’ll just be going around Rio and the Minas Gerias or something region. It’s going to be our first time in South America so wish us luck. We won’t be bringing our big guns (read: DSLRs), no jewelry, no big logos/brands on clothes. Just plain shorts and tank top will do.

The weight of my pack for summer in Brazil is only half of it’s weight for Japan in autumn. No boots this time. I’m only bringing a pair of Havaianas and Bensimon sneakers. That’s it. I’ll probably shop more there. I can’t believe they sell Havaianas at the supermarket over there. But to see is to believe.

So I’m half excited and half scared. I don’t want to end up in some random favela and get mugged senseless.

So if any of you have tips, I’d appreciate it. We’re only staying in Rio for 3 nights by the way. The scared me won over the beachbum me. Besides there are better beaches elsewhere – like Paraty or Ilha Grande.

We’ll see.

Wish us luck and see you in a few weeks!!!

Kyoto: Nishiki market, Pontocho and the “Seine”

24 Feb

The first half of our first full day in Kyoto was spent booking bus tickets for Takayama. We walked from our machiya to the shopping street.

Wow, we spent like 1 hour waiting for the travel agencies to open and another 1.5 hours checking from agency to agency if they sell tickets for the bus we wanted. We ended up getting more expensive bus tickets because that was all they carried. Well, only 1 agency sold bus tickets and for just 1 bus line.  But all that waiting and walking around allowed us to explore the shopping streets of Kyoto. First stop, the Nishiki market.

It’s mostly food and things related to food like designer chopsticks and bento boxes. There are all sorts of pickles, fish (really cheap unagi), candies, pastries, 4000 yen melons. Think of something you’d want to eat in Japan and you’ll probably find it here. We weren’t able to take a lot of photos because we were too busy drooling over the food.

What surprised me is the small temple at the end of the street. It reminded me of going to mass in the middle of the mall in the Philippines. So is that an Asian thing?

Just another block or so from the end of Nishiki market is Pontocho.

The traditional district (more like street) for nightlife (read: geishas and tea houses). It was a nice street because of the cobble stones and of course its history. But nothing much to see here except for geishas going about their work and a lot of restaurants. There’s a kabuki theater here too.

Then we got some drinks for one of the numerous vending machines on the street and settled on the banks of  “the Seine” to people watch. We don’t know what the name of the river was so we just referred to it as  “the Seine”. Looked like other locals had the same idea as we did. We saw a lot of people with their bento boxes enjoying the sun and the river and just chilling out.

It was such a nice, relaxing morning in Kyoto. I still don’t know what the name of the river is but I love it to bits. We felt like tourists but also strangely at home. We felt like we’ve seen a lot but it was only the first part of the day.

If you’re planning on visiting Kyoto and have time in your hands, I definitely recommend this walk.

Uronza in Kyoto. A kyo-machiya.

16 Jan

One of the challenges when traveling to Japan is looking for good but not too expensive hotels. The choices on the Lonely Planet were so-so (and a bit expensive) so I had to google for Kyoto guesthouses. Guesthouses are usually old Japanese houses that they have converted to some sort of bed and breakfast minus the breakfast. Or  you can also say it’s a more adult version of a hostel.

I stumbled upon Uronza’s website one day and decided there and then that this is were we are going to stay in Kyoto. We were going to spend our nights in a Kyo-machiya.

From Uronza’s website:

A Kyo-machiya is a traditional Kyoto-style house in which ordinary Kyoto people live. It has several typical elements such as Koshido (a wooden lattice), and Mushikomado (a windows in the shape of an insect cage). The characteristic layout of such houses, long and narrow, is called unagi no nedoko (eel’s bed). All machiyas were built with traditional construction methods.

Entering a Kyo-machiya, most people feel a sort of nostalgia, the feeling we usually have about the dear old home. Your eye will be caught by the Doma, a long interior passage connecting the street and the inner part of the house. And, after walking one more pace, you will step into the Hibukuro (it’s more than seven meters…about 25ft. high.), a stairwell conveying an inexpressible feeling of openness.

The walls are made of real wood and earth, not plywood or mortar. Partitions such as sliding doors, called shoji and fusuma in Japanese, and folding screens (byobu) create flexible, multi-purpose spaces.

It doesn’t matter if you visit a Kyo-machiya for the first time or have visited many times before, it has always the atmosphere that will make you feel hokkori (a word, used in the Kyoto area, meaning ‘to rest’, ‘to relax’, ‘warm’).

That’s the small garden in the middle of the kyo-machiya.

The set-up is just like a house. So the facilities are shared. But we don’t mind. The place was super clean. They close between noon and 4pm to clean up the place. The toilets are awesome.

The seat is heated, there’s a remote, there’s a toilet seat cleaner and the sink is on top of the toilet’s water reservoir. Very green thinking. You flush using “used” water. Great water saving technique.

This is our first room. It’s at the back of the house just after crossing the garden. We were a bit apprehensive about making our own futons. But the owner showed us how to do it and it was easy peasy.

Taadaa…

There’s no breakfast but there is free tea and coffee. There’s also free internet. The owners also do a tea ceremony every Wednesday night in the living room.

After 2 nights in Uronza, we spent a few days in the Hida region. Then we went back to Kyoto and stayed here again. But this time we were in  a different room. It was bigger and was on the main part of the house, just on top of the living area.

We were just across from our old room. Does the circle window look familiar?

The decorations in the room were sparse but impressive. Not bad for only 2500 Yen per person per night. I read somewhere that you shouldn’t put your bags in these alcoves because they serve as decoration pieces. So our bags were strewn all over the place.

The place is a bit far from Gion and the Kyoto station but it’s just a few blocks away from the Nijo-jo and the shopping streets. So from the station you might want to take a bus to the hotel but once you’re there you can just walk around Kyoto and drink in the sights.

I would highly recommend this place for those planning to visit Kyoto. Especially if you are on a budget.

More info on the prices and on how to get there at the Uronza website.

Renewing my passport and a bit of rant

6 Jan

I haven’t finished blogging about our Japan trip yet and we’re already booked for our next holiday. My husband procrastinates like hell for doing chores but when he sees a promo he grabs it like the last pack of pasta in the supermarket. That’s how he rolls.

In the middle of looking at cities we can visit, he turns to me and says “When does your passport expire?” And I calmly reply that it’s not expiring until October.

Then he tells me to count the months from the last day of our planned trip.
We leave April 8 and my passport expires October 1. I lack 7 days for my current passport to be valid. Gros panic.

I immediately check out the Philippine Embassy’s website and download the application form. According to them these are what I’ll need:

    – Personal appearance for the EPassport’s photo and biometrics
    – Original + photocopy of my passport and pages 1, 2, 3, the page where the Schengen visa is, and the last page
    – Original + photocopy of the residence card
    – Original + photocopy of marriage certificate from the NSO and certified by the DFA (red ribbon)

Good that they don’t need you to bring passport sized photos anymore. That’s one good thing with the EPassport.

Another good thing about renewing it here is that there are no lines. I arrived at the embassy at 9:30 am and I only had to wait for like 5 mins. Record breaking dealing time with the DFA.

The bad thing though is the price. I can’t believe how expensive it is to get a passport here. It was 86 freaking €s! That’s like 4400 pesosesoses.

Also, the embassy person didn’t even check my documents. My gosh, I stressed out for nothing for that authenticated marriage certificate. I thought that those documents only had a limited validity time, like 6 months at the most. So I asked my mom to order from the NSO, get it to the DFA and send it to me. Then one of my mom’s friends told me that I can use the old one. I emailed the embassy and they confirmed that I do need an authenticated marriage certificate but that once I have one like that, the issuance date is irrelevant. So in short, what I already have will be valid forever.

And when I got there to apply, they didn’t even take a look at the marriage certificate nor take the photocopies. They didn’t even take the copies of the residence card. Hello! Then why were they asking for them in the first place? Added stress for nothing. He could have at least pretended to look.

Then when I was paying for the passport, the first thing the cashier tells me is that I should have the exact amount because I was the first payer of the day and that she didn’t have change. Okay ka lang? Parang nasa Pilipinas ka lang no? Baka gusto mong suklian ako ng candy?

Good thing I was in a good mood that morning and I let it go. I told her that I’ll get my change when I come back to claim my passport.

So that was my experience in renewing my passport. Easy but exasperating at the same time. But it had to be done or else I will miss our first major holiday of the year and that will suck more than having to deal with the embassy people.

What about you? Is it time for you to renew?

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Touch down and Arashiyama

7 Dec

*Warning: Photo-heavy post.

“I can’t believe we’re really here” was my first thought when we arrived at the Kansai International Airport (KIX). I was half expecting manga characters coming to greet us Youkoso! right off the plane.

But no, it was like a normal airport. Immigration was a breeze, no nasty questions. They took our photo, prints, stuck a barcode to our passports and we were free to explore the land of the rising sun. Sweet!

So off we went to get our JR day pass.

First stop Kyoto. First challenge finding which platform to go to. We reached the right platform just when the train was pulling away. What a way to start the day. We had to wait for an hour for the next train – which made us late for our check in time (our Machiya closes between noon and 4pm for cleaning). So we had to leave our bags at the train station and go straight to Arashiyama. It was the perfect timing for our first day in Japan.

Arashiyama is a small town west of Kyoto. It was like a half an hour (or less, not sure) train ride from the city center. Most people go there to see the bamboo forest. It was a very nice introduction to Japanese ‘culture’ and I’m glad we started our trip with this.

Of course we too went there to see the bamboo forest. Parang Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon lang ang drama.

“Toto, we’re not in Paris anymore!”

A downside of Arashiyama being beautiful is that it’s packed with tourists. When we were there, there were at least 3 groups of students on a field trip and more Japanese (adult) tour groups.

Aside from the bamboo forest, the town itself is super kawaii. There are tons of shops along the street but it still keeps it “old school” vibe.

we called this the ninja tuktuk

japanese school kids

We thoroughly enjoyed our walk around Arashiyama. There are other things to see there aside from the forest. Temples, parks, shops. If we didn’t just come from a long-haul flight we might have stayed longer and checked out the monkey park, the temples and maybe even the boat ride along the Hozu river. But we were sooo tired and we saw what we came for.

And just like that, it was time to go home. And do a bit of “siesta” (read: 6pm to 8am the next day).

Bye Arashiyama!

How to get there from Kyoto:

JR Sagano line from Kyoto station. 15 mins. 230 Yen. Stop: Saga-Arashiyama.

More information here.