Thursday, July 31, 2008

CareCalendar - A Very Useful Tool!

I was introduced to CareCalendar recently. It is a free, internet-based tool for signing up to help someone else in need of "care". This is typically used for helping those who are going to go through some medical procedures like a surgery or giving birth. It can be used for other circumstances as well.

Here is a screenshot of a CareCalendar. It looks plain but don't underestimate its value! You got to try it to believe it!



The CareCalendar can schedule help for meals, visits, childcare, rides, errands, housework and yardwork. Name, address and phone info of the person needing care is already included. A map can be added as well.

The Care Calendar is a time-saver and reduces confusion because:

  • Sign-up is open 24/7, not just when a sign-up sheet is passed around.
  • Everyone who needs to know will be given access to it to either check the CareCalendar and to schedule and update.
  • It is secure enough that you can only edit your own entry (or the coordinator can, too.)
  • It is updated on a real-time basis so that one can see which items and dates are/are not filled out.
  • It can be updated if the care needs are changed and no need to call everyone on the changes.
  • Helpers sign up from home where they have their own calendars to cross-refer to so that they can better identify best time to help out.
  • Reminder emails are automatically sent out to those who have signed-up.

The only things that I can think of as disadvantages are
  • Internet access is needed.
  • Sign-up can be deemed "impersonal".

Can't do anything on the first. But for the second, the 2 methods can also be used together if so desired. That is, you can still pass the paper around and then transfer the sign-ups to the Care Calendar PLUS make the Care Calendar available for those who would later like to have that opportunity.

CareCalendar is a donor-supported ministry of the Dave and Suzane Bortel and their 10 children! It was created based on their experiences of coordinating meals and other care for the several weeks that were offered when Suzanne went for an emergency surgery. Go here for more details about them.

Someday, you might find the CareCalendar helpful, too!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's a Crazy Week-end!

Last week-end was one of those jampacked ones!

On Friday night, we celebrated Josh's 5th birthday at home. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOSH!!!) Each of the Manigsaca ladies prepared her own recipes. I, of course, prepared the now famous Lumpia (ehem, ehem) and my own version of Sago't Gulaman (thanks Beth for your recipe!). The inflatables were up only for at least an hour because then it was time for games and facepainting. (I should call it arm painting because everyone wanted it on their arms instead of their faces!) The birthday celebrant was not in the mood (he didn't join the games) and before we knew it, it was already getting dark.

The kids went to play, play, play inside while the adults looked at Jupiter through the telescope for a while. Later inside, the adults played "guess my drawing" and got a lot of Mexicans, 1 American, an ice and even a "tsinelas". That was fun! The drawings eventually run out, so we settled for Pictionary. It was almost midnight when we bid adieu to our last guests.

The "official" pictures of Josh's birthday are not out yet, but will post later when I get a link to them from his parents. (They're busy with closing on their house and preparing to move!) Meanwhile, here are some photos from Karen's camera (Thanks Karen!).


Saturday night was when our subgroup at church were meeting at home. This was the subgroup that was assigned to discuss Chapter 6 (Movement) of the Simple Church's book. I baked the ultra-black and ultra-soft bananas in the ref as banana bread (as muffins). (Our pastor's wife, D'Lynda, said the blacker the bananas, the better flavor they would give out. So, everyone in the house must have given out a sigh of relief that they no longer have to see them in the ref!). I cooked another batch of the lumpia which were made together with Josh's birthday. (Good thing you can just freeze them and cook them in batches when you need to.). And I cooked my own version of pancit.

After the meal, we had a great discussion on how our church out to strategically and sequentially arrange our programs so as to intentionally move members through the spiritual maturity continuum. Hmmm... that sounds high-falluting...

Let me try it simpler: People's lives must not remain stagnant or stalled. People must not stay the same, unchanged or unmoved. The believer's life need to be transformed more and more, becoming more like Christ. It is the church's responsibility to design its process and programs to facilitate this growth, this movement.

We had great discussions and we think we are ready with our outline and example for our 25-minute presentation next Sunday.

Of course, Sunday Morning was reserved for church. And this weekend was our turn to set up the C.O.W. signs. And this was the weekend (in 6-7 weeks) that I was teaching the toddler's Sunday School. I missed the Wycliffe missionaries' presentation about their bible "translation" work in Thailand's Sonu tribe. Actually, it is more than translation. It is creating a written "alphabet" for the Sonu language so that they can use it to translate the written Word.

On Sunday afternoon, we "went to the city" to attend Hannah's 5th birthday. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HANNAH!!!) (The invite was actually for noon, but of course, we went there after church.) The kids were already playing games when we got there. They were having lots of fun with the Pin the Clown's Nose, Trip to Jerusalem, Pass the Ball. And the adults had fun cheering them on, too! More food again! I stuck to the pork inihaw since I have had no pork in my diet for the past few weeks. (Remember Daddy is cooking healthy fish-based vegetable meals!) Yummy, yummy, specially with the vinegar and sili! Ayayay!!! (And to think that we ate after church before going over at Hannah's!.

Here are the pictures of Hannah's birthday. See someone you know? :)


Then on Sunday evening, the church had "The Big Party". (Again, it started on Sunday afternoon but of course we signed up for the evening shift (7-9pm) to avoid the heat. Apparently though, there were still plenty of people who came in starting at 4pm!)

It was an event in lieu of the Vacation Bible School which the subdivision and the school did not approve the use of their grounds. There were inflatables - dry and the ones with water were a big hit because of the heat. There were crafts - beads and bears. There was music and dancing crazy dances. And did I mention there was food??? Yes... delicious barbeque chicken galore! And my, my... I discovered the big dill pickles. They were delish! Just the thought of it makes my mouth taste vinegary...Good thing, I got to bring home one bottle!

The Big Party was very fun, but the more important part was that we were able to meet a lot of people in the community who are unchurched. Lots of opportunities there! Meanwhile, I have no pictures of The Big Party but if someone at church sends out a link, I'll try to post it here.

That's it! That was our crazy weekend! Phew!!! Tiring but fun, fun, fun!!!

Tell me about your busy weekend as well! You are most welcome to the comments section!

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's A Southern Thing



The America I knew from most of my times and travels to the West and East coasts is any of the following: stew-loving, potato-loving, healthy food-loving or even fastfood-loving America.

I was pleasantly surprised that there is part of America that likes the deep-fried stuff. Check out the not-too-healthy Fish Fry get-together for the C.O.W. set-up group.


Recall also that our July 4 meal in Dallas was cholesterol-laden but yummy, yummy Seafood Boil! Must be a Southern thing to eat to your heart's delight!

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Mother's Favorite...



Or at least I think so. I think I heard her read these verses aloud or maybe saw her bible with that chapter underlined or maybe I saw them written on a piece of paper with her handwriting.

Can't exactly recall now but this just came to mind when I saw this adorable videoclip version of Psalm 23:


And again, here is Psalm 23, a psalm of David:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.


Have a good weekend!

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Saying Good-bye is Never Easy



As a "JetSetter", I received this email from ExpressJet Airlines last Tuesday.

Dear JetSetter,

As you may have heard, ExpressJet will be flying as a commercial airline on our ExpressJet branded routes only through September 1, 2008.

Due to fuel prices and other market conditions, it's a difficult time for commercial airlines and we've had to make some tough decisions. Naturally, that will affect your JetSet membership and the points you've earned.

This is your official notice that the JetSet Program will be discontinued on September 2, 2008. You will continue to earn through September 1, 2008 for all qualified travel on Expressjet. All Travel Awards and JetSet Points that you've earned will be valid for use through September 1, 2008, but will hold no cash value and will not be valid for travel on ExpressJet or other airlines as of September 2, 2008.

If you have any questions about your JetSet Membership, we'll be here to help. You can reach us at the JetSet Desk...or email us... We've also posted FAQs about the program termination on expressjet.com.

We've really enjoyed serving our customers and getting to know many of you as JetSet members and friends. On behalf of everyone here at the airline, thanks for flying ExpressJet. We will miss serving you.

Sincerely,
(signed)
Jim Ream
President and CEO


Too bad ... I actually liked them and even blogged about ExpressJet in February.

I did a little digging and one travel blogger wrote that aside from the high fuel prices, ExpressJet were hit by 2 other issues that resulted to low cash.

  1. Its credit card company imposed a 100% holdover on sales, so ExpressJet only receives funds after the passenger flies (not when the passenger buys a ticket).

  2. It parked its cash to some illiquid investment that ExpressJet cannot get its money right away, now that they needed it.



Wow, if these were true, then I think those are 2 bad business decisions. On the credit card company, it would have been wise to review/negotiate upfront the conditions of holdover when they signed up with them. On the illiquid investment, I am guessing that the company did not diversify and thus tying down its assets to one investment, and an illiquid asset at that as well. Asset allocation or diversification is basic - I wonder who adviced them on that?

Meanwhile, it was interesting to note that based on the reactions on this news, there are people just like me who appreciated ExpressJet. Well, I hope some other companies rise up to fill that niche that ExpressJet was serving.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Now Know the Secret...



Twice while in Seattle in 2005 and 2007, we went to Crab Pot at the pier and ate SeaFest for Two or More! The menu copy is so effective - "Our specialty. We take a variety of fresh seafood, steamed with mouthwatering spices, we pour it out on the table on butcher paper, give you a mallet, bibs and let you go at it!"

Frankly, the taste was okay but it was more of the novel experience that I liked. Good to experience it once (or twice) only since it costs major dollar$ at $24 per person for the mid-option (with crabs).

Anyhow, I always wondered how they cooked it - it's supposed to be "steamed with mouthwatering spices". But steaming takes a very long time...so do they really steam it?

Well, I now know the secret! But before I reveal it, let me tell you about our July 4 long weekend where and when I "discovered" this secret! We went to Dallas for a mini-reunion cum despedida.

The mini-reunion was with Li and Tin, 2 of my high-schoolmates from eons ago. Yeah, we're old... but age is in the mind and heart, not the face :) We agree in chorus - "40 is the new 30" :) The last time we probably got together was in 2000 back in the Philippines. With the internet though, we "saw" the children grow up and "knew" what was up with one another on a, more or less, real-time basis - I imagine much more than if we did not have the technology! Nothing replaces getting together face-to-face though - even if we did not have karaoke this time :)

The despedida was for Tito Ben and Tita Andrea, Li's parents who were here on a visit. They are our wedding "godparents". Anyway, they said that returning to the Philippines feels bittersweet. Sweet because they are going home, yet "bitter" because they will be missing their grandchildren. Not sure when they will be back to visit here in the US. We hope to visit them in Kidapawan in the future though.

Photos are available here: Mine, Tin, Li

Anyway, going back to the SECRET!!! (Actually, Li still owes me the recipe. Hehehe...) But, let me try to recall it:


  • Basic Ingredients:

    • tiger prawns
    • crabs
    • baby carrots
    • corn
    • red potatoes
    • mushroom

  • Magic Ingredient: Crawfish, Crab and Shrimp Boil spice. (I really do not remember the brand. I went to the grocery and got me Zatarain's but I know what we used was a different brand. Warning - 213% sodium!!!)

  • Instructions: BOIL!!! (It is not steamed!)


There are more details to that but let's leave this here for now. I will write the blow-by-blow instructions once I have actually done it successfully myself or whenever Li sends me the recipe, whichever comes first.

Deal???


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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More Places to Visit in San Antonio, TX



This is the last of my San Antonio installment - The Guenther House and Oak Hills Church - but definitely not the last places you can visit. There's still plenty more that we have to explore in this city. We plan to go back in late August to show the Manigsaca's around San Antonio and also to potentially attend Beth Moore's Living Proof Live. Meanwhile, here are the 2 places we visited last month during our anniversary road trip.

The Guenther House
We serendipituously discovered this historic place while we were strolling around the King William District. At the southern end of the San Antonio River's wider path is this restored house of the Guenthers - the founding family of the Pioneer Flour Mills - in the same ground as the still very functional flour mill and silos.



The house serves as a museum that showcases the architecture, home furniture and decors of the bygone era, and of course the company's history. It also contains the souvenir and retail store with lots of cool stuff including their own specialty flours. The house has a restaurant and is open for rent as a banquet facility. Good resting and snack place before resuming the stroll back to the Beauregard House.

Oak Hills Church
This is Max Lucado's church. Except from hearing him in person in the free CBN taping last year, I don't really know him but he's authored lots of books that I usually see in Family Christian Bookstore. I've always been intrigued with the one entitled "Cure for the Common Life" but have not really dug into it. Maybe someday... Or maybe the CD version is a better idea for road trips...hmmm....



They've got a big building mostly for ministries - see the map above. They have 3 locations and on the Sunday that we visited, the pastor for the Latino location was the speaker. I frankly can't remember his message very well but I what remember is that he used the Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote/Man from La Mancha. Again, I forgot the context. :( I know I took some notes... now if I can just find them...

Anyway, just closing on the places we explored last month from our anniversary road trip. I don't think this would be the last San Antonio places you'll hear from me though. With just 1 hour drive away, we definitely will be back there in no time. And I will bring back the pictures to share with you!

So, am I being successful in luring you all to come visit us here in the heart of Texas? :)



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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Who Knew Facepainting is Soooo In Demand?



The church did facepainting first at the Dripping Springs' Founder's Day. Then we did it again at the Dripping Springs' Fourth of July Celebration, like I mentioned in yesterday's post on the fireworks.

The facepainting team worked with no break from 6:30-8:30pm on a long line of customers until it was dark and even after the fireworks already started.

Check out the many, cute painted faces below - the butterflies, the flags, Spiderman, kitty-cats, the leopard, the in-demand dragons and even yellow skeletons (hahaha!!!)



It's fun! Maybe you can do facepainting on your next event too - or maybe at your child's birthday party? What you'll need is just materials and designs.

Materials - you can just search "face paint" from these websites:


  • S&S Worldwide - Free shipping on order $49+. Use coupon code W2437 during checkout. Valid until 12/31/2008.

  • Oriental Trading - Free shipping on order $60+. Use coupon code rls 100 during checkout. Valid until 10/4/2008.

  • Kuzsports


Designs - here are sampling of resources:

Enjoy!

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Monday, July 14, 2008

How Did You Celebrate the Fourth of July?



We celebrated the 4th of July with a small town feel in Dripping Springs, TX. We were in the Sportsplex early at 6:30 pm because the church has a publicity tent where Al joined the facepainting team. (More on facepainting tomorrow!)

Anyway, here is the video I caught of the firework's last stretch:
video

That was the end of the $11,000-worth of fireworks!!! Not too bad for small-town Dripping Springs, huh?

We actually really liked the small-town feel of the celebration though. The Sportsplex had plenty of space for all the people who came. We were seated on our camp chairs and the fireworks were just above us! No jostling for position to see the fireworks.

The only thing I missed was that there was no interesting architecture to get fireworks pictures or silhouette with.

We met a couple of folks who were actually from Austin or the other nearby cities like Wimberly and Johnson City. For the Austin folks, it was a good alternative to the traffic galore of downtown Austin's celebration. For the visitors from other nearby cities, their own cities did not have the fireworks celebration.

How about you? How did you celebrate the 4th?


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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Happy Birthday...



...dear Al!
Happy birthday, dear Al!
Happy birthday, happy birthday!
Happy birthday, dear Al!!!

My honey-bunny just turned another year older, and wiser :)

The good news is that all my recipes turned out delicious (ehem, ehem...) - lumpia shanghai, arroz valenciana and chicken barbeque. Josh even said "Good job in cooking (the lumpia)." :)



Shiela and Joey cooked sweet and sour lapu-lapu (red snapper). (Where's the pancit?) Hehehe...

The bad news is the Mamang Luisa is soo sick she could not even get out of her room and does not have the appetite to sample the food! They're at urgent care right now and should be back in a few hours and we'll know what's ailing her.

Meanwhile, here's to another good week ahead of all of us!

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Friday, July 11, 2008

The Manigsaca's are Here!



Daddy Eli and Mamang Luisa arrived last Wednesday night! They're body clocks are still adjusting to Austin time, so we're taking it easy on them - no tourist stuff yet until Saturday. Except for a trip to Home Depot...


Anyway, they are enjoying Josh, how much he's grown and how fluent he's speaking now. They've got 'rithmetic lessons lined up!

Yesterday night, we just walked to the amenity center, showed them around the grounds and lounged at the outdoor patio there. Very nice weather - not hot, not warm, not humid, not cold either - just right! I hope it stays this way throughout summer!

Meanwhile, we are enjoying healthy vegetable and fish cooking (no sauteing in oil!) called "sari-sari" (loose translation = "all different" or "mixture of somethings"). Yummy-yummy! And guilt-free, too! I gotta apprentice on this while they are here so that I can do that too even after they return to the Philippines.

BTW, we spruced up their room a bit - Home Depot's Behr paint $20 and Ikea stuff (thanks Ikea for your affordable stuff!) - and I do say it looks good! Will take a photo one of these days and include it here.

Have a good week-end, everyone, and I will post more next week!

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Historic King William District in San Antonio, TX


The Beauregard House bed and breakfast in San Antonio, TX was in the historic King William District. So while there, we thoroughly enjoyed our stroll through the King William District that we did it twice - on Saturday afternoon and then on Sunday morning again. We admired the old-style houses, mostly well-maintained and had lush landscaping.



We also walked through a very quiet part of the San Antonio River. HEB grocery headquarters are nearby and along the river also. (Trivia - this estate-like HEB HQ used to be a US Arsenal built in 1859 to furnish munitions to Texas frontier forts. It served as a supply depot in the Civil War, as well as during both World Wars. In 1985, HEB bought the 10 acre site and undertook adapted use of the original buildings. It is said that HEB was instrumental in reviving this part of the river/town.). Very nice place to take a walk - highly recommended!

As I mentioned earlier, I have limited photos throughout our stay. However, I saw these photos in the web that had the old-style houses in the King William District.

Enjoy this in your mind right now. When you come visit us, will take you there!

So when are you coming over to visit? :)

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Our First Bed and Breakfast Experience



Ever since one of our couple friends in Boise shared with us that they celebrated their anniversary in a bed and breakfast inn (or commonly known as B&B), I was intrigued by the idea of doing something similar. So for our 5th anniversary, we went out of town to San Antonio and reserved to stay in a bed and breakfast inn.

There were a couple of inns we shortlisted. After considering availability, location and price, we went for Beauregard House's Picasso Room. It's a historic 1905 house located in the equally historic King William District where the houses are nestled in between lush vegetation - feels very soothing and peaceful!




For those who are intrigued by the idea of bed and breakfast inns, the best resource I found was bedandbreakfast.com. It has the most extensive list of B&B inns in the US and Canada. It summarizes the Reviews, Ratings, Rooms, Rates and available services. It has all the B&Bs for your search location mapped out. All these in just 1 page so it gives you a birds' eyeview of what are available before you zoom in into too many details! It also shows room availabilities and links to the B&Bs own websites.

bedandbreakfast.com will definitely help you shortlist faster and more efficiently. Once you have a shortlist, then you can drill down to each B&B inn and read everything that is in there. For me, it was the Reviews and my considerations of availability, location and price that led us to this wonderful experience! For convenience, you can also reserve your selected B&B in the same website. So right there and then, you can book a B&B at bedandbreakfast.com without having to go to another website! How convenient is that!?!

It's interesting to note that B&Bs are advertised as being great gifts or for personal use on honeymoons, anniversaries, girlfriends getaway, multi-generational get-aways, valentines, etc. (More information on the BedandBreakfast.com Gift Certificates is here.) As for us, it's priced relatively more than the roadside traveler's hotel but it was worth the experience - even just once! We're just glad that we heard about bed and breakfast from our friends in Boise!

Any of you stayed in a bed and breakfast inn already? What did you like most about it?






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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Cultural Celebration at the McNay



Another place that made it into our 5th anniversary road trip itinerary was "the McNay"(art museum in San Antonio) for 2 similar reasons:
1) for the photo opportunity
2) for admission being free because of the opening of the Stieren Center for Exhibitions (great timing!)

I was impressed with the collection. Although the Smithsonian had more of the masters, the McNay seemed to have the better ones. In fact, I had to really take a picture of Monet's Waterlilies and forgot to turn off the flash! They had a couple of O'Keefe, a collection of small Rodin scultures, Matisse, Mondrian, contemporary art collection in the new Stieren building, etc.

The best part I enjoyed the most was Ballet Russia theme in the Tobin Theater Arts Gallery. Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tale of Tsar Saltan was being told by a spellbinding lady storyteller that both children and adults alike were riveted. In the background were colorful and beautiful murals of the characters of the opera. And right on queue, a violinist and a cellist played the Flight of the Bumblebee!



Worth more than the $0 admission fee! :)


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A Few of My Favorite Songs


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