Monday, July 31, 2006

Thunder!

Early morning yesterday, at around 6 am, people were awakened by a succession of thunders. I was already up by then, but I could not immediately distinguish what the sounds were or where they were coming from. When the sounds became louder and more frequent, I was like, wow, thunder! That is so rare here.

“Mom, what does it mean?” Mickey asked me later when he came down from his bedroom. I thought he was asking a philosophical question. Before I could say, no, this has nothing to do with the end of the world or Christ’s imminent Second Coming, he followed up with, “Does this have to do with global warming?” I just gave a simple grade-school explanation of what causes thunder and what it often precedes – rain. I didn’t think it was related to global warming nor to a global warning.

The peals of thunder yesterday morning were the buzz in town. Even in church, it was mentioned during the service, and today, as I was walking from Wal-Mart to my workplace, the two ladies behind me were talking about it. Big deal.

I have lived more than 8 years here in BC, and I’d say even nature here is relatively laid back, just like our pace of life. Our winter is mild, our summer is nice. Can be hot but the weather cools quickly with some wind and clouds. We get lots of rain, but not the typhoon kind. Okay, we have forest fires and occasional landslides. Still, it’s not as bad as those in other places. I have only felt one earthquake in all our life here. My officemate, who has lived here all his life, said it was the first earthquake he had ever experienced.

In this sense, it is more exciting to live in the Philippines if you like extreme nature. Strong typhoons, strong earthquakes, strong volcanic eruptions, huge landslides… we have them. And you should hear our thunders! Things I can live without…

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Urban forest



One of the things I like best about our city is its parks and nature trails. The city website says there are more than 600 parks and greenbelts, birdwatching, nature walks and bike trails all over this second largest city in BC. Although I don't get to go to parks as often as I did when we were new to Canada, I still marvel at the natural beauty we are fortunate to live in.

I have two favourite parks and one of them is the Green Timbers Urban Forest. Every time I go to this place, I am amazed that a forest can sit right in the heart of residential and commercial areas. This is a big chunk of land, one sq. mi. I think, complete with a lake, wetlands, meadows and some 20 hiking trails. Green Timbers is the birthplace of reforestation in BC and the public, on a number of referendums, have voted to protect it. Very wise.

Inside the park, you forget you are in a bustling city. You hardly hear any city noise. You hear birds and the sound of your own breath and footsteps when you are hiking. Sometimes the silence is deafening.

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I enjoy walking on the trails, but I will probably never go by myself because of coyote sightings in the past. I guess there would be snakes too. Yikes! And if you are a woman, you might think twice about going into the forest near dusk. The picture above is just the entrance to the park. Inside the forest, the trails are narrow and meandering, sometimes criss-crossing each other. And you walk underneath tall trees that block the sunlight. The undergrowth is thick. You don't want to stay away from the trails. You shouldn't.

I have not heard any bad news of wildlife or human attacks happening in Green Timbers. Still, I prefer to stay on the safe side. Besides, my imagination sometimes gets the better of me, and I might scream at the sight of a lizard. I remember once getting startled by an oncoming biker who suddenly appeared from a bend. I shrieked, thinking it was a hunk of a bear. He could have been the hunk Lance Armstrong, alright, but at that moment, who cares?

Yesterday, we decided to go to Green Timbers at around 5 pm. Markus was reluctant to go because he was playing on the computer.

"What are we going to do there, Mom? Just walk? It's gonna be boring," he whined. He didn't want to go without Gabriel who was at a birthday party.

"It's good to walk rather than just stay in the house and play on the computer," I replied.

He was moping and fussing all the way to the park, which was about a three-minute drive from our house and just across his school.

"Are we going fishing?" he asked, still in a foul mood.

"No, we don't have a license. Besides, we don't have a rod," I answered. They went fishing here about 5 years ago, but never caught a fish because they were quite impatient and kept pulling up the line.

When we reached the lake and saw the ducks, Markus started to loosen up. He walked in ankle-deep water.

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Later we walked into the forest just far enough to get some good shots. Markus preferred to walk under the bushes, not on the regular trail, and have his own adventure. He found a stick which I said was a good weapon against coyotes.

"Hold on to that," I told him. "I can use that to scare off coyotes."

"Why does it have to be you?" he asked. "I can beat the coyote with this."

"You are still little. I will hold it off while you run," I said, pretending to be brave.

Just then he started flinging the stick. "This is how I will do it," Markus kept going around. He displayed his moves. Watch out, you coyotes! Markus is gonna get you.

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Going back to our car, we passed through the meadows because Markus wanted to explore a less traveled path. He was running and rolling on the ground like a dog unleashed. I chuckled.

I think we should have more trips to the park and have more times of unleashing.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More English Bay snapshots

I enjoyed taking these shots. It was a lovely afternoon. Just attempting to capture some of its beauty. The digital camera is a wonderful thing...




Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Snapshots of English Bay

My photos from our trip to the beach in Vancouver last Sunday... building castles in the sand... walking on the beach... enjoying nature... simple pleasures... these are things I enjoy...























Monday, July 24, 2006

Beating the heat

The past weekend was I think record-breaking hot hereabouts. I swear, I would not have had the nerve to head to the pool at our complex in a two-piece swimsuit were it not so sweltering hot inside the house.

“Check how many people there are in the pool,” I asked Gabriel and Markus a few times. It was already past 8 pm. I heard it was crowded earlier in the day. When they said there were only four adults with little children, the three of us went out to swim. Ahhh, the water felt so good and warm. How relaxing! I did a few laps at the deep end. Swimming is one skill you never forget, although without practice, it could well deteriorate. My boys raced me twice, and I came in third two times! They were like tadpoles in the water, while I swam and kicked like, uhmm... a frog. At around 9 pm, when I could already see the orange sunset on the distant horizon peering through the trees at our backyard, I came out of the water. It took some convincing to get the boys to follow suit.

At home, I went straight to the tub and soaked again while reading Better Homes and Gardens. “Don’t disturb me. I’ll take long,” I told the boys.

After being refreshed, I once again felt the heat even before I was completely dry. How could I sleep in this heat? I decided to take out Markus’s round inflatable bed to the deck and enjoy some cooler air outside. Gabriel and Markus joined me later. We snuggled in that small bed and chatted while stargazing at the cloudless sky. Fun! We talked about UFOs and shooting stars and the planet Mars which is supposedly coming very close to Earth in August.




I love stargazing. The night before, when we went to a drive-in theatre, I had as much fun looking at the constellations as watching Cars and Pirates of the Caribbean.



This night, it was all constellation, no movie stars. In a short while, Markus and I were sound asleep until Mickey woke us up because mosquitoes were entering the living room through the open patio door.

Yesterday, the temperature was again in the 90s F or above the 30s in centigrade. We drove to a beach in Vancouver with a load of picnic food and mats. Wow, was it ever so crowded!



No, I did not don my two-piece this time--I will not do this again in public--but the beach was dotted with people who were tanning and showing off their summer bods, making people like me pregnant with envy, or just looking pregnant... I instantly thought of the aerobics classes I shouldn’t have missed, and the heaps of rice I could have skipped. But hey, I have a nice natural tan that white people get roasted for. Be happy with what you’ve got or will ever have realistically…

Back at home, I turned on the aircon in the living room, which is the surest sign that the heat was becoming unbearable. Our aircon at home is hardly ever used because I want to keep our electric bills as low as possible. “Mom, when are we turning on the aircon?” the kids ask. This weekend I finally did it.

So this was how we tried to beat the weekend heat. And I think there are more hot days ahead..

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The graduates

Good job, you guys!! I'm so proud of you!






Sunday, July 09, 2006

Crazy summer

This blog has been quiet for a while… I feel so way behind in my ramblings. Not that you’re noticing. It’s just that I’m writing everything in my head and I need a release… Thank goodness I could steal a few minutes before I move on to my next chore.

I have been very busy. Crazy busy. In one week, there were two graduations in the family (hooray!). Mickey from Grade 12, Gabriel from Grade 7. Then we spent a weekend in Seattle and spent time with my Mom and Ate Lan’s family on my father’s second death anniversary. And then school was over. That means my boys would be home all day and I need to have something ready for them to eat any time of the day!

And so I’ve been cooking and cooking and baking and baking, sometimes till midnight. Or I would sleep after dinner and get up before 12 and cook till 2 am. It’s a good thing that early last June, I found a recipe book in my kitchen that I hadn’t opened since I got it at our office Christmas party two years ago. It’s called Company’s Coming Make Ahead Meals. I discovered several recipes that are easy to prepare and store for three to four months in the freezer.

I prepared bags and bags of seasoned ground beef, marinated chicken strips, sliced pot roast, gravy, mashed potatoes, mango starter and cornbread mix, and stored them in the freezer. Each one was labeled, some good till the first week of September. I was stocking up for when my homestay students come so then I could easily pull out a bag from the freezer and quickly whip up a dish when I get home from work, or bake cookies or muffins before I sleep at night or leave in the morning. Well, I have been using up these frozen pre-cooked or ready-to-cook bags of meat and goodies and my students have not even arrived!

Summer is also a good time to do painting jobs around the house. I actually started in the spring to re-paint the ceilings of our two washrooms. Little by little I prepared the one upstairs for painting -- patching here and there, taping edges (I didn’t skip this one this time.) I did the major part of the job this weekend. I primed the walls yesterday and did the final painting today. The walls of this washroom are now a light tinge of pink called Bashful, even though when you are in this room, you are anything but.

My boys are not too happy to have a girlie coloured room. But that’s the idea. I want one place in this male-dominated turf to be dedicated to the only lady in the house. And what better place than the washroom. Hopefully, it will remind these guys to lift that toilet seat!!!

I am so surprised that I finished painting a bigger washroom in less than two days. Last year, I spent 4 days on the small washroom downstairs. Am I getting “gooder” at this? I used up less paint too. I didn’t even finish a gallon. I can still do one more coating. The only thing I did not bother to do very well is sanding. I can't stand the sound of scratching. Almost as intolerable as the dentist's drill.

My friend said painting walls is therapeutic, just like gardening. I agree. It is exhausting and relaxing at the same time. I know I will wake up aching all over tomorrow, but quite happy at my accomplishment.

Now that I’ve mentioned gardening, I should make a quick inspection of my little garden in front of our house. My green peas are ready for harvesting. I need to pull out some lettuce. They are overcrowding and therefore not growing as they should. I have lots of pepper and basil that can be used, except that right now, I find more joy looking at, and not cooking, them. It's the parsley plants that I want to mature faster so that I can use them in making Kenyan samosa. But they are taking forever! Some insects are eating my broccoli leaves. Arggh! Broccoli is everyone's fave at home, I was hoping to have lots of flowerets this summer. I guess not. My one rose plant is blooming. I have counted 13 blooms so far. Last year, I thought it was dying. I tended it this spring and look at it now. A little TLC does make a difference.

On my deck overlooking the backyard, I have a planter of purple-pink petunias that keep flowering and three clusters of yellow African daisies are about to bloom again. How lovely! I love looking at them from the living room. Occasionally, I take out a cup of tea or an icy glass of halo-halo or ice cream and sit under the patio umbrella. I watch children play or squirrels run around the backyard, or just stare at the tall evergreen trees that separate our complex from the Toys R Us parking lot. This greenbelt makes me forget that we are just in the neighbourhood of Canadian Tire, Price-Smart and Future Shop, all a stone’s throw away but hidden from sight.

Ah summer. I love summer (when it’s not too hot). Crazy busy or not.