Friday, February 29, 2008

Year of the Rat

I am a creature of habit. Everyday I wake up, brush my teeth, drink a cup of coffee, and take my dog for a walk. Once I leash him up, he always bolts out of the gate at full speed so he can pee at his favorite corner. The other morning there was a slight change of plan.

When my dog bolted out of the gate, at the corner he found a GIANT rat which he then proceeded to pick up in his mouth and kill. The rat was making horrible squealing noises. I, being the responsible pet owner I am, threw the leash down and ran. I could not even look at him because it was so disgusting (mind you, I am not scared of rodents but I am horrified watching my dog kill one). I buried my face into the shoulder of a random stranger and told him my dog was killing a rat. I went inside and got Jeff (hmmm, maybe there is a good reason to have household staff) and he nicely retrieved my dog and disposed of the rat. (I love Jeff).

I brought the dog to the vet for a tetanus shot (he already has the rest of his required injections) and besides a small cut in his mouth and leg, my dog is good to go.

No one here seems to understand my disgust at the dog killing a rat. In fact, a couple of people have jokingly asked me to borrow the dog to kill rats around their property.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Agno, Pangasinan

We spent a few days around Valentine's Day in Agno which was about five hours away from Manila. The last hour consisted of a very rocky dirt road so the distance actually is not that great. We probably could have done the final hour in 15-20 minutes had the road been paved. We have a friend whose family owns 60 hectares, some of it right along the coast.

We had never been up there before but it is really, really beautiful. Clean WARM water in the ocean and fantastic sand (albeit yellow and not the white sand you find in the islands to the south). It is also kinda cool to be in a place with no cell phone service and an hour drive away from any sort of civilization (unless you count the neighboring farms).

Our friend's cottage was well appointed and no air conditioning was needed since it was right on the water and the ocean provided a great breeze. Unfortunately the water was too rough for any snorkeling but we were still able to wade into the water a little.

This is a Carabo. Agno is mostly farmland and the carabo are very cute to me. They are cute in an ugly way.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It is Really ALMOST Done!!

We are literally weeks away from the completion of our new house. I am getting really excited now. The landscapers have started as well so the outside looks less like a garbage dump and more like a garden (well at least a plantless garden. The dirt does add a little ambiance).

The banister is put in now on the staircase. I realize the photo looks fuzzy--something about the light I guess because this is as good as I could get it.

This is the grill that leads to the service area (it will be painted black). The service area is a phenomena here that consists of an area where washing would be and leads to maids quarters and the dirty kitchen. This is where the washing machine, sinks, and generator (shall we ever buy one) will be.

The dirty kitchen is another phenomena that exists here (pictured above). It is essentially a second kitchen but is the kitchen where most of the actual cooking and washing up is done. I am not quite sure why it is necessary, but we do have one. It looks to me like a regular kitchen. I am not sure why it is phrased as a "dirty" kitchen but I assume it is because it is the only one that gets dirty??

Above is part of our "regular" kitchen. This is the chimney that I previously tried to describe. The oven hood is hidden away. I love it! Also it is worth noting that there is no oven in our regular kitchen, just a range. A lot of homes here have no oven and just use the rain. At my in-laws where we currently reside, we have no oven, only a glorified toaster oven. It is so small that when I tried to bake a birthday cake, I ended up making cup cakes as that is all that would fit.

This is a photo of the one bathtub in our new home. Everybody I talked to who had the over sized jacuzzi tubs said they either never used them or used them on an annual basis. I never take baths--always showers. We put one bathtub in the room that we refer to as the kids room (for when they are too big for the sink but too little for the shower). Yes, I realize we have no kids and yes, I further realize that with the staircase and pool of death, our house is not exactly baby friendly but better to be prepared.

The above mentioned pool of death. It will not be completed until most of the landscaping is done but there is a rather nice cesspool in the deep end. The swimming pool we subcontracted and it turned into the biggest clusterfuck you can imagine. I am trying to reserve judgment until it is completed but I am not too optimistic about a positive completion but we shall see.

This is the back of the house with the upstairs railings installed. I am not quite sure why there is a plastic tube hanging down but it is awesome all the same.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

For Jonnifer: Jeremy Jordan

My sister Jonnifer and I recently spent an afternoon sending each other Youtube videos of music from our middle school/high school days. There were videos of people we used to listen to as well as just the random bizarre ones. Jeremey Jordan fell into the bizarre category. He made his short term debut into the music world on Beverly Hills 90210, playing at the Peach Pit After Dark. Today we had the TV on in our car and his video started to play (the station was doing 90's music I guess. What are the chances?

Oh yeah, it is worth noting that most of the music video stations play the lyrics at the bottom of the screen. No idea why.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Cool Places

Since we have arrived back we have been to two cool places that merit mention. The first was Ace Water Spa. This is a spa located in Quezon City on Del Monte Avenue. This spa has a lap pool and then an addition pool with various water massages. Very interesting. There are ones for each part of your body. In addition, there were three hot tubs (each getting slightly hotter) that were scented with either mint, jasmine, or lavender. At the edge of each pool was a chilled bar to lean your neck on and in between each pool, it is recommended you dip for five seconds in a cold pool (which was freezing--it felt like a glass of ice water). There were also steam rooms and saunas. The dressing room/locker area was very, very clean and the showers had hot water as well as shampoo. Hairdryers and q-tips were provided. Only random, no towels. You bring your own or rent them for P150 (about $3.65). Cost for admission was P500 ($12) per person and we went on a "buy two get one free promo". Really cool place and I will go back in a second. I had never seen a place like this ever.

The second really neat place was the Manila Seedling Bank also in Quezon City. Picture your average garden store and then feed it steroids and you have the Manila Seedling Bank. There were tons and tons of plants and all of them looked really healthy. While there we impulse bought two small sweet basil plants and one rosemary plant (total cost P100 - $2.45). Any plant you can imagine was there from herbs to flowers to trees to water plants. All at good prices and again, they all looked healthy. There were no half dead plants here. We are in the landscaper phase of our house now and were debating between hiring one and attempting to complete this ourselves. We will likely end up somewhere in the middle with someone helping us with the project.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Crazy Month

This has been a crazy busy month. We just got back from a two week family vacation in Hawaii (which was awesome--Hawaii is one of my favorite places in the world). It was great to be back in the states and to see all of my sisters and father. Hawaii is a lot like the is just cleaner and has a much, much, much better infrastructure. Otherwise, the two places are quite similar: great beaches and jungle and really nice people (although I think people from Hawaii have to be some of the sweetest in the world). We did some shopping for our new house there including buying ceiling fans. The fans are 110V so this may turn out to be a mistake depending on how difficult the conversion is but we were able to buy 16 Hunter brand fans for the price of eight fans here. I also received an amazing red Kitchen Aid from my mother (again 110V but the price was $300 there versus the $585 it sells for here) as well as a fantastic set of Henckels knives from my father.Our new house is progressing. It is not completed and is behind my dream schedule (although right on time via the contract). The day before we left, we bought our oven and range. The range will be put in the bricked area above and we are having a chimney type hood (I do not know how to describe it. Once completed, I will post a picture). A really psycho blue was used for the kitchen which I adore. Buying the ovens was a little bit of a pain because I am unfamiliar with the brands so we were kinda shopping blindly. Total for one oven and a range (both cast iron) was just under P100,000 (about $2,250) which is insane. I miss the inexpensive appliances of the states.
One thing I love is the little vent outside for the oven hood (pictured above). How cute is that! These little details are a lot of the reason we went with the design company we did; they take the smallest details into consideration and make them beautiful.
Our foyer ceiling is complete and just needs the chandelier installed. My computer monitor is showing the picture as a wonky red, but in reality, it is a very true red and the wood is very dark brown, almost black.

All the interior and exterior doors have been installed and I am loving them. One of my favorite parts of the house. The doors were all handmade (which apparently can be less expensive than premade doors). They are solid wood and very heavy.

Yesterday was my first time seeing the driver/boy's room. I had not been up to the roof deck area as no stairs had been installed and the ladder the workers were using scared me. Above is the bathroom for the driver/boy which is fairly standard. I am posting this namely for my sister's who, like me, are a little creeped out by the idea of household staff. Although there is nothing luxurious about the bathroom, there is nothing wrong with it either. I could very comfortably shower there.

Above is one of our air conditioning compressors. We exclusives used split type air con which means the unit is out side. We have placed most on the side of the house in discreet areas (nothing bugs me more that a beautiful home with an ugly air conditioner sticking out of the wall) and this one is placed on the roof deck outside of the driver's room.

We opted to use terracotta tiles for the two lanais as well as the entrance. The center tiles are malaga tiles which are essentially painted cement tiles. These are the same tiles used above the range in the kitchen. This is the most recent picture I have of the front which is from November 07. For some reason I have not taken any newer pictures of the front. The most important item to acknowledge is the giant ugly prison wall has been removed and replaced with a lower, more friendly looking wall. I will have to remember to take a more recent picture of the front this week.

We also completed a lot of our furniture shopping (I think we spent too much time doing it....a salesman at a store saw us and said, "Hi! You usually shop at our Trinoma branch!" Once the sales people start to recognize you, I think it is time to start winding it down and making the purchase). I will later do a more detailed post about the shopping excursions.