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Family filled weekend

March 12th, 2016 No comments

Last weekend really made me so happy to be back in the states with family near. My parents and youngest brother flew to Texas from California to spend a week with their Texas family…which consists of me, my two sisters and our Aunt and our families which is about 20 people. We had a girls lunch, a few different family dinners, four birthday celebrations, a baby blessing, and a lot of laughter and memories. I love being with my family.

We enjoyed a campfire and taught the kids some fire safety tips.

We enjoyed a campfire and taught the kids some fire safety tips.

Roasting marshmallows and Starbursts over a fire was a fun activity.

Roasting marshmallows and Starbursts over a fire was a fun activity.

Mason made a small wagon at Home Depot with his uncle Seth.

Mason made a small wagon at Home Depot with his uncle Seth.

Kalani's birthday dinner at Valley Ranch. This was the kid's table.

Kalani’s birthday dinner at Valley Ranch. This was the kid’s table.

Kalani made her own birthday cake. It was devoured quickly and Blake always knew where it was at.

Kalani made her own birthday cake. It was devoured quickly and Blake always knew where it was at.

My parents with their Texas family.

My parents with their Texas family.

Grandparents with 10 of their 15 grandchildren.

Grandparents with 10 of their 15 grandchildren.

Christmas in Siquijor…4th time in a row

February 28th, 2016 No comments

Our long lost relatives live on the beautiful island of Siquijor, and we have been spending Christmas with them every year since 2012. So this year was no different. Again we stayed at our “home away from home”, Coco Grove Beach Resort. We love the staff there who know us by name. (Having a staff member be Blake’s nanny while we are there really means everyone knows Blake and we are just his family) And word has spread throughout the International School of Manila about Coco Grove Beach Resort, so our kids saw their friends and teachers at the resort. Our agenda is more or less the same thing every year with what we do around the island. This year was a little different in that we are now scuba certified, so we had a day trip to Apo island where we ate lunch, did some snorkeling with turtles, and had two dives around the island (Apo is one of the top dive sites in the country).

Our flight was delayed leaving Manila so we didn't get to see our Welcome sign until the next day. Being at Coco Grove Beach Resort really does feel like we are coming home.

Our flight was delayed leaving Manila so we didn’t get to see our welcome sign until the next day. Being at Coco Grove really does feel like we are coming home.

SIx year old Mason doing a flip off a rock at Cambugahay Falls

Six year old Mason doing a flip off a rock at Cambugahay Falls

Lugnason Falls got a major make-over from the last time we visited his place two years ago.

Lugnason Falls got a major make-over from the last time we visited two years ago.

Our kids love to ride on the motorcycle with their cousin Sherwin.

Our kids love to ride on the motorcycle with their cousin Sherwin.

We had lunch at our cousin's home and then sat around chatting and some people took naps.

We had lunch at our cousin’s home and then sat around chatting and some people took naps.

We had dinner at our other cousin's home.

We had dinner at another cousin’s home.

On the way back to the resort from our cousin's home we saw the moon shining over the ocean.

On the way back to the resort from our cousin’s home we saw the moon shining over the ocean.

Christmas Eve dinner party at Coco Grove we got to listen to these sisters sing.

Christmas Eve dinner party at Coco Grove we got to listen to these sisters sing.

Coco Grove fire dancers also performed.

Coco Grove fire dancers also performed.

Island Melody Band were the final number for the Christmas Eve party.

Island Melody Band were the final number for the Christmas Eve party. (we’ve seen them perform 4-5 times now and they’re always great)

Christmas Day we got on a boat and headed towards Apo Island. Our kids wanted to be in the front.

Christmas Day we got on a boat and headed towards Apo Island. Our kids wanted to be in the front.

Apo Island is in sight.

Apo Island is in sight after an hour boat ride from the resort.

We had lunch here and also went to the turtle sanctuary nearby to snorkel with some turtles.

We had lunch here and also went to the turtle sanctuary nearby to snorkel with some turtles.

Mason and Tia snorkeling while a turtle eats grass.

Mason and Tia snorkeling while a turtle eats grass.

Apo Island has some beautiful coral.

Apo Island has some beautiful coral.

We saw a sleeping turtle while scuba diving.

We saw a sleeping turtle while scuba diving.

Christmas dinner we had about 30 family members over and 4 missionaries from our LDS church. Dinner was delicious, the company was great and the entertainment was memorable.

Christmas dinner we had about 25 family members over and four missionaries from the LDS Church. Dinner was delicious, the company was great and the entertainment was memorable.

Missionaries shared a message about our Savior Jesus Christ to our family members on this Christmas night.

Missionaries shared a message about our Savior Jesus Christ to our family members on this Christmas night.

Nearly 30 decedents from grandpa Limary/Limatoc together for Christmas in Siquijor.

Nearly 30 descendents from grandpa Limary/Limatoc together for Christmas in Siquijor.

Wacky photo with everyone who was participating in our Christmas celebration...family members, missionaries, and resort staff.

Wacky photo with everyone who was participating in our Christmas celebration…family members, missionaries, and resort staff.

We love Siquijor and the beautiful people and scenery that fills our days there.

We love Siquijor and the beautiful people and scenery that fills our days there. (photo from our balcony at Coco Grove)

… and don’t miss this compilation video Matt put together!

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More photos of Siquijor here.

Bohol Island Get-a-Way at Eskaya Resort

February 27th, 2016 No comments

In October we had a date night to attend the American Women’s Club of the Philippines annual Hoedown. There we won a free two-night stay at the resort Eskaya. Since we knew that we were relocating the beginning of January, we only had one weekend when we could use this vacation. Our kids skipped the last day of school, which was just a half day, so we could catch a flight to head to the island of Bohol and use our voucher at the resort. The shuttle ride from the airport was about 20 minutes and the resort was nice. Each villa had it’s own private pool, plus the main pool and the beach front. This was the third time that we were at Bohol, so we didn’t do the normal tourist sight-seeing things. Instead we hung out at the resort one day and went scuba diving the second day. On the third day we went to Church and then flew home. We don’t have many photos of this vacation since we were using our GoPro…and on our last dive the GoPro broke off the stick and fell to the bottom of the ocean. Good times.

Boarding the plane looked like this since they had the AirCon blasting, but it was hot and humid outside.

Boarding the plane looked like this since they had the AirCon blasting, but it was hot and humid outside.

Getting ready to land in Bohol.

Getting ready to land in Bohol.

Eskaya Resort is on Panglao island of Bohol.

Eskaya Resort is on Panglao island of Bohol.

Blake liked the golf carts that we came across often and had to sit in them and "drive" for a while.

Blake liked the golf carts that we came across often and had to sit in them and “drive” for a while.

The main pool at Eskaya had a kiddie pool in front of the main pool. Basically our family was the only one using it during our stay.

The main pool at Eskaya had a kiddie pool in front of the main pool. Basically our family was the only one using it during our stay.

Our private pool that was just outside of our villa.

If we didn’t want to be in the main pool, we could use our private pool that was just outside of our villa.

Mosquitos were a problem at the resort. We all slept under mosquito nets and the resort burned mosquito coils for all of the villas.

Mosquitos were a problem at the resort. We all slept under mosquito nets and the resort burned mosquito coils for all of the villas.

Before leaving the island, we found a local LDS church and attended their sacrament meeting, which happened to be the Children's Primary Program, which was fantastic.

Before leaving the island, we found a local LDS church and attended their sacrament meeting, which happened to be the Children’s Primary Program, which was fantastic.

Letter of Recommendation: Helen & Marilyn

December 21st, 2015 No comments

For the past three years we have employed Helen & Marliyn as our live-in household kasambahay and would like to now advertise a very strong recommendation for their services.

Why should you hire them?

  • 100% Trustworthy – in 38 months we have never once experienced an issue with honesty. After the first year we were comfortable leaving our kids with them overnight. You could even say they’ve played a large role in raising our 18 month old baby.
  • Safety – they have always kept our kids safe and exhibit a strong sense of safety.
  • Work Ethic – both H&M have a very strong work ethic and do not shy away from hard labor; they’ve kept our condo spotless. When we wakeup Monday morning after they’ve been off over the weekend, the condo is already clean. They’re also very willing to go above and beyond their job description with miscellaneous tasks we delegate their way.
  • Temperament – we’ve often heard of “maids with mood-swings”, but can honestly say we’ve never seen anything but a steady positive attitude from these two.
  • Local Knowledge – if you’re new to the Philippines, they know the ropes so you don’t have to. One has handymen brothers who can help out as well.
  • Stability – I haven’t met any other expats who have kept the same house help for 38 consecutive months. That says a lot about H&M.
  • Self-Starters – We never have to tell either one of them what to do around the house.

 
Why should you hire Marilyn specifically?

  • Marilyn’s primary responsibility is cooking and cleaning. She backs up Helen in regards to taking care of the kids as a secondary responsibility.
  • Her cooking is amazing. See photos below. We’re often disappointed when we eat out because the food isn’t as good as what Marilyn cooks at home.
  • She is 100% self-led in the kitchen: we never tell her what to make or how to make it. We’re just treated to a delightfully surprising variety of dishes every time we sit down to eat.
  • She teaches herself new dishes on a regular basis. She watches YouTube videos and gets recipes on the internet and tries them out. Nine times out of ten they turn out great.
  • Parties parties parties. We’re fond of hosting dinner parties with 10..15..20..+ guests of varying nationalities and tastes. All we have to do is give Marilyn a headcount and she does the rest. Photos of some of the spreads she’s put on are below. With Helen’s help, the two of them can facilitate an entire dinner party and we don’t lift a finger or manage anything.
  • Weekly grocery shopping is done with little supervision from my wife. Marilyn finds the ingredients we need, and my wife just meets her at the cash register to pay the bill. (Warning: having a restaurant-quality chef in your kitchen can lead to restaurant-level food bills, but it’s worth it)
  • Again, Marilyn is a very hard worker and does a great job cleaning and doing laundry in addition to cooking.

 
Why should you hire Helen specifically?

  • Helen’s primary responsibility is childcare and cleaning. She will backup Marilyn in the kitchen as a secondary responsibility.
  • Helen takes excellent care of our three children. Catering to the needs of an 11 year old, 6 year old, and 18 month old.
  • She is familiar with the International School of Manila and helps make sure the kids are prepared each day and get to / from school.
  • She takes great care of the baby, and has done so since he was born. Her level of safety and rigor is so high we do not worry in the least bit when she’s out with him. And as mentioned earlier, we’ve left all three kids with them for 2-3 consecutive nights.
  • She is always present when workers are in our condo, and because of that we have never had any issues of damage goods or money stolen.
  • Like Marilyn, Helen keeps the condo clean and tidy when the kids don’t need her. Zero hesitation when it comes to hard chores.

 
Other FYI’s:

  • Their preference is to stay together at their next job, they work really well with one another.
  • They both live with us, and probably prefer live-in jobs, but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. Marilyn lives in Cavite, Helen in Pasig.
  • Their schedule with us is Monday morning through Saturday afternoon.
  • We started them at 12,000 PHP each / month, and have increased it 1000 each year. So 2016 would have been to 15,000 (includes SSS, Pag-Ibig, Phil-Health for their portion and our portion).
  • We give them the standard Filipino non-working holidays.
  • English skills are adequate, but not above average

 
We will be out of town Dec 23-Dec 27, so they will both be available for interviews during that window. Otherwise, we leave Jan 8 and they’ll be available to work full-time after that.

Helen can be reached at: 0905 678 1494

and Marilyn: 0915 670 4453

 

One of Marilyn's more "simple" dinner spreads

One of Marilyn’s more “simple” dinner spreads

Helen taking good care of Baby Blake

Helen taking good care of our baby

Helen playing with the baby

Helen playing with the baby

Helen playing video games with Mason

Helen playing video games with our middle child

Marilyn front-row left, Helen far right

Marilyn front-row left, Helen far right

Marilyn learned how to bake on her own and these cookies are good I told her to make me a batch every Saturday! They're a hit with my friends too.

Marilyn learned how to bake on her own and these cookies are good I told her to make me a batch every Saturday! They’re a hit with my friends too.


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Dubai

December 1st, 2015 No comments

After spending two solid days in Abu Dhabi with our friends Kym and Will, we drove the 90 minutes or so to see our other friends in Dubai for three and a half days. We first met Carey and her family at church in the Philippines where they lived near us for a year and we became fast friends. Our kids were very excited to visit with them again and play with their toys and dog. Carey acted as our tour guide and babysitter when we needed one. It was wonderful to be able to reminisce about friends and the Philippines with their family. After spending a week in the UAE during the cool season I would be willing to move there.

Most of the ride from Abu Dhabi to Dubai looked like this...a lot of nothing but sand. After living in a concrete jungle for three years, I think this view is beautiful.

Most of the ride from Abu Dhabi to Dubai looked like this…a lot of nothing but sand. After living in a concrete jungle for three years, I think this view is beautiful.

Sometimes we came across these air conditioned bus stops.

Sometimes we came across these air conditioned bus stops.

Filling up your car in the UAE is time consuming. Since there aren't a lot of gas stations in the country, you wait in long lines to fill up your car.

Getting gas in the UAE is time consuming. Since there aren’t a lot of gas stations in the country, you wait in long lines to fill up your car.

We made it to our friend's home and it was great to to see them again and the kids couldn't wait for their kids to get home from school.

We made it to our friend’s home and it was great to to see them again and our kids couldn’t wait for their kids to get home from school.

We left the kids with our friends and Matt and I had another date night at the Mall of the Emirates. Matt tried snow boarding, and I watched the penguin show sinec I have only tried skiing once in the fourth grade and that wasn't a fun experience.

Our first evening in Dubai, we left the kids with our friends and Matt and I had another date night. This time at the Mall of the Emirates. Matt tried snow boarding at Ski Dubai, and I watched the penguin show since I have only tried skiing once in the fourth grade and that wasn’t a fun experience.

We had a delicious dinner at ? where we were also able to watch people who were at "Ski Dubai"

We had a delicious dinner at Karam Beirut where we were also able to watch people on the slopes at Ski Dubai.

Day 1

Our tour guide, Carey, had us walking a lot on our first morning.

Our friend and tour guide, Carey, had us walking a lot on our first morning.

Culture breakfast. We ate the traditional food that Emerati families would eat and then we were able to ask any question to our hosts about the country, culture, or anything else on our mind. Yummy food, very informative and fun.

First stop was to Al Bastakiya area to attend a culture breakfast at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. We ate the traditional food that Emerati families would eat and then we were able to ask any question to our hosts about their country, culture, or anything else on our mind. Yummy food, very informative and fun.

We walked to the water taxi area to rode the boat for a short ride to cross the water so we could see some souvenir shops.

We walked to the water taxi area and rode the boat for a short ride to cross the Dubai creek so we could see some spice souk & gold souk.

GOLD ring that is big enough for a giant!

GOLD ring that is big enough for a giant!

While the older kids stayed home to play with their friends and toys, Blake joined Matt & I at the Dubai Mall where we took him to his first aquarium.

While the older kids stayed home to play with their friends and toys, Blake joined Matt & I at the Dubai Mall where we took him to his first aquarium.

Blake wasn't sure about this glass flooring where there were large fish (maybe some sharks) underneath.

Blake wasn’t sure about this glass flooring where there were large fish (maybe some sharks) underneath. He was too scared to walk over the clear areas.

While waiting to watch the Dubai Mall fountain show, Blake was making friends.

While waiting to watch the Dubai Mall fountain show, Blake was making friends.

Duabi Mall fountain show is only about 7 minutes, but was fun to watch and to see Blake enjoy the lights, music and water.

Duabi Mall fountain show is only about three minutes, but was fun to watch and to see Blake enjoy the lights, music and water.

Night view of the Burj Kalifa after the water show.

Night view of the Burj Khalifa after the water show. We actually watched the water show twice before heading home.

Day 2

Our friends got us 9am tickets to go up the tallest building in the world, The Burj Kalifa.

Our friends got us 9am tickets to go up the tallest building in the world, The Burj Khalifa.

You don't actually go all the way to the top of the building, but still at 452 meters, we made the records books.

You don’t actually go all the way to the top of the building, but still at 452 meters (494 yards), we made the records books.

Our kids looking out at Dubai from the Burj Kalifa

Our kids looking out at Dubai from the Burj Khalifa

If the Burj Khalifa had a voice, this what it would say.

If the Burj Khalifa had a voice, this what it would say.

We had time to spare in the afternoon, so we went to the "Atlantis" hotel and walked around their aquarium.

We had time to spare in the afternoon, so we went to the “Atlantis The Palm” hotel and walked around their Lost Chambers Aquarium.

In the late afternoon we got picked up in a 4-runner and headed out to the desert to experience a desert safari. Blake stayed home with our friends for the evening since he was too young.

In the late afternoon we got picked up in a four-runner and headed out to the desert to experience a desert safari. Blake stayed home with our friends for the evening since he was too young.

There were so many cars there to do "dune bashing." It is like a roller coaster ride in the car and air is let out of the tires for this experience.

There were so many cars there to do “dune bashing.” It is like a roller coaster ride in the car.

We stopped and watched the sunset during our time of dune bashing.

We stopped and watched the sunset during our time of dune bashing.

We arrived at the "Arabian Nights Tour" dinner location where hundreds of people gather for a buffet dinner, entertainment and a fun experience. Mason quickly made friends with the majority of the kids there and they all played tag.

We arrived at the “Arabian Nights Tour” dinner location where hundreds of people gather for a buffet dinner, entertainment and a fun experience. Mason quickly made friends with the majority of the kids there and they all played tag.

Mom & daughter henna.

Mom & daughter henna.

Camel ride was short, but now we can say we rode a camel in the desert.

Camel ride was short, but now we can say we rode a camel in the desert.

Farley family as Emirates.

Farley family as Emiratis.

Day 3

In the Middle East, Fridays are the Sabbath day. So we got to attend church with our friends inside this villa that is their church building.

In the Middle East, Fridays are the Sabbath day. So we got to attend church with our friends inside this villa that is the LDS church building.

After dinner we drove about 15-20 minutes and pulled off on the side of the road and picked a "camp ground" area in the sand dunes. Matt caught this small lizard with his bare hands.

After dinner we drove about 15-20 minutes and pulled off on the side of the road and picked a “camp ground” area in the sand dunes. Matt caught this small lizard as it was zipping over the sand dunes.

After dinner we drove about 15-20 minutes and pulled off on the side of the road and picked a "camp ground" area in the sand dunes. We got to watch the sunset with friends.

We got to watch the sunset with friends.

We built a fire in the sand and made s'mores.

We built a fire in the sand and made s’mores.

To end our Friday Sabbath, we went home and decorated Halloween sugar cookies.

To end our Friday Sabbath, we went home and decorated Halloween sugar cookies.

Day 4

We woke up early and went to the JBR beach where they "mow" the sand. We spent a couple of hours there playing in the water and enjoying the company of friends.

We woke up early and went to the JBR beach where they “mow” the sand. 

We spent a couple of hours playing on these inflatables in water and enjoying the company of friends.

We spent a couple of hours playing on these inflatables in water and enjoying the company of friends.

Mason got to help carve a pumpkin since it was Halloween. Poor boy is 6 years old and that was his first time to "carve" a pumpkin.

Mason got to help carve a pumpkin since it was Halloween. Poor boy is six years old and that was his first time to “carve” a pumpkin.

We had such a fabulous time being with friends and exploring Dubai.

We had such a fabulous time being with friends and exploring Dubai.

More photos of Dubai here.