Saturday, March 10, 2012

Phenomenal Woman

Today, a work colleague brought some cakes to celebrate that someone will permanently start (at least for 6 months secondment) using the desk that's been used as hot desk by different people for the last few months. They had difficulty finding a replacement for another work colleague who moved to another depot.  The good news is it's a girl joining the group!  Every additional girl in a male-dominated industry helps achieve a better gender balance.

This is a good coincidence to the celebration of International Women's Day yesterday.

Let me take this opportunity to salute all the women who sacrificed and made it possible for women to exercise our freedom, to fulfill our rights to work, vote and be heard, and to stand up for our beliefs, while still being grounded and caring.

I believe I have a little of the woman plus factor.  Otherwise, I would have packed my bags and gone home to the Philippines at the first instance of difficulty after migrating.  But, I stayed and assimilated.  When I feel down, especially when homesickness strikes and when things are getting out of hand, I pray for more strength and read Maya Angelou's poem "Phenomenal Woman," which resonates well with me and uplifts my spirit.  Thanks to my friend Len for introducing me to Maya's poem. Len is a phenomenal woman herself, an epitome of calmness during adversity. 

Another woman I consider phenomenal is my mother.  She raised 6 kids, 4 boys and 2 girls, on her own after my father died at a young age. She worked hard, and still working hard, to provide us with the necessities of life. She sacrificed a lot of "me" time that a lot of mothers now complain about. She put up with the different temperament and behaviour of her kids. She did not give up on us when her relationship with my father was not at its best.  She kept her values intact and performed professionally with her career in government service.  She is my woman of strength and resilience. An inspiration. A Phenomenal Woman. If she succeeded with 6 kids, one child should be easy peasy for me. I hope.

Let us all celebrate and unleash our phenomenal womanity! May you also be inspired by Maya Angelou's poem which you can be read here.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Six weeks ago, Kimi received a letter in the mail. Tatay did not actually think that the mail was for Kimi because the letter was addressed to M. J plus our family name. I had to tell him that it was for Master Joachim!

Tatay handed the mail to Kimi, who was already excited to open it. This is not the first time that he received letters from the mail. Thanks to Lego Club for sending him his first mail, which is the photo below.

Lego Club Mail

Tatay and I were really curious as to who sent him the surprise mail. It was our general practitioner's clinic! They are greeting Kimi a happy birthday (a very advanced one) and gently reminding us that his 4 year old immunisation is due soon.
Immunisation Mail
I really appreciate the reminder. It is very beneficial especially to very busy families. If we were in the Philippines, we wouldn't receive any reminder and we even have to pay for each immunisation. Down under, child immunisations are free and we even receive an immunisation allowance of $129 after the 18 month immunisation and another $129 after the 4 year old immunisation from the Family Assistance Office.
I was surprised that they have to provide incentives to encourage parents to immunise their kids. I believe that it is a responsibility of the parents and they don't have any reason not to do it as they are being administered for free.  But, don't get me wrong, I would gladly receive it still.

Time to book that vaccination now.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dahon Tea Lounge: Filipino Restaurant in South Melbourne

Upon learning of the new Filipino restaurant in South Melbourne, my girl friends and I happily agreed to have our next meet up at Dahon Gourmet Tea Lounge. Filipino food is still a mysterious cuisine for many I would think as I have a few work colleagues asking me about it.  I have not known of a Filipino restaurant in Geelong or even in Melbourne which can offer both the food and the ambiance.

It was a different feeling placing our order using the Filipino language. Kimi was quite impressed that the lady at the counter could speak Filipino.

Dahon Tea Lounge1
This board is placed near the door. It easily caught my attention because of the very inviting iced teas and the small Philippine flag, which I think is placed incorrectly. The blue part of the flag should be on the left when you're looking at it. Correct me if my memory is wrong.

Dahon Tea Lounge3

I like the colour schemes as it is very pleasing to the eyes. The round lamps added to the cosy feel of the restaurant.
Dahon Tea Lounge6 

They also have several mounted photos displayed on one side of the restaurant, which I believe showcases Philippine culture and favourite family photos of the owners. The photo of the San Miguel beer was my favourite.

Dahon Tea Lounge7

I was also impressed with the bottles of vinegar in the condiments section. This is very Filipino indeed!

Dahon Tea Lounge9 

Kimi and my friends had the citrus iced tea.  I ordered the berry lychee.  Both were really refreshing. My berry lychee had a real lychee in it which I really loved.  Kimi enjoyed the slice of orange in his tea as well. If there is one thing I need to come back to, this would be the gourmet teas. I want to sample each one of the flavours.

Dahon Tea Lounge10 
This is the pork barbecue skewers with java rice and a side of pickled pawpaw (papaya).

Dahon Tea Lounge11 
This is the palabok, which is a noodle dish with a shrimp-based sauce.

Dahon Tea Lounge12 
They also serve escabeche.

Dahon Tea Lounge13 

They offer two variants of lumpia: mini-spring roll with meat inside and the fried vegetable lumpia.

Dahon Tea Lounge14

They also serve halo-halo complete with leche flan and ube (taro) haleya.  This is a very great dessert during hot summer days.

If you want to sample a Filipino dish or you want a quick fix of Filipino food craving, this is a great place to go. Their food suits the Australian palate really well and the service is really good. Plus, make sure to try their gourmet iced teas.

Shop 5, 111 Cecil St.
South Melbourne VIC 3205

Tram tip: Take the tram 112 to St. Kilda at the corner of Spencer St and Collins St. Get off at tram stop 127 at corner York St and Clarendon St. Walk to Cecil St.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Our Cum Quats are flowering!

Some of you may wonder what I am talking about. Cum quat is similar to the Philippines’ calamansi or calamondin. We use it as a dipping sauce with soy sauce, as marinade, our replacement for the citrusy and lemony flavour that Westerners use, or as part of a refreshment. It is also perfect for any noodle (pansit) dish whether fried or with soup.

For the past five years, we have been replacing calamansi with lemon but the taste is still different. And we are still longing for that distinct taste. We are always happy if we see noodles served with cum quat at friend’s and relative’s parties. We have been wanting to have our own supply of cum quat so we purchased a plant in 2008. However, since then, it did not flower much and only a couple became fruits. It is only planted though in a big pot since we are only renting and only watered once a week because of the water restrictions and as advised by one relative.

Early 2011, we were inspired by the flowers of a friend’s newly planted cum quat. We thought that probably our cum quat plant has a problem or maybe it has acquired a disease so we purchased another one. Since mid-2011, Tatay has been looking after it really well. He even tried collecting his and Kimi’s first urine in the morning. I know it sounds gross but apparently it is a good fertiliser for citrus trees. Don’t worry, he dilutes it with water before pouring it to the cum quat.

Cum Quat
our flowering cum quat

Tatay also fed the plant a bit of citrus-appropriate fertilizer. He regularly watered it except when we were away for Christmas holidays. We are all happy and excited whenever we see and smell its sweet-smelling flowers - they actually smell like Jasmine or Sampaguita (the national flower of the Philippines). I am especially ecstatic because I am already looking forward to enjoying my siomai with toyomansi (calamansi  plus soy sauce) or refreshing myself with calamansi juice. Now, I am crossing my fingers for a bountiful cum quat harvest.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Finding Care

One of the big hurdles faced by working parents is to find a suitable care arrangement that would work for their family. This is the same challenge we face. This is extremely difficult for migrants like me who do not have any immediate family nearby and who got used to having live-in nannies when growing up. In case you are not aware, even middle-income families can afford live-in nannies in the Philippines. In Australia, only the filthy rich can afford nannies.

Dress-up Day

There are different forms of care to choose from in Australia: (1) one of the parents, usually the mother, looks after the baby, (2) grandparents and friends, (3) babysitters and nannies, (4) family day care, (5) occasional care and (6) long day childcare centres. The government assists family with the cost of care. There is the childcare benefit, which reduces out of pocket costs depending on the household’s income, and the childcare rebate, which gives back 50% of out-of-pocket costs. I will not detail this information as it is best to get accurate information from the family assistance office website.

The family day care set-up is run and administered by the local council. Your kid will be looked after by a qualified early childhood educator, who at least finished a Certificate degree in Children Services, at his or her own premises together with 3 other non-school aged kids from 6 months to 5 years old. The fee is ranging from $6 to $9 per hour with a usual minimum booking of 6 hours per day. Parents provide the food, an assurance that your kids eat food they love, and everything the kids need personally like diapers, wipes, and nappy bags. But, all other materials related to their activities such as art and craft materials, musical instruments, and toys are all covered by the educator. Because of the smaller group size, the educator is quite flexible to adapt the schedule and routine of your kid at home or depending on the kid’s needs on the day.

Occasional care is a form of care for those who needs care from time to time when you have appointments or just want a day for yourself.

In long day childcare, qualified early childhood educators look after the babies and the kids from as young as 6 weeks old to 5 years old before they start the big school. The baby’s room usually have 6 kids at a time with 2-3 educators looking after them. The toddlers room usually have 15 kids at a time with 4 educators. The 3 and 4 year old room usually have 15 kids at a time with 2-3 educators. Most childcare centres operate from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm, which is suitable for working parents who travel 45 minutes to an hour for work. Most childcare centres provide the food, that are gluten and nut free, nappies, and sunscreen. Most often bringing of food is not allowed to avoid food allergic reaction from occurring. Your kid will be exposed to different variety of cuisines. I am often surprised that Kimi eats and knows food that is not a regular food for traditional Filipino families such as ravioli and gnocchi. Healthy eating habits is also promoted among the kids. This could be a disadvantage, though, if you have a picky eater that would not really eat anything but bread and jam. In terms of schedule, your kid will learn the centre’s routine for grouping activities, playing, eating and resting.

Pretend play: I can build your house!

In our situation and after he was looked after by his grandparents interstate (an emotionally difficult situation that I would not like to happen again), we opted for a mix of family day care, childcare centre and stay at home at different stages to ensure that Kimi gets the right mix of social interaction and the much needed rest if he had a late night of playing with us to compensate for our absence during the day. When Kimi was 19 months, we started him off with 1 day at family day care and 4 days at home per work week. We increased this to 3 days a week in family day care and 2 days at home when he was 22 months. We changed his care to 3 days in family day care and 2 days in childcare when he was 24 months.

Childcare fees were getting expensive so when my request to work from home one Friday at fortnight was approved, we dropped his childcare days to 1 day per week, resulting in only 4 days of care per week when he was 30 months. Che and I took turns looking after Kimi during Fridays while friends assist during unavoidable circumstances. This set-up has substantially helped us financially.

There are pros and cons of putting your kid in childcare or day care. For sure, your kid will pick up the virus of other kids especially during the winter season so you will need to brace yourself for more days of caring for a sick kid - the usual cough and cold. But, the positive side of this is your kid will build the immune system earlier in life than kids who will only be exposed to other kids when they get to school. You will be surprised that your kid will learn words and phrases that you don’t use at home. These, however, are not only the nice but the naughty too words too. They are unavoidable. So, you will have to work harder at emphasising the proper behaviour at home. Your kid will learn to share and negotiate as he will regularly do this with other kids so don’t be surprised that he will start negotiating with you as well. And the most important of all, your kid will develop emotional and social skills without much effort on your part.

If you decide to put your kid in childcare, ask friends and colleagues for recommendations, make a surprise visit so you can see them in action with no preparations, observe the kids if they are content and happy, check the toilets as this is a good indicator of overall cleanliness, look at the play area and see if there are any hazards, review the centre’s philosophy and curriculum, and keep an eye on what the educators are doing and how they respond and treat the kids. Trust your instincts. You will feel it during the first visit if the place is for your child and if it is worth doing a trial session.

Yes, it costs a leg and an arm. But, I will still put my son in childcare even if we can have a live-in nanny similar to what I had growing up in the Philippines or even if I can opt to stay at home full time – not for four days though.

How about you? Will you put your kid in childcare as well after my sharing? Do you have any tips on choosing the right day care?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What have we been doing?

We have been busy the past year. I really intended to create posts of what we were doing for memory purposes but often times I was already too tired to organise our photos, let alone write posts about them. I know I had not been very good with time management on this front as I'd rather sleep a little longer or play with the little man. But this year is different, because Kimi is in childcare centre almost full time now for Kindy, which is only 2 houses away. I will save a bit of time for myself after work or before bed. Yehey!

Here are some of the highlights of our 2011:

Aus Open 2011 04
Beat the heat!

Aus Open 2011 03

We watched the Australian Open and Che had the opportunity to have his Aus Open hat signed by Novak Djokovic after winning against Almagro. Lucky that he also won the grand slam and became World # 1! More photos here.

Gideon's Wedding09
Sleeping kiddo

Gideon's Wedding10
Dancing the night away

In June, we attended the wedding of my husband's cousin in Sydney. Kimi slept during the ceremonies but had lots of energy for dancing during the party. It was a fun-filled wedding. More photos here.

Mt Buller 2011 06

Kimi and I also experienced our first snow. Oh, Kimi loved it so much that he wanted to learn to ski next time. We were joined by friends, whose family is helping them with taking care of the new mom and the newborn baby. More photos here.

With the Lord Mayor of the City of Greater Geelong

In August, I took my oath as a new citizen of Australia. We celebrated it not just once but 3 times! We had dinner at home with friends, watched a Geelong Cats game at the President's luncheon (what better way to see an AFL game live for the first time?), and indulged ourselves to the 6 course tasting menu of Baveras at the Cunningham Pier (excellent food and service). I still have to try the infamous vegemite, though, to fully embrace Australian life. May be I will do that before I apply for an Australian passport. More photos here.

Canberra 2011 13

Canberra 2011 01

We drove to Sydney for the first time by ourselves. Yes, just the three of us this time. We visited family and 2 new babies. On the way back, we visited Kimi's god mother and her newborn twin sons in Canberra. We also met with friends from Geelong to see the Floriade, the Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial, and Cockington Green Gardens. Although we only had limited time, we still had so much fun. Note: This trip only proved to us that Kimi is an excellent travel companion. He didn't have any new electronic gadgets to entertain him apart from a good old digital camera from 6 years ago. He slept, sang, read, asked questions about the things he saw, shared stories, and laughed during the 12 hour travel. More photos here.
In December, we went on a "driving holiday" for 6 days on the way to Sydney for Christmas. But, I will reserve it for another post. The details are still fresh my memory.

I also started studying a diploma course in Management offered at work. Although I can opt for a recognition of prior learning to finish it sooner, I decided not to do it because my intention is to learn more about the organization and immerse myself with the local education system (this is distance learning with only a few workshops though). I still have 1 more essay assignment to do for the current module and 5 more subjects before I can finish the course. That is still a lot of juggling in the next 1.5 years. Time flies fast though so I'm sure I will finish it without even realising it.

Cheers to 2012! I look forward to an even more exciting one.