Friday, May 31, 2013

Lend a hand. If you can.

I came across Maya's Hope on Craigslist while I was searching for volunteer opportunities last year. They were looking for people who could write case files for children so that potential sponsors could learn more about their story, their struggles and how they can help.
One great takeaway from my previous job in the bank is that you are never too busy to help. A little contribution goes a long way in helping others. And you feel good, knowing that you've put your skills to good use.
I have been writing case files whenever I can. In between doing housework, traveling and hosting visitors. I love writing and am happy to take part in a meaningful cause. My work's probably minute compared to other volunteers but it's still something.
If you'd like to help, you can contact Maya's Hope on their website or check out how to get involved as a volunteer. Maya's currently looking for people who can post ads,  recruit volunteers, write, raise funds, use Instagram and contact companies for donations.
Better yet, if you are financially comfortable, you can help give hope and save a child's life.
As with all volunteer work, commitment is the key criteria. That and a lot of love and enthusiasm for the cause you believe in. In this case, it's helping children in need.
*Note: A New York based non-profit organisation that helps children living in extreme poverty, Maya's Hope provides more than just physical and financial support in terms of food, education and other daily necessities. The goal is to give love and hope to the young ones, so that they can grow up to be emotionally strong people who can contribute back to their community. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A birthday surprise to Santa Cruz

I planned a little birthday surprise for the hubs on Memorial Day weekend! My limited and sad budget does not allow me to book a room at Post Ranch Inn but I held on to the theme of Sun, Sea and Cosiness. Did my research diligently while the hubs was away, and my final choice was Sea and Sand Inn at Santa Cruz!

Thank God for the superb weather because seriously, who wants to go to the seaside when it's cloudy? There was a slight jam on CA-17 as we headed towards Santa Cruz but Panda was snoring all the way in the car so by the time he woke up for his surprise, we've already arrived at Zachary's - our downtown lunch stop serving American brunch.

After filling our stomachs, we checked in at the charming little inn and headed towards the beach to experience the California summer (they said MD is the unofficial start of summer.) It reminded me of Santa Monica in LA - the crowd, the music, and all the hot bods! I especially love the Boardwalk. It's a great carnival with rides and games and food. We even won a prize at one of the stalls!

Back at the inn, the view from our cottage suite patio was amazing. What's more, we had a 4-pax outdoor hot tub that allowed us to enjoy the view from the privacy of our room. We were there in the tub, drinking Starbucks coffee and waiting for the sun to set...

I've thought long and hard before splurging, given that I'm not working right now. But it's truly money well-spent, and I couldn't ask for better company.

Happy birthday, my dear!

Down at the beach at Santa Cruz

At the entrance of the Boardwalk

This flying ride was rather popular with kids and teens!

I love these colourful mushroom like cable cars

Loads of screaming here!

Our prize, nicknamed "three dollar" because that was how much it cost us!

Should we get our feet wet, or not?

View of the beach from our room

The outdoor hot tub

My best companion

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Les lettres des enfants de Toguiron

As part of the French Club activities I signed myself up to do French-English translation for primary schools. Kids from African countries write to their pen pals in America, and we have to translate these letters to English.

A real challenge is their cursive handwriting and spelling mistakes. I got to look up the dictionary and search online for words and phrases which I don't understand. Some are plainly illegible or just don't make sense. Makes me wanna ask the teacher, you sure you are teaching them good writing skills? :(

But I had fun nonetheless, learning more about the African culture especially their daily staples - rice, fonio, cassava, mangoes... The children's letters are quite cute, mostly talking about their family, their favorite animals and food.

Still, I'm glad that I took part. Even more glad, for the chance to keep the language alive in me.

Some drawings are pretty cute too!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Beautiful May. Visits to Vancouver and Yosemite!

May is a good month not only because the flowers are in full bloom, but Sis and OSH finally got off their busy work/baby schedule to visit us. I'm ├╝ber happy!

Despite their short one-week visit, we managed to squeeze in two short trips - one to Vancouver to visit our distant relatives, and the other to Yosemite, a national park which I've always wanted to go. We were panting like mad with back-to-back flights/drives but it was all worth it. The scenery, the company... All made the trips extremely enjoyable. On the last day we even made an impromptu drive to Sterling Vineyard some two hours away, just to enjoy that last sip of wine under California skies.

Of course, food is a major feature in this trip since Sis and OSH could hardly eat a proper meal back home with baby Jovan around. Even after the sumptuous dinners in Vancouver, courtesy of our aunts and uncles, we didn't rest our stomachs but went straight for everything - down from cheesecakes to crabs. We even went back for seconds at The Boiling Crab and Nini's Coffee Shop which serves very tasty home-cooked American breakfast. I am so stuffed that I am undergoing a 3-day detox after they left.

Here are just some snapshots of our trip. The best are in my memory!

Vancouver's Fisherman's Wharf is smaller and cosier compared to SF

At Mount Elizabeth Park with our aunt

Check out the famous gas clock at gas town

Viva the gigantic Olympics fire

Had king crab at my uncle's restaurant. It was very, very yummy.

At Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge under crisp Canadian weather
We just had to try Tim Hortons, the local 'Starbucks'!
At Deep Cove, a tranquil little area by the bay


Took the ferry to Lonsdale Quay Market on our last day in Vancouver

Back in US. After driving for 4hrs, we finally caught a glimpse of the Upper Yosemite Fall behind us.

We checked in at Tenaya Lodge. We had dinner at a nearby pizza place and the portions are BIG!

After roaming around Curry Village & Mirror Lake in the morning, we headed to Glacier Point. The view was breath-taking.

At Napa. Squeezed a trip to Sterling Vineyard for the pair of wine lovers.

I say give that lady a bottle of SV reserve

The Boiling Crab sha-bang sauce was so good, we had to go back for seconds on their last night!

Nini's exudes old American charm with a comforting breakfast menu. They had to eat it once more before their noon departure.