Archive for July, 2007

West Edmonton Mall

After Banff, our next stop was Edmonton.  We wanted to visit the famous West Edmonton Mall (WEM), the largest shopping mall in North America and third largest in the world.

We left Banff at 4:49 p.m. that Sunday, after our breathtaking trip on top of Sulphur Mountain and exciting ride on the gondolas.  We arrrived in Edmonton at 9:03 p.m and by 9:22, we were checked in at Comfort Inn.  That’s Comfort Inn, my dear folks, not to be confused with comfort room, as we call the washrooms in the Philippines. 

comfort inn   free internet access

We were all excited when we saw the banner that said, free hi speed internet access.  We thought that there would be computers in the rooms or someplace in the building.  But BIL later on explained to us, that it only means that you can hook up your laptop, if you have one, and avail of free internet access.  We’ve only been gone away from home for two days and we were already missing the internet. He he he.

There was a Superstore just a stone’s throw away from the hotel.  So that was a good thing.  We packed rice and canned goods with us, but I had wanted to buy milk and some fresh food since there was no fridge in the hotel rooms.  This Superstore also has hot freshly baked pizzas so it was good to have something like that.  We wanted to avoid eating out as much as possible because the bills could really add up. 

The next morning, we headed to WEM.  It was only a six-minute drive from the hotel. I didn’t even realize that we were already there after a few minutes.  I was expecting a huge sign or huge globe or something like the one I see in the pictures of SM Mall of Asia, but there was none of that.  Well, there was this sign, but I just thought it was pointing in the direction of the hotel, which I learned later on was inside the mall.  That is not my picture on the link.  But we had this one taken on the rooftop of the mall.  You’ll see the WEM sign in the background.

WEM rooftop

Well, what can I say?  The mall is really huge. 

According to Wikipedia:  (WEM) covers a gross area of 570,000 m² (5.3 million ft²) and cost C$1.2 billion to build. There are over 800 stores and services and parking for more than 20,000 vehicles. More than 23,000 people are employed at the property. The mall receives 33.5 million visitors per year and between 60,000 and 150,000 shoppers daily depending on the day and season. The mall is currently valued at $926 million.

Here are just some of the major attractions of WEM:

santa maria Deep Sea Adventure.  There is this huge replica of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria.  The theme is Pirates of the Mall, obviously inspired by the movie Pirates of the Caribbean.  The Sea Lions’ Rock is also in this area.  We spent a good amount of time here on our first day at the mall because the kids loved watching the sea lions perform their tricks.

europa blvd Europa Boulevard.  Located on the second floor.  This part of the mall has a themed street inspired by the art and architecture of Europe’s oldest and best-loved cities.  There is a huge Christmas tree right in the centre of Europa Boulevard.  Apparently, the movie Christmas in Wonderland, which will come out later this year, was shot here.  We took pictures by the Christmas tree.  We got our Christmas card pictures early this year. :)

Bourbon Street. Located on level one, this part of the mall has a theme of New Orleans – dazzling colour and delectable treats.

 world waterpark World Waterpark.  This is the main reason why my sister and her family wanted to go to WEM – to go swimming at this indoor wave pool.  (As for me, I wanted to check out the shops in the mall.)  This is North America’s largest indoor waterpark with a size of over two hectares.  They planned to go swimming the following day but when they found out that the fee was $39.00 per head, they backed out.  There were nine of them.  Nine times $39.00 was just way too much.

Galaxyland Amusement Park.  We just mostly looked at the rides, games and amusements.  The kids knew that we parents weren’t willing to pay for the rides.  But sis and I put in two dollar coins in this dance thingy where we have to follow the arrows on the floor to dance along to the tune. :)

Chinatown.  Another themed street on the second floor.  There was a huge long dragon hanging from the ceiling.  There’s also an Asian grocery store.

ice palace Ice Palace.  There is a huge skating rink at the centre of the mall and a skylight right on top.  My husband says that there is also a skating rink like this in SM Mall of Asia.  Is that right folks back there in Manila?  A skating rink in hot Manila?  And there are people there who skate?

Some of the stores:

There are the major department stores, such as Sears, The Bay and Zellers, which I didn’t see until our second day there when we all went on our separate ways.  Ryland stayed with me.  Yes, my baby still wants his mommy.

This HMV is on two floors.  It took me two days to browse through their movie racks and also Reggie who browsed through their CDs.  I got myself my very own copy of Brokeback Mountain.  I just watched it the other night and I got to experience the breathtaking views of the mountains of Alberta once again.

We were looking at the Santa Maria when my oldest son, Reggie, pointed out this shoe store to me.  “Isn’t that a Filipino word?” he asked me.  Of course it is, Sapatos.  Although it’s derived from the Spanish word, zapatos, which means shoes. 

 HMV  sapatos

There are also stores for the small children, like B Sweet, which sells an assortment of candies; the Disney Store, which sells everything Disney; Build-A-Bear Workshop, where you can create your own personalized stuffed Teddy bear.

Play Me My boys went inside this game store called Play Me.  My middle son, Ryan, checked out the games but he said they were a lot more expensive as compared to Winnipeg.  That’s what we parents also noticed.  Even without the 6% GST (goods and services tax) in Alberta, the items sold at Edmonton Mall are still pricey.  Well, what can you expect?  It is after all a tourist spot.  When Ryland and I went back to this store the next day, he also checked out the games.  He pointed out to a game that was on sale.  It doesn’t have its original box and he thought he’d get it for the discounted price.  But I asked him first, “Do you really want it, or you just want to buy something here? Because you could save your money and buy something you really want in Winnipeg.”  In the end, he decided not to buy it.

And of course, I had to visit the bookstores.  We first went to Coles.  They had a poster of the new Harry Potter book that was to be released in three day’s time.  I saw this magazine where Daniel Radcliffe was on the cover and I read part of his interview.  Ryland got tired of waiting for me to finish reading.  But he’s been patient.

So I promised to buy him ice cream once we get to an ice cream store.  We went downstairs to Baskin Robbins and we both had a cup of delicious ice cream, Pink Bubblegum for him and Mango Tango for me.

Then we went to Chapters where they had a Harry Potter theme. There were paper candles hanging from the ceiling, just like there are candles floating at the Great Hall of Hogwarts.  They were going to have a book reading event and/or party on the midnight of July 20, the release date of the book.

chapters  Rocky Mountain Soap Co. 

Are you finding my shopping trip boring yet?  You see, I’m not really big on shopping because I don’t have a lot to spend on things.  I’m quite content with just browsing the stores.  But if I do find something that I really like, I buy it.  And I tell you this.  The most valuable purchase I made was from this store called the Rocky Mountain Soap Co.  One of my boys has stubborn eczema that won’t go away even with prescription cream.  I went to this store hoping to find soap that he could use.  And sure enough, I spotted this Pumpkin Patch soap for dry/eczema skin, made with natural ingredients.  I bought three bars.  And I also bought this body butter, which he could apply on the rough patches of his skin instead of lotion.  He used the soap and body butter right away once we got back home and it’s working.  So I just have to find a distributor of these products here in Winnipeg since Rocky Mountain Soap Co. doesn’t have a branch here.  Or I could always order on-line.

You can view my West Edmonton Mall album here.   

More of Edmonton next time.

July 28, 2007 at 11:19 pm 25 comments

Road trip to Alberta

road trip map 

July 14, 2007, Saturday

3:00 a.m.  I wake up.  My family is going on a road trip to Alberta.  This is our first family trip ever, first for me actually.  We are going with my sister’s family and my mother.  We decided to leave at 5:00 a.m. since it’s a 14-hour drive from Winnipeg to Alberta.

4:00 a.m.  I wake hubby and kids up so they can start taking turns in the washroom.  Reggie alone takes half an hour in the bathroom.  We also have a quick breakfast of cereal and toast.

5:00 a.m.  We start loading our luggage and bags in the car.  Mama’s already here.  We load some of our bags in her trunk.  I think we have too many stuff.  But we are going to be there for six days.

5:15 a.m.  Sis and family are still loading their van. 

5:22 a.m.  The three cars finally pull out of the driveway.  Reggie and Agnus (Ah-nyus), my oldest niece, are riding with Mama.  Our two youngest kids are with hubby and me in the second car.  Sis and BIL have six kids in their van.  We have three walkie-talkies, one in each car.  The van is at the front.  BIL is navigating us since he’s the experienced traveler.  Mama in the middle and us at the back.

heavy rains 

Around 6:00 a.m.  We encounter dark heavy clouds and then it rains.  Ryland has his blanket over his head.  After we pass the rains and as we are driving under the clear skies, Ryland says, “Mommy, I was scared of the rain.”  I say, “Oh, is that why you were hiding under your blanket?”  He replies, “Yeah.”  I say, “That’s okay, it’s behind us now.”

highway

6:33 a.m.  We stop at Tim Horton’s at Portage La Prairie, still in Manitoba.  Mama needs a washroom break.  Some of us also go.

8:00 a.m.  We stop at Brandon (Manitoba) to fill up the cars.  Washroom break, too.

11:30 a.m.  Gas fill up and lunch break at Regina, Saskatchewan.  We eat inside our cars.

12:00 noon.  We leave Regina.

1:00 p.m.  We pull over to the roadside to switch drivers because Mama is falling behind. The speed limit on the highway is 100-110 kmh, but the speedometer reading of Mama’s Toyota Corolla is not right.  She has to drive at 120 kmh to catch up with the other two vehicles but she insists on driving at only 110 on her speedometer.  We have five drivers by the way: hubby, Mama, sis, BIL and my 19-year old niece, Agnus.

2:30 p.m.  We pull over to switch drivers again.  Sis is falling asleep on the wheel.  Hubby also needs a break.

highway

This is mostly the view on the prairie highways, flat lands and fields.  Very boring and it will really make you feel sleepy.  We do see cows, bisons, hay, haystacks, irrigation pipes sprinkling water on the fields, and once in a while trains.  But that’s about it.

But doesn’t this canola field look so pretty?  The yellow look so lovely against the green.  We pass by a few of these fields.  This picture is taken from a tinted glass window and doesn’t really give justice to how beautiful it is.  But you can see much better pictures of canola fields here.

canola field

3:45 p.m.  Gas fill up and washroom break near Medicine Hat.

4:23 p.m.  We reach Alberta.  We finally see hills and horses.

Calgary

7:27 p.m.  We arrive in Calgary.  We see mountains here and there.  We are enjoying the view in Calgary.  We see houses built on top of the mountains and also more horses.  I imagine Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger filming Brokeback Mountain here and I have the sudden urge to watch this movie again which I’ve seen twice already. We see the mountains in the horizon and we think that’s Banff.

As we enter Banff, we are driving in winding roads in between The Rocky Mountains.  The view is so breath taking!

banff national park

9:05 p.m.  We enter Banff National Park.  We pay $17.80 per family/vehicle.  It’s only 8:05 p.m. in Alberta. 

9:40 p.m.  We check in at Banff International Hotel.

July 15, 2007, Sunday (Alberta time)

9:00 a.m.  We hear mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

11:00 a.m.  We check out of the hotel and then we go sightseeing around downtown Banff.  And then we head to the Banff Gondola (lift car) ride.  Fees:  Adult – $24.95, Children (6-15 years old) – $12.50.  Sis is having second thoughts since she has an equivalent of four adults and 5 children.  I tell her that since we’re already there, why not take advantage of this opportunity to take the ride and anyway it looks like the fee is all worth it.  And it is.  The ride and the view on top of the mountains are so cool and awesome!

Let the pictures and videos speak for themselves.  Enjoy!

The Canadian Rockies  The Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies  The Canadian Rockies

Downtown Banff

Banff Gondola ride

July 21, 2007 at 11:27 pm 35 comments

The one that complains

Rylanddishes.jpg

It was a couple of months before school ended when I realized that I should start giving my middle son, Ryan, new chores.  He was 12 at that time but I noticed that his younger brother, Ryland, who’s nine, was doing more chores than him on Sundays.

You see, Sunday is cleaning day at our house and we have a chores list posted on our fridge door.  I usually wait until they’re on vacation before I introduce them to new chores but I didn’t like what I’ve been seeing – Ryan trying to get away from chores while his brothers do their share.

Oh yes, I have that list and he knows when it’s his turn to wash the dishes or cook rice but I always have to remind him and even if I do, he will give me a hard time – either complaining or sneaking  his way out.

chores2007.jpg 

For instance, after he eats snacks in the afternoon, he goes to the basement to play his Gamecube or Playstation.  At around 6:00 p.m., I come downstairs to remind him to cook rice within the next half hour if they want to eat at 7:00 p.m., our usual dinnertime.  Come 6:30 p.m. and he’s still down there. So I will call him again and he gets mad at me.  “Now you ruin my game” or “you ruin my day.”  Such irreverence!

Or we will be eating our fruits or desserts after supper and I will remind him.  “Ryan, it’s your turn to wash the dishes.”  “Aww!  Can I not do it?”  He will complain.  “Oh, you have to do it.  Your brothers did their turn,” I will say.  And when he thinks I’m not looking, he will slowly slide from his chair, go under the table and run away upstairs.  But what he doesn’t know is that I’m watching him and before he could go upstairs, I will be shouting at him, “Come back here, Ryan and don’t you pull that trick on me again.”  Then he’ll come back, sometimes grinning and sometimes frowning, depending on his mood.

So it was one Sunday morning when I said, “Ryan, I think you can take over the vacuuming.  Kuya Reggie will show you how.  Reggie, I am promoting you.  I’ll show you how to clean the washroom.”

But that sneaky little booger got away from it and his older brother found a window of opportunity to get away from his also and I don’t know how I ended up doing both of their chores for two weeks.

I tried a different approach on the third week.

“Ryan, how would you like to clean the washroom?” I asked him that Sunday morning.  “Ah! I have to clean the toilet?” he complained.  Okay, I didn’t want to push it.  “No, just the sink and the counter,” I said.  So I showed him how to clear the clutter first, spray with Lysol, wait for a few minutes, and then wipe and rinse.  “Okay, I can do that,” he replied.  What, no complaints?  I was surprised.  Did he find vacuuming too easy or too boring?  Did he find cleaning the sink and counter more challenging?  Who knows?  But I’m not complaining.  And I won’t ask him why for he might change his mind.

So he cleaned the washroom sink and counter.  And he’s been doing it every Sunday.  That’s one less job for me.   And I’m a happy mom.

July 11, 2007 at 10:06 pm 30 comments

The View From My Post

patrol1.jpg

I know this post is kinda late, school being out and all.  But I haven’t talked much about my school patrolling duties.  I was actually planning on posting a series called “The View from my Post.”  But it didn’t happen.  I have been very busy this past school year not only with the kids’ activities but also with work.  I have been doing a lot of overtime.  And of course, this patrol duty also took up some of my time.

When I signed up for this volunteer work in September (okay, I didn’t really sign any papers), I thought 15 minutes twice a day, two times a week was not that much.  But I soon realized that it took away some blogging time in the morning and what should have been a couple of hours’ overtime work per week.  And then winter came.  It took longer to get ready to go outside, what with the layers of clothing that I had to put on and then undressing again afterwards.

The first time I donned my bright orange vest, Ryland, my third-grader and Ryan, my seventh-grader laughed at me.  I don’t know if they thought I looked funny, or maybe they were just not used to seeing an adult patrolling. 

For it was the first time the school has placed adult patrols in our neighbourhood.  And I realized why they did the minute I stepped out of the curb and extended my arm facing the traffic.  That corner where I was assigned was a very busy one and on-coming traffic could be very intimidating.  Drivers are supposed to do a full stop at a crosswalk where there are children waiting to cross.  But there are some who would not stop.  Sometimes they would just slow down and I’d doubt if they’d stop, so I would hesitate to raise my flag.

I wasn’t there to stop traffic but to help the students cross the street safely. So I would make sure that the vehicles have stopped before I let the students cross, but as there were impatient drivers, there were also impatient students, especially the older ones (not from our school) who couldn’t wait to be crossed.  And it also didn’t help when there were adult pedestrians who ignored the patrols and didn’t wait to be crossed.

Once, there was this kid on his bike who gave me this weird look when I asked him, “Can you please get off your bike,” because the older kid just crossed while still on his bike before I even waved my flag.

Not only were there impatient drivers who would honk when there was a line up of cars turning at different directions at that intersection, but there were also quite a few “busy” drivers.  I’m talking about drivers who were talking on their cell phones while driving.  And there was one who was holding a plate of her breakfast while driving.  Eating while driving.  Que horror!

And there was this teacher who honked, waved and smiled at me while turning that corner.  I know she was just being friendly, but please mind your driving especially while turning that corner where children are crossing.

People had been really friendly throughout the year, some saying “Thank you” almost every time.  And of course, I also never failed to say, “You’re welcome,” back.

And this just shows you how friendly Manitobans are.  There was this one chilly winter day (temperature in the minus 30s C) when this elderly guy stopped and chatted with me while I cross the children.  He said he used to work as a caretaker at that apartment building across from where we were standing.  They had to do a plumbing job or was it fixing a heater?  I can’t remember now.  Anyway, I couldn’t concentrate on what he was relating to me, not only because I was also minding the children, but because I couldn’t help staring at the snot-like frost that has formed in his huge nostrils. Yes, it was that cold, yet he stopped to chat with me.  A very friendly guy.

And there was this one icy morning I couldn’t forget.  I thought I’d patrol from the other side of the street where most of the students were coming from.  But I didn’t realize at first that that was the side were cars where parked and so I had a blind spot.  I just finished crossing a bunch of children when this little girl, about seven or eight, who must have been left behind came running after them after I have put down my flag.  There she was running a few feet from my right as I watched this car coming also from my right, the driver trying to put on the brakes, but was unable to because of the slippery road.  I watched in suspense to see if the car would stop in time before it hit the girl.  I couldn’t do anything.  I wanted to shout after the girl to come back but no words came out.  And in hindsight, it would have been more dangerous if she ran back because the driver couldn’t control the car and it might have hit her head on.  She successfully reached the other side, the car missing her by only a few feet, and the only thing that stopped the car was hitting the curb.  The girl happily joined her group, unaware of all of these.  While I and the other drivers who were there watched that scene in horror.  I was relieved in the end, but I couldn’t help wondering what if she got struck.  I would have felt guilty and responsible because I was the one on duty and I was supposed to help the students cross safely.  But then again, looking back, my flag was down when she crossed the street.  And when I told my sister (who also patrols) about it, she said it must be the same girl who was once reading her book while crossing the street.  But that’s how I regard this duty, even if it was just volunteer work.  I felt responsible for these children.

As I sit down here in front of the computer, it seems that the year just flew by.  But the time didn’t seem to go that fast as I stood there at my post, especially last winter when it seemed like forever for my son and his cousins to reach my post because they would be goofing around and playing in the snow as they walked home from school.

I’ve watched the seasons change around me as I stood at my post. 

I stood there under the sun.  I even wore my sunglasses once for fear that I might add up lines on my forehead when I squint at the glare of the sun. 

I shivered at my post even with several layers of clothing when we had a couple of cold spells in the winter, with temperatures dipping down to the minus 40s.

I stood there under a heavy downpour and felt the big raindrops against my yellow raincoat.

As I stood there, I watched a big mosquito land on my arm and I slapped it right there squishing it and fresh blood squirting from the tiny sucker.  I worried that I was giving the wrong signals to the drivers and students as I waved my flag trying to shoo away the mosquitoes.

I watched this little boy, around nine to ten years old, grow taller and become more independent.  At the start of the school year up and until a few months ago, either his brother or dad would walk him to and from school.  I noticed that during the last couple of months before school ended, he was allowed to cross the street by himself.  I felt so proud of him like I was his mother.

I know, I just cross these children before and after school but I felt a sort of connection with them.  Like when I am running late in the morning, I’d tell myself, “My children are waiting for me.”  Yeah, as if they would stand there at the curb and wait until I get there to cross them.

My sister and I were talking just a few days before the last day of school, asking each other if we’d like to do this again next year.  Sure, she’s a stay-at-home mom, to seven children, but she also has other stuff to attend to and it also took up her time, more for her because she did it for three days.

As for me, I had to give up some blogging time and overtime hours, and it just made my day crazier when I had appointments and children’s activities to squeeze into, but I really enjoyed doing it, seeing all these happy children and meeting some people too.  So don’t be surprised if you see me back again at my post next school year.

July 5, 2007 at 11:56 am 18 comments

Canada Day Jazz Festival Wrap-Up

jazzstage.jpg 

The 2007 Jazz Winnipeg Festival wrapped up its annual season with a series of free jazz and pop concerts at the TD Canada Trust Stage in Old Market Square on Sunday, Canada Day. 

canada flag 

It was a rainy day.  No heavy downpour but showers here and there.  You’d see people open up their umbrellas when it started raining, and then after a while, the rain would stop and then later on start again.  There were quite a few of those big dark green Canada Trust umbrellas handed out so people were kept dry.

That’s my mother and her friend Tessie in their denims sitting at the front. 

jazz1.jpg 

There are a couple of restaurants around and there were also food stands, just in case anybody got hungry. 

 jazz3.jpg

The event started at 11:00 a.m. and ended at midnight.

jazz2.jpg
 
Reggie performed with the Manitoba High School Honour Band on this event.  As conductor Richard Gillis mentioned a few times, you don’t just get into this band.  You audition for this.  Every end of May, Richard Gillis auditions students from different schools in Manitoba and he also picks which of the students will make it to the band composed of around 20 performers.  This year, they had five rehearsals, which were held at the University of Manitoba.

jazz4.jpg

Here are two video clips from last Sunday’s event.  Please excuse the jerky movements especially in the second video.  I was holding the camcorder in one hand and the digicam in another.  I placed myself at the front of the crowd, but I couldn’t quite get a good spot because Reggie would be concealed either by the microphone or the soloist at the front.  Besides, people kept passing by in front of me.

In the first video clip, the band played The More I See You featuring Sophie in vocals.

In this one, they played Duke Ellington’s Things Ain’t What They Used To Be featuring saxophonist Christine Jensen.  The tune was quite catchy and there were three couples that danced not too far from the stage.  I videotaped them too.

July 2, 2007 at 10:30 pm 15 comments


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