Destination: Sandusky, Ohio

For October, Marco ended up having a more flexible schedule due to this month’s rotation which we found perfect since it’s Cassie’s birth month and we’re also celebrating our 4th civil wedding anniversary so it was the most perfect time to schedule a mini-vacation. They had a bunch of deals for Great Wold Lodge all over the US and it just so happened that one of the cheapest ones they had was in Sandusky, Ohio which was a 3.5-hour drive. They actually had a closer one in Mason, Ohio which was just a 2.5 hour drive from Muncie but they were a bit more expensive so we went with the cheaper one, plus we didn’t really mind the hour difference so off to Sandusky we went.

Day 1

Address to Google: Great Wolf Lodge- Sandusky; 4600 Milan Rd, Sandusky, OH 44870

Marco decided to drive and we didn’t even have to make any pit stops, we didn’t need gas, we had food in the car and no one had to pee so we made it in good time. Check-in time is usually at 4pm but if you do check-in earlier and there are rooms available they just give it to you on the spot and if not you can still enjoy the amenities (water park, restaurants, etc.) while waiting to avail of your room. In our case there were rooms available so we were already checked in at 12:30 noon time.

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View from the outside.

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Check in counter at the Great Wolf Lodge-Sandusky.

This had to be one of the easiest check-ins I’ve ever done in my entire life. They asked for my driver’s license, the credit card that I used to make the reservations and they asked me if I had any room preference. They also briefly explained the halloween activities they had for the entire October and handed me keys to my room and they also handed Cassie complementary fox ears for the halloween festivities and that was it. Easy peasy.

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I think a photo of this bear chair was a must. haha.

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The grand fireplace all set up for Howl-o-ween.

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…And the infamous giant spider balloon was a sight to behold, especially for Cassie.

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Making friends with hags and witches alike. 😀

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Admiring the jack-o-lanterns, this is where they hold the storybook time every night.

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The room was a decent size considering what we paid for, I really think that was a steal. They had 2 queen sized beds, a living room area, a breakfast nook and complementary bottles of water, toiletries (the standard) and chocolates (I’m guessing due to the halloween event)

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Cassie saw the waterpark from the lobby window and “demanded” that we swim right away. We swam the entire afternoon until it was Trick or Treat time. And since I’m pregnant and can hardly move my daughter automatically clung to dear daddy and wouldn’t let go of him. She wouldn’t even hold my hand, she just wanted her daddy. Haha. After 2-3 hours of swimming we headed back to the room to freshen up and change into our costumes.

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We try to make trick or treating a family affair and I’m just one of those wives blessed with a husband who’s down for anything. Just taking the time to appreciate Marco, not every daddy would dress up for the little ones but this one did and he didn’t complain either. I think we did fine considering our costumes were last minute.

Yo-ho-ho a pirates life for us.

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The staff at Great Wolf Lodge handed out their own Howl-o-ween plastic bags for trick or treating so you don’t have to bring your own basket. I’d advise for you to bring costumes for the little ones although its not mandatory, I just think it makes the whole experience more fun. They do this every night so If you’re one of those moms who have fun dressing up your kids (like I do) you can even bring one costume per night.

They had mini stations or a trail that you follow for your treats and if you happen to get lost, the staff can easily direct you to the next station. You can also have fun in the mini photo booth they set up before or after you trick or treat.

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Cassie was completely out after that so we skipped out on story book time and enjoyed a peaceful dinner at Berardi’s Family Kitchen, a Sandusky local restaurant. You cannot miss this place when you are in town and their Spinach Artichoke Dip is to die-for, probably one of the best I’ve ever had.

Address to Google: Berardi’s Family Kitchen; 1019 W Perkins Ave, Sandusky, OH 44870

Day 2

A long day, that was what it felt like yesterday! I think the drive, the swimming and the howl-o-ween activities cleaned us out so we decided to sleep in. Had breakfast care of last night’s left overs and some sausages for Cassie, we brought from home.

Oh yeah, for families on a budget and aren’t willing to spend so much on food, bringing microwaveables and your own drinks would be a good idea since they have their own microwave and refrigerator in the rooms.

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Since we don’t have Chipotle in Muncie and Marco knew that I was craving for it, he suggested to have lunch there. It was only a 5 minute drive from Great Wolf Lodge. Happy Tummies.

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We took Cassie to the arcade after lunch but it wasn’t very toddler-friendly, I mean sure she enjoyed the lights and the sounds but there literally was just one ride in that place and it was that bus so she just kept going back on it.

Since we spent $10 on the card, Marco decided to play the bowling game, the Iceball FX and topped the score 3x. Apparently when you do that, you end up getting 250 tickets so he got that times three. I don’t think he’s won that much so we were all pretty excited and Cassie was more than happy to pick a prize from the prize section. She ended up getting a Marshall plush from Paw Patrol, once again daddy was her hero.

After the arcade, Marco and Cassie went swimming and I had to run to the post office to run errands. I swam with them as soon as I got back and just like yesterday Cassie was soooo exhausted that she missed out on her trick or treat. We had early dinner and Marco scouted the place for another tummy adventure.

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Marco has been wanting to try this Vietnamese restaurant down the road but I wasn’t feeling it yesterday. Today I gave in to his request and I’m so glad I did.

We had really good spring rolls for appetizer and I would’ve eaten more if I didn’t have a main course to go. He got to order his Pho and I got to order the Banh Mi that I haven’t had in a long time and Cassie had her fries and nuggets that we got from a McDonald’s drive thru, everyone was happy. Hahaha.

Address to Google: Mekong; 4318 Milan Rd, Sandusky, OH 44870

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We didn’t make it to story book time but we still got to change Cassie in her Pjs to take a picture with Oliver the raccoon. They usually have the characters of Great Wolf Lodge come out after the story for a photo op. We were actually last in line.

Day 3

Today’s agenda was to check out early and head to the Merry-Go-Round Museum, spend a few hours there and have lunch somewhere before driving home. I’ve been dying to check this museum out just because I fancy old school carousels and want to learn more about the history, they also had good ratings.

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Address to Google: Merry-go-round Museum; 301 Jackson St, Sandusky, OH 44870

…And of all the days we decided to come, they were closed for renovation. They’ve actually been closed for improvements with their displays but I checked their website and it said that they were done with it. I’m guessing they extended because they were going to open 2 days from now. I was really upset but I guess its another reason to come and visit Sandusky again.

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After taking photos across the museum (just because they had a flower garden and a fountain that Cassie would have enjoyed if it weren’t raining like crazy), Marco and I decided to just go visit the Marblehead Lighthouse 30 minutes away to make up for this trip disappointment.

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On the way there we spotted Toft Dairy Ice Cream Parlor and I remember reading that it was Ohio’s Oldest Dairy and a must-visit when you’re in town, as soon as we walked in they did have that sign. And the ratings were right, they’re truly a must-visit and you can’t not have their Butter Pecan ice cream.

By the way, they do have big servings and its even bigger in a cup than on a cone. (this coming from my husband who can eat a lot of ice cream, haha)

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I cant believe Cassie fell asleep again, she always does when its sight-seeing. I’m pretty sure she would have wanted to explore the place like she usually does but hey, at least Marco and I got to enjoy the view peacefully with no crazy running toddler. Haha. The museum and the light house was closed but at least the scenery was so worth it, besides I don’t think I’ capable of going up those 70+ lighthouse steps being pregnant and all.

Address to Google: Marblehead Light; 10 Lighthouse Dr, Marblehead, OH 43440

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For lunch we came across this place called Netty’s Famous Chili Dogs and Marco just knew that he wanted to eat there so after checking out Marblehead light, we came back only to find out they only accepted cash and we had none. Of course we went to the nearest ATM to withdraw so we could still have those chili dogs. They were cheap and they were good and they lasted us our entire drive back home.

And you know what, they were a few days away from closing for the season coz apparently this business is only open from March to October. We were lucky enough to make it and we wouldn’t have if the Merry-go-round Museum was open so I guess everything really DOES happen for a reason. Toft’s the Lighthouse and the chili dogs was a more than enough consolation.

Address to Google: 9410 E Harbor Rd, Lakeside Marblehead, OH 43440

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To wrap up our trip, Marco allowed me to stop by the Bergman Orchards to pick up pumpkins for our front porch. They were reasonably priced and of course cheaper than the supermarket pumpkins. I wanted to go crazy over those white and pastel colored ones but opted to get the smaller ones instead. We just moved into our house and I promised him I wouldn’t go crazy spending on home decorations all at once so I compromised by just getting a few. I can go all out next year, hopefully.

And that sums up our trip to Sandusky, Ohio. I hope y’all have a grand time when you go visit coz we sure had a blast during this road trip.

~Rhea

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Destination: Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

April 18 – 19, 2015

Since the entire family (The Mendezonas) was present, Mami thought it would be best to go on a last-minute family outing but the question was where. It was a weekend during the summer season so we knew it was going to be fully booked everywhere. We just wanted to go some place near Manila but Papi requested to go to the beach so clearly Tagaytay or Baguio was out of the question. Subic was meh, we already went there the last time so we ended up checking out places in Cavite and Laguna, there really was nothing available and if there were it was either they didn’t have enough rooms to accommodate all 15 of us or the rates were really jacked up.

For some reason Puerto Galera came to my mind, I think the last time my cousins and I were there was during my early college years—maybe 2004? At one point Puerto Galera used to be the “In” beach to be before Boracay became popular, that’s what I was told anyway. I had good memories of Puerto Galera so I suggested the place, mom actually thought it was okay and when we searched for accommodations there were a bunch of hotels that had room availability for a party of 15 so with mom’s booking powers she found a wonderful place for the weekend, Out of the Blue Resort.

The road trip from Alabang to Batangas Port took more or less 2 hours. We had to take a 45 minute boat ride, usually the public bangka takes you to Sabang beach but we arranged for a private bangka to take us directly to the shore of Out of the Blue. The typical cost for a private bangka is P3, 500.

Out of the Blue, we see youuuuu

The view while going up the stairs to our villas

Mom got 2 villas to accommodate all of us and they were beyond spacious, couldn’t take a photo since we were all too tired and we started settling in

Poor Teo was happy to be out of that bangka

Good Morning, Puerto Galera!

The boys room

Our room. I’m sharing with Marco and Pilica

Our neighbor’s place didn’t look too bad either

The view from our villa

After having breakfast in Out of the Blue and and settling in, Mom arranged for a boat to take us to White Beach since the shores in our area weren’t really swim-friendly

Our boat mates for that trip: Camille and Javi

Papi and Marco

Mommy, Diego and Mikel chilling all the way in the back

When we got to White Beach some of us decided to jump right in

And others found it too hot…

Yep the sand texture was perfect but at that moment it was way too hot

Eating by the beach after swimming—the best thing ever!

Look at that smile, Teo’s happy he’s not swimming in the beach

Hanging out with his Ninong Javi

Wondered where Papi was after lunch and this is where he was, just right next to our eating place

… the rest of the boys followed suit. Haha.

While the boys were out getting a massage, Camille, Jessica and I explored the local tiangges

I find myself getting attracted to the local market—same in the Bahamas, same in Cambodia, same anywhere else. You never know what interesting things you might come across in markets like these, although this one really didn’t have anything extraordinary. I did end up getting braided anklets.

The view while the girls and I stopped to grab some shakes

Classic Mindoro Sling—still the most traydor drink ever

People started coming in during the late afternoon and it was getting crowded. It’s a good thing we had our fill of sand and sea so we left for Out of the Blue and ended up swimming in the pool there.

We started Day 2 by taking a couple photo right by our balcony

Ready to leave for the beach

Paparazzi-d these two love birds. Awww..

Mateo putting sun block on Ninong Javi’s tummy

Off to the bangka we go

Sunnies pic…Jessica, Me and Pilica

Because yay Diday wouldn’t pose for the camera

The beach our boat guy took us to

Swimming was a family affair

Photo credits to Camille. Me and my baby bump.

The kids building their supposed sand castle

The girls and Diego apparently. hahaha

Pauline with teo who refused to swim.

We always have fun with jumping pics, don’t you agree?

Wacky, every single one of us. Photo grabbed from Camille 🙂

After swimming, we packed up, dressed up and had lunch somewhere close by

Ending this family trip with us almost tipping the boat. Haha. Typical.

~Rhea

Mami & Papi’s 30th Anniversary

It was quite a wonderful surprise that Papi could come home to the Philippines even just for awhile, especially since he and Mami were celebrating their 30th Anniversary. Instead of some lavish party and renewal of vows to celebrate this milestone, my in-laws decided to dedicate their time and commitment  to serve in BLD’s (Bukas Loob sa Diyos) Family Encounter. We thought this was going to be one of those times where  poor Javi, who’s all the way in LA, would miss out on all the family activities (like Mom’s 50th Birthday) but mom surprised everyone by sending him home. No one knew (not even Papi) except Yok2x who picked him up and Yaya Diday who arranged the pick-up from the airport. It was a wonderful and emotional reunion of all sorts and we have the big guy from up above to thank for giving us a chance to celebrate this wonderful occasion as a complete family, even for just a short while.

Marco and I were blessed to have been present at his parents 30th Wedding Anniversary with every single one of us there. Those few days I spent with all of my in-laws made me realize how blessed I am to have married into a big family just like my own with their own set of squabbles, their own quirks, their own issues—everything that I love about my own family. Let’s face it, I know a lot of people who complain about their in-laws, monster-in-laws and what not; not everyone who marries into a family gets along with their in-laws but I’d have to say mine have treated me like their own and accepted me and my maarte drama queen self even before Marco and I got married. I in turn have learned to love them as much as I love my own family, my sister Ann Marie even teases me that I might be enjoying too much with my “other family”, but seriously they are the easiest bunch to love.

Our move to Houston will be in a few months and it’s another blessing that Marco and I will be present for my own parents’ 30th Anniversary. I pray that my family too will be complete when the time comes, with the addition of our own “little one”. Who knows, Marco’s family of 9 and my family of 9 might just “inspire” us to make our own family of 9, hahaha. (Uhhh, in the US? maybe not.) We’ll see where God takes us.

So in the light of this very rare occasion, I’m sharing a few of our family photos. Nacho and Pauline surprised Mami and Papi with this family photoshoot session for their anniversary so it was a good thing everyone was present. These photos were actually taken a few days after their actual anniversary.

Meet my family. 🙂

Happy 30th Anniversary Papi and Mami!

With Marco and our “little one” inside me. We’re having our own little family too. 🙂

Nacho and Pauline

The Cuenca-Mendezonas: Nacho, Pauline, Diego and Mateo

Anya and Pilica—looking more like twins by the day.

The boys. I love how my godson is sticking his tongue out.

Our little gwapitos, Diego and Mateo.

Wacky Boys

This little rascal!!! love him to pieces.

And he loves his “nomnom” too.

The girls.

Peace out.

The Mendezona siblings

Love the faces guys, pang theater arts. Hahaha.

And where would we be without our ever-reliable manangs? (incomplete photo since the rest were too shy to be photographed)

~Rhea