Social Spark

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cooking New Menus

Being in a new place, we can't resist to try the foods they usually have here.  Especially when we always hear them in our country.  We tried two dishes that's new to us:

First, the french toast.  It's familiar even in our place, I even tried it in one of our local restaurants in the  Philippines.  But I never knew how to make it.  Maybe because, unlike here, some of the ingredients were not readily available in the grocery stores or not included in our budget (hehehe).  Back to the french toast.  Well, it's easy.  Just mix milk, eggs, orange zest (if available) and cinnamon (I added sugar to taste).  Dip the bread to the mixture.  And fry it using butter.  Serve with butter and honey or maple syrup.  That's it.

Then, we tried cooking their local seafood... crawfish.  When cooking it, you should have live ones (or the dead ones will affect the taste).  Here are the steps:
  1. Clean the crawfish first with water. 
  2. Boil water into a pot.  Add seasoning (we used Louisiana premix) 
  3. Once the seasoned water comes to a boil, add the potatoes, corn, garlic, and sausage. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the crawfish and cook for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat after and leave the pot covered for 10 minutes. 
  5. Drain well and serve immediately.

Now, eating crawfish is somewhat like what you do with shrimps.  Take off the head ant tail, then peel off it's shell.  And by the way, remove it's digestive tract (it's the black part located inside the meat of the crawfish).  It's easy to remove it, just watch YouTube if you'll get a hard time figuring it out.  Bon appetit!  Yahweh bless.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Me & My New Found Skill

Have I already shared that life here in the US isn't cheap?  If not, let me then give a brief overview of the cost of living here, particularly in our state of Texas (figures are just rough estimates):
  • Apartment rentbetween $800 to $1,200 (basic/ monthly) and there are those that cost much more.
    Water, gas, trash and other fees$80 monthly average
  • Electricity– $40 monthly average
  • Groceries$70 weekly average
  • Car (2nd hand)– around $400 monthly payment (down payment, taxes and other fees not included)
    Car I
    nsurance $140 (basic) average monthly payment
    soline– $30 semi-monthly consumption
  • Health Insurance– $800 family coverage (semi-monthly payment)
  • Phone lines– $60 (post-paid/ monthly average); $40 (pre-paid/ monthly)
  • Internet connection– $50 basic/ monthly average
Along with other petty expenses, I guess one needs 2 to 3 works or a good paying job will do.  Don't be discouraged with the figures.  Life here is still a lot better.  If not, why do you think we are here? 

Well, enough with the advertisement and go back to the main program... my topic (LOL).  With all the expenses mentioned above, I learned a new skill BARBERING... all thanks to the ever reliable YouTube for the tutorials and helpful videos.  And for my very first victim... err... customer, my son, Justin.  Everything was prepared.  I got my newly arrived haircutting kit from Amazon;  newspapers spread on the working area; one lovely assistant (none other than my wife); and plan B (just if everything won't be what is expected)... skin head (bwahahaha). 

But I was pretty confident that I can pull it off.  And so did I.  Wasn't good as a pro but my wife and kid told me that it wasn't also bad for a beginner.  Looking at it, I myself can't believe I did a good job.  

The only downside is I cannot cut my own hair.  I guess there was just enough good new for the day.  At least we didn't need to resort to plan B.  Yahweh bless. 


Monday, June 9, 2014

And The Summer Classes Begin

As the class just ended and the kids were so excited with summer, came a great news, their school required them to attend summer class.  I guess it's because they only had 3 weeks in school which wasn't enough for them to be evaluated.  And we're also glad they're having it, especially that they are still adjusting to a new environment and a totally different culture and language.  Although we had English subject in our country, still we know, it's a totally different thing having to speak pure English. I feel like they really miss the comfort of home where they can use their native tongue in expressing themselves or answering questions.  But as we keep on telling them, this place is now our home... we all need to adapt to what life gives us.  And with all the murmuring about why they still need to attend summer classes, we just simply answered that they very much need it... and I know, my kids are smart to understand it.

Getting to summer school here isn't a hassle at all.  The school sent us a letter of approval if we wanted our kids to take summer classes.  We just filled up the form for necessary information and they're good to go the following school day.  But they had to go to different schools now, since my daughter is going to be in middle school already.  And the experience will be tougher for my son, being used to having his sister around.  Yet we know that they will be alright by themselves, as we saw how protective the teachers here are to their students (they only let go of their students when a parent or recognized guardian is picking up the child).

We were just happy that the schools here for our kids are free of charge, which in a lot of ways help us with our finances especially that we are still starting our lives here in Texas.  And sending them to summer school became an easy decision for us.  We give high regard to their education... for the fact that it is one of the most important  things we can provide them to have a good future.  Yahweh bless.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Off To School They Go

I know in my country, the Philippines, the school ended last April.  But here in the U.S., it'll end up in June.  We wanted to enroll them as early as possible (since we arrived in February), but there were other things to consider (especially the mode of transportation and we had less knowledge about the place).  Then, when we finally had a car, we immediately roamed around our vicinity to find and choose a school for them (with the help of a GPS device).  Then when we finally chose one, we found out it doesn't work that way... The school administrator told us the zone where we belonged to and what school should our kids go.  Furthermore, their school nurse told us that we had to comply first with their needed immunization before we can enroll our children.

Don't get me wrong, when we had the immunization taken cared of, we easily had our kids enrolled and started the next following school day.  And the best part was, we didn't spend a penny for it.  Yup, no tuition  fee!!!  Although, it's not totally free... We still had to provide for the necessities; basic things (like bag, notebook, pens and other stuffs) and packed meals or meal allowance.  Child transportation on the other hand can be free (through a school bus ride), but we are located within the range that the school consider near, so we can't avail it.

By the way, here is the list of school requirements upon enrollment:
  • Documents to prove the child's age and identity (such as birth certificate or other reliable documents like Permanent Resident (PR) card, passport, baptismal certificate, social security card, etc.);
  • Proof of residence (like your driver's license, utility bill, house mortgage or rent statement or any official document that show your name and address);
  • Vaccination/ immunization records. The school did specify to us what immunizations were needed;
  • Past school report cards;
  • And fill out necessary registration and other child information forms.
With everything made easy and provided free by the U.S. government, I think there's no reason for anyone not to bring their child to school.  And if I'm not mistaken, it's against their law to deprive a child of their right to education. Yahweh bless.

Friday, May 16, 2014

How To Increase The Likelihood Of Passing The Driving Test

I just recently passed both the written and practical driving exam here in Texas.  In fact, I just received a mail yesterday from the DPS (Department of Public Safety) containing my new driver license.  I was successful in both exams the first time I took them.  But I wouldn't have made it if not for the help of friends who taught and guided me along the way.  And of course, nothing would be possible if not for the blessing of our Lord.  So, part of my "paying it forward", let me share to you what I learned that increased the likelihood of me passing the tests:

The Written (Computer-based) Exam
There's really no special technique in passing this test but to study your state's (in my case, Texas) Driver's Handbook.  One can actually get it for free at the nearest DPS office in your city or download a PDF copy on this website:

In the exam proper, you'll find that all questions are from the handbook.  Just read and answer them carefully.  And if you did study, you won't fail.
The Practical or Actual Driving Test
If you passed the written exam, you'll be scheduled for the practical driving.  First, I'll assume that you already know how to drive a vehicle and you actually drove along with other cars in the highway.  Okay, now let's go to some points to remember before and during the test:

Get tips from those who own a driver's license.  You'll learn a lot from them especially the dos and don't(s) in driving.  A friend who helped me shared the mistakes he made (so I won't commit the same) and what are the things the examiner will give emphasis to.

Practice makes perfect.  You should know how to parallel park, as it's a vital part of the test.  There is a parallel parking in the DPS compound where the test is conducted.  One can practice there beyond office hours and during weekends.  Also, most likely the test will be conducted near the DPS office.  You may want to practice within the neighboring area that surround the office.

Be sure that you take care of everything you need to take the test.  I was rescheduled because I didn't notice that there was a defect on my car insurance and so as another applicant, during the car inspection, one of his rear lights was not functioning.  Anyway, the DPS will provide you a list of things to prepare and bring during your schedule test... just follow it.

Come on time.  Me, I was already in the DPS office an hour before my schedule.  But it's okay to arrive anytime, just don't be late in your appointment... or else, you just might be rescheduled (and it might take a while).
Try to relax and find your confidence.  Honestly, I was shaking when I took the test.  It was really uncomfortable that someone's watching (rating) me while driving.  I was telling myself, "I'll be doing this one way or another, and there's no way to escape this... might as well face it now".  I was drawing strength from my family, since it's for them and no one will be doing the driving for us but me.  Also, praying helped a lot.  I was talking to the Lord the whole duration of the test, and it calmed me and I was able to perform all the tasks smoothly.

Back to basics.  Things we always forget are those things we know for sure.  So let me remind you:
  • Keep everything in order before stepping on the gas pedal.  Check your side and rear view mirrors, your seat distance from your wheel and everyone should be wearing a seat belt (you and your rater);
  • Drive smoothly as possible.  Be gentle on the brakes and accelerator.  Watch out for the humps and the speed limits of streets.  The rater is looking on how well you can control your car.
  • Bring your car in a COMPLETE HALT before a STOP sign (in the case of a red traffic light signal, stop before the crosswalk).  Remember, it's not the same as yield that you can keep on moving.
  • Always use your signal light when turning left or right.  Also never forget to use it also when backing up during parallel parking and moving out from the parking area.
  • Make it obvious in turning your head left and right especially when checking if it is already safe for you to cross a street or intersection.  Moreover, don't just depend on your rear view and side mirrors when backing up and making a parallel park.  When doing it, you must slightly twist your body and look at your back.  For sure, the examiner will be looking if your doing it.
I'm no expert in driving but these were the things I did and it worked for me... I passed the driving tests and got my license.  It may not be applicable to other state or countries, but this is how I got mine in Texas.  Well then, good luck and hope this can be of help.  Yahweh bless.