2013 Highlights

December 28th, three more days and we will say goodbye to 2013. It has been a wonderful year for my family and my friends. There have been a lot of summons on the way but they have become a marvelous learning experience for most of us. I would just like to share a sneak peak of my 2013 through captured moments.

February 2013. My fiance and I went to the Philippines for a 3-week holiday. Surely I missed the heat of the sun, humidity and sweat. My elder sister got married, we visited Aurora province and experienced serenity, explored and relished the stunning beach of Boracay Island, walked and shopped in the largest mall in Asia, wandered through the historical Intramuros, discovered Liliw in Laguna where you can find the best handcrafted footwear and ate in fancy Manila restaurants.

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 Above photo : Baler Bay, taken from the top of Ermita Hill in Baler. What a wonderful sight.Image

My sisters wedding day (in pink cocktail dress). Preparing for the church ceremony. Photo taken in The Manila Peninsula.Image

San Agustin Church in Intramuros. Fabulous, historic church, with beautiful architechture and art.Image

And the crystal clear waters of beautiful Boracay. A very relaxing milieu. 

April to October 2013. A very good news for my mom, dad and my sister. Their visa to come and visit Canada was approved! It was their very first time in North America. Arrived in the gorgeous city of Vancouver first then all the way to the prairies. We have met our relatives in Calgary, attended family parties, stopped by the enchanting Fairmont Hotel in Banff, braved the gondola lift, took a peak of Lake Louise, walked in downtown Banff, experienced the wild in Lethbridge RV resort, sauntered the Glacier National Park, partied in fabulous Las Vegas, unlimited shopping and a whole more!

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Glacier National Park. Waterton Lakes. Astonishing aquamarine blue waters. A little windy but we had a great time!Image

Gambled in Wynn Las Vegas Casino. Never won but it was all about the experience anyway.Image

The absolutely massive castle in the wonderland. Bewitching, fascinating The Fairmont Banff Springs.ImageImage

Charming Lake Louise and the fascinating view from the peak of the gondola lift overlooking at the Fairmont Banff Springs. What a beautiful creation of God and we are so lucky to have witnessed this heavenliness in the rockies.Image

The century old High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta also known as Lethbridge Viaduct, a massive steel that trestles the Oldman River. It is the largest railway structure in Canada and the largest of its type in the world.Image

Experienced wild life in Lethbridge RV Resort. Enjoyed the company of family and relatives. Had bonfires, unlimited barbeques and awesome smores! 

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Bumped into a hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland while in Downtown Calgary. 

Other than these amazing travels, what I loved the most is that when I go home from work and will have the pleasure of just sitting right away on the dining table and delight a tasty and flavorful dinner. And who’s cooking is it? My mother. Her cooking is one of those that I missed the most. Those days that we go to the shopping center, walked downtown Lethbridge, snacked in a Japanese restaurant, sat down for a coffee in Starbucks, shopped groceries with my family which I haven’t done for almost 5 years, those moments I will cherish forever.  

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Mom and Dad’s first Thanksgiving Dinner in Canada. 

December 2013. My parents left Canada at the end of October. They have gone to Hong Kong after their visit here. It has been a year filled with travel for them and it was heart warming to know that they have enjoyed their time. My fiance visited his homeland, Ireland in October and he had an amazing time with family and friends. 

December is my birth month. I had a simple birthday celebration with Neil and my relatives. Had bridal showers for me and stag parties for Neil. 

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This year, Hyatt Regency became our favorite hotel. Lots of decency going on in there and that absolutely gorgeous meal at Thompsons Restaurant was to die for.

Christmas with hunny.

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There’s the photo of us two. Although we did not celebrate extravagantly nor we celebrated with our families, it has been a very gratifying day of the year for us. 

Year 2013 has been a very exciting year for us and our family but still we have to say goodbye and move on. Along with these incredible moments, there were many many more! Thanks to everyone who was a part of these great 2013 moments! I can’t wait for 2014!

 

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10 Steps to Macaron Perfection

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Step 1. Place the ground almonds and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor and process for about 15 seconds, until the mixture is fine and powdery. Sift the mixture into a bowl through a large strainer. Discard any fine parts of almonds left in the strainer.

Step 2. Use an electric mixer to whip the egg whites until holding soft peaks. Gradually beat in the superfine sugar, about 1 tablespoonful at a time. Beat well after each addition to make a firm and glossy meringue. The meringue should look like shaving cream and hold stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.

Step 3. Add one-third of the almond mixture to the meringue. Using a spatula, fold the dry mixture into the meringue. Use a circular folding action buy running he spatula around the bowl and under the meringue, then folding and cutting through the mixture.

Step 4. Once all dry mixture has been folded into the meringue, add the second third of the almond mixture, repeating the folding and cutting action. As more dry ingredients are folded into the meringue it will become firmer.

Step 5. Add the final third of the almond mixture and repeat the folding and cutting action. Once all the dry ingredients has been incorporated, the batter will be quite firm, so continue mixing until the consistency loosens. The final batter should be smooth and glossy and a thick ribbon of batter should fall slowly from the spatula, leaving a trail for about 30 seconds before disappearing.

Important. Undermixing ill result in a batter that is too firm and the macarons will have peaks. Overmixing wil result in a runny batter that will not hold it’s shape when piped. Check the batter every few turns of the spatula to avoid overmixing.

Step 6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour the batter into a large pastry bag fitted with 1/2 inch or 1 cm tip. Pipe 1&1/4 inch circles onto the prepared baking sheets. Make sure the circles are well spaced. For large macarons, pipe 2&3/4 inch circles and for mini macarons pipe 3/4 inch circles.

Step 7. Tap the underside of the baking sheet firmly with the palm of your hands or tap onto a work surface to remove any air bubbles and settle any small peaks and bumps. This action also helps the frilly foot (or pied) to form during baking. Any peaks still remaining can be flattened by dabbing gently with a wetted fingertip.

Step 8. Let the macarons stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to let the surface of each macaron dry and form a slight crust. You should be able to gently touch the surface without any batter sticking to your finger.

Step 9. Bake the macarons, 1 baking sheet at a time. Check after 5-6 minutes if they are overbrowning, reduse the oven temperature slightly. The cooking time will be 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven and size of the macaron. The macarons are ready when they have a crisp shell and the frilly foot at the bottom does not wobble when the shells are gently lifted from the paper. If the bottoms are still soft or sticky, return the baking sheet into the oven for an additonal few minutes, leaving the door ajar.

Step 10. Let the macarons cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes. Carefully peel them away from the parchment paper. Let the macarons cool completely on a wire rack.

 

References : 

Drake, A. (2011). Macarons : 30 Recipes for Perfect Bite-Size Treats. UKParragon Books LTD, p 8-9.

Image Source. http://www.roboppy.net

My Top 5 Street Food in the Philippines

I wasn’t aware of street food when I was a little younger. When I started high school, I was introduced to some of it.

Every after school, my friends and I stop by a Gotohan and enjoy a hot bowl of Goto also known as rice porridge with either beef tripe, chicken, beef fats, fried pork belly, hard boiled egg or just plain. Adding crunchy fried minced garlic and a squeeze of lime makes it better. After enjoying the goodness of Goto, we then order for Palamig or also known as throat cooler. There are different flavors of Palamig such as Buko (young coconut), Sago at Gulaman (pearl), orange juice, Buko Pandan and etc. They’re good and cheap. Just the right drink after a hot bowl of Goto.

ImageGoto with pork belly diced and fried to crispiness, fresh green onions, hard boiled egg and minced fried garlic.

ImageSago at Gulaman (Pearl) Palamig

I was hesitant to try Chicken Isaw (chicken intestine) before, although I eat Isaw when my mom includes them every time she cooks Chicken Tinola. I was sure that my mom serves something that is clean and won’t give us harm. I wasn’t sure if the Isaw sold in the streets are clean and won’t give me any hepa infection. My friends mom used to have a little Carenderia (store) and they barbeque Isaw. Since it was my friend’s mom and we knew each other, I braved to sample one stick. Oh man, they’re scrumptious, tasty and addicting. A little dip in a small bowl of vinegar and they’re awesome. Since then I always order lots, they only cost 1 peso per stick. It became my night time addiction. Whenever I meet up with my friends, we tend to have an Isaw party  in front of her mom’s carenderia.

ImageIsaw in a barbeque stick

Deep fried one day old chick was introduced to me when I was in high school but I was too scared to try it. Some of my friends would say it tastes like chicken, a small chicken but you can feel the beak in your tongue. That disgusted me so I never tried it. 

It was a popular street food in the Philippines and I wasn’t shocked that there’s a cart for it at every corner outside our university (in exaggeration – there’s really lots). I ignore it every time I passed by a cart with lots of students gobbling the fried poor little chicks. But one time during our thesis days, one of my friends mentioned a good man who sells them close to his apartment. My friends we’re all so excited about trying it so we paved our way to his place. Everyone was relishing bit by bit and I was drooling inside. I fought the impression I had before and I dared to try one. Dipped in vinegar, closed my eyes and had a bite (imagining it was fried chicken). I thought it wasn’t too bad at all. I just have to avoid thinking what I am eating (lol).

ImageOne day old chick fried till crispy

Kwek-Kwek is also a popular Filipino street food made out of deep fried battered hard boiled quail eggs dipped in almost sweet vinegar or a Filipino version of sweet thai chili sauce. Similar to Kwek-kwek is called Tokneneng which is made out of chicken or duck eggs instead dipped in the same batter for kwek-kwek and fried. If you’re watching your cholesterol level then you can try this just once in your life and never again as we know that quail eggs are high in cholesterol. This is one of my favourite breaktime snack during our laboratory classes in college. Then I began to like Tokneneng when I started my first job. I used to buy one or two Tokenenengs in Cubao, Quezon City after hard days at work in Mercury Drug.

ImageKwek-kwek (deep fried battered hard boiled quail eggs)

Fish Balls, Kikiam and Squid Balls. These goodies are good and cheap. They’re the cheapest street food in the Philippines ever. Well, if you go by piece then yes it’s very cheap. The last time I had Fish balls, it was only 20 centavos per piece. My sister and I used to have this for snack when we have day’s off together. The cart was just a block away from our condo, easy access. For those who doesn’t know what Kikiam is, it is made up with ground pork and vegetables wrapped in bean curd sheets. A sweet gravy sauce with these goodies makes it more succulent and flavourful.

ImageFish Balls on a stick

Banana Que or skewered fried banana with caramelized brown sugar coating. The last but definitely not the least. Crispy on the outside, succulent on the inside. Fresh ones are just heavenly. I liked my banana a little bit ripe. My mom used to make them and Kamotecue (sweet potato) as well. One of our favourite snacks.

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Look at that goodness! 

Aside from these favourites, when you venture the Philippine streets you will find more variety of street food. Filipinos are very inventive and creative when it comes to food. Aside from the actuality that we love to cook, there’s the huge fact that we love to eat as well. We eat what is served on the table. We eat for experience too.

“Nothing beats a home cooked meal.” That’s true, but trying something exotic and different is fun. It’s all about the experience!

 

Sunset in English Bay, Vancouver

One of the hundred things I love about Vancouver is the sunset in English Bay. It truly  embodies the tagline Super. Natural. British ColumbiaThe spectacle at sunset is warm, golden orange and mystical. Neil and I loved the walks at nightfall. Sit on a bench to watch the world go by.

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I miss Vancouver so bad. I miss the rain, humidity, beautiful people, restaurants, Robson and Denman Street, everything, I just miss every single bits of it. I am so dying to go back. There’s no place like Vancouver.

Remembering my Late Best Friend, Doc

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My chinese brother in law gave as one of the yellow labrador puppies they have at home. If I’m not mistaken, they have seven or eight lab puppies. They named the other seven after Snow White’s seven dwarves and the youngest one Doc. He gave us Doc as a gift. My sister, my parents and I were so delighted. We never had a pure bred labrador before and we thought it would be a challenge but fun raising Doc.

On his first day in our flat, he was very quite and tamed. I watch him while he was laying down on a piece of rag in the corner near our bed. My parents and my sister went for grocery shopping for 2 hours. Doc and I took a nap while waiting for the goodies to arrive. After getting a bit of a shut-eye, they finally made it to home. My mom opened the bag of sweets and we munched on it while Doc is asleep. He woke up when I lost a grip on the spoon and tumbled near his spot. His eyes dawdling, yawning and eventually he got up and walked beside my chair. My mom was sitting beside me holding a piece of Gardenia Bread. At her surprise Doc took a bite on the bread and he did not stop munching on it until finally my mom let it go. “Thank goodness Doc wanted something.” She was so excited to give Doc another piece of bread and swiftly she was bleeding after a snap. She was bit. I can’t explain how my mom looked like that moment. She looks like she’s getting so hot under the collar. The grim, the glare, she’s loosing it. Waterworks turned on, she whimpered, howled for hours. She was so flustered with the incident. My dad, my sister and I did not know how to comfort her. She blamed everyone, she was fuming at the site of Doc. She wanted him gone but a part of her can’t really do what her infuriated state tell her. When she stopped sobbing, we rushed her to the hospital for anti-rabies immunization. Slowly, she felt a lot better, safer. When we got home we found Doc sitting in the corner gloomy eyes dawdling. Apologetic eyes. I felt bad for him that moment.

We woke up on a nice sunny Sunday morning. My mom cooking, my dad sitting on the couch, my sister still snuffling. I saw Doc an the same piece of rag yawning, stretching his little stiff legs. I came to him and gave him a big hug. I carried and gave him to my mom. My mom smiled and gave Doc a big, warm hug. They’re back to being friends again. My dad, and I were so delighted. They went back to the province with Doc. My mom would tell me stories about how fun to be with Doc. His clumsiness, his sweetness, his cuteness, how my dad trained him to catch a ball, how he recoiled from taking baths, how thundering his bark was. I was getting so thrilled to seeing him again after a few months of us being apart. Until the day has come, I had to go home to devote myself to studying for Canadian boards. I was so enlivened to see Doc and my parents again. After six hours of travel, I finally had a glimpse of Doc.

We became the best of friends. I did walk and play with him every morning and I did serve him food three times a day. We had lots of fun together. He would sit beside me while I’m studying and he would be my charmer when I’m stupefied. He was such a sweet yellow labrador. My best buddy.

I did not want to say goodbye but I had to. I had to leave to further my studies in North America. Parting time is always the hardest part. I only had memories but I have all the memories, the better attitude alright. So I braved stepping on a foreign land and survived. My mom would tell me stories about their daily life in the province and just like before the highlights of the story would be Doc. He was growing fast, he’s getting stronger, he’s getting heavier. My dad can’t carry him anymore and my mom would have to drag him for a bath. I was so untroubled hearing nice stories from my mother until one day she signified a sad truth. “My dear, Doc is gone.” I answered back, “What do you mean gone mom?” He’s gone, dead, departed, deceased.” After hearing all those synonymous utterance, stillness, quietude of that very moment filled my room, my being, my head. My heart, my body was shaking. My mom was crying. Tears fell down my cheeks, cried my eyes out. I’m severely broken. My heart stopped for a bit. “My Doc is gone, my Doc is gone.” After an hour of shedding tears, I finally had the courage to ask my mom how did it happen.

“Internal bleeding my dear child. He broke his concrete bowl one time and I had to replace it with something. Though before things happened, your dad and I noticed distinct changes in his usual habits. The playful Doc suddenly began to spend most of his time sleeping. He suffered from depression a month after you left. We only had the plastic bowl that time and I did not think he would munch on it that night I replaced his concrete bowl. The next day, he came to me moaning, crying in pain. I saw blood dripping from his bottom. I rushed to check the bowl and it was all ripped off. I am sorry my dear, it was all my fault.”

I almost can’t breathe when I heard the story. I can’t held my mom responsible for it. I love her and I knew she loved him as much as I do. I know it has been a tough time for Doc after I left. My parents were always busy and they can hardly find a quiet time and play with Doc. It was an accident, a twist of fate. I wept for weeks, my heart was broken. I cried some nights.

It has been more 4 years and I can’t seem to forget. Doc was my best friend. He helped me achieve my dreams. He was amazing. Every time I remember, I can feel him suffering and it hurts. I know Doc is in a better place now. I know he wanted me to move on and so I did. Neil and I are planning to adopt a new one and share the love I had for him. I will always remember Doc in my dreams. I know we’ll meet again somewhere over the rainbow bridge.

A Man’s Home Within a Man’s Home

There was once a man who lives in a high-rise apartment in English Bay, Vancouver. I met him in a Garden Show in Waterfront. We had lunch together in White Tower Greek Restaurant. Since then, we became great buddies. He invited me into his flat and it’s the first time I saw and experienced the red poang chair. Sitting on the poang makes destressing effortless. It has a bentwood frame which has a light and soft bouncy feel. It follows the contours of the body and brace the lower back and neck makes leaning back so comfortable. 

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The red poang chair is my bud’s favourite chair. He was so attached to it that he brought it with him when we moved here in the prairies. He actually have two poang chairs. The other one is white with a foot stool but was always ignored. The movers lost one of the screws and the poor chair was set aside. The all-time-favourite red poang in the living room contrasting the massive sectional couch is now worn out. The fabric cover was ragged showing off the cottony texture of the inside. Despite the condition, my buddy still loves it. He sits on the red poang chair every time we watch boxing, television series, movies and youtube videos while I sit on the nest I made on our sectional couch which now became my favourite spot. We tried to switch one day, me on the poang chair and him on the nest. It felt so comfortable yet so weird. I felt like a man. I felt so powerful as I look at my buddy lying on the couch. I have always been wondering why he won’t sit with me on the couch. It is the red poang chair. The chair of a man. 

One of man’s essential is his chair. He does a lot of things in is chair. Aside from watching his favourite sports (boxing and English soccer), he drinks his favourite beverage, he contemplates, he thinks.

The Red Poang Chair is my buddy’s home within his home.

The Barbecue Season is Coming!

It was a clear and sunny day today. 23 °C on a Friday night, my best-loved day of the week. The anticipation of a good Friday dinner, waking up in a Saturday morning realizing we can sleep in for all we want.

Neil came in the pharmacy at 6 o’clock to pick me up. He found me at the dairy section of Save-On-Foods Store while I was looking for boxes of fresh eggs. He was cooking so we rushed to go home. He prepared a lovely dinner for us. Cabbage and pork irish style, mushroom and onions and the juicy grilled-to-perfection rib eye steak. It’s lovely and healthy. After dinner, we went to grab some house stuff from Wal-Mart. Walked a bit, bought beer from the liquor store  on the way home and then watch The Late Late Show.

The weather was gorgeous. Fresh warm air, bright sunny day makes me so excited about the barbecue season. While Neil is grilling the rib eye steak, I was getting so thrilled to making plans for summer. My parents and my elder sister are coming here in the prairies to visit. One thing is for sure, our summer is gonna be grand. We will have lots of great outdoor barbecue days. Busy but carefree and radiant.

We have a Coleman Grill at home. It uses natural gas which is way better than propane. We just connect it to our house, we don’t run out of gas at all unless the gas company runs out after four decades. We don’t worry about tanks to refill or about running out in the middle of a big cook. Burns clean, grilling is great. Since summer is coming soon, we need to have our grill in top shape. We want to make sure we’ll have a safe grilling season.

How To Get the Grills in Top Shape.

1. Clean the grill by removing the charred coating. Dry-scrub the grill and the inside surfaces using a non-scratch sponge and use an emery cloth on uncoated steel. After dry-scrubbing, wash the surfaces with soap and water. Rinse well and dry thoroughly. For the exterior part, sponge off stainless-steel and enameled surfaces with warm soapy water and wipe dry.

2. Do a gas check. Make sure everything is safe.

3. The grill is clean in and out. Safety is checked carefully. Then it’s time to have the barbecue shopping list ready.

Steak, salmon, burger meat, chicken quarters, lamb chops, tiger prawns, potatoes and a whole lot more. Neil and I likes to grill fresh ones better than those thawed frozen cuts of meat.

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Aside from meat, it’s always good to add some veggies. Zucchinis, tomatoes, asparagus, sweet corn, onions, potatoes and bell peppers are the best vegetables for grilling. Grilled vegetables are a healthy option when it comes time for some summertime grilling. The smoky flavor and the fresh grilled-vegetable scent makes you want some more. The combination of meat and vegetable is always good. Balance. Eating fresh fruits after the lovely barbecued dinner is even better.

barbecue food

The above photo is glimpse of our barbecue days last summer.

Since summer season is not just about grilling, Neil and I were planning to have a nice garden with comfortable furniture where we can lie down or sit down after work. Our back garden is very secluded and it would be nice to have a wooden swing bed or a rattan day bed in there. We were actually looking for a decent but reasonably priced items. We planned to have it all set up before the season comes. Browsing the stores checking out garden furniture is exciting. Well, I must say the thought of summer season is very exhilarating.

Get yourselves ready. When the weather is fab and the days are long, fire up the grill, round up your family and friends and have a lavish barbecue dinner.

Best of luck!