Friday, January 30, 2015

Nakikiramay Ako

January 25, 2015 was one of the bloodiest days in our Philippine modern history. 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers were killed in a deadly encounter with militants belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). They were killed at Mamasapano, Maguindanao after conducting an operation where they eliminated a known terrorist bomber.

When the news came out last Monday, I ashamedly ignored it at first as the Mindanao clashes are already common news. But when stories started trickling in my FB feed and I read the accounts of what happened, I knew I cannot be apathetic to it no longer. Being a fan of NCIS, I am familiar with how fallen heroes should be honored and the SAF 44 are no different.

courtesy of
These SAF 44 served and protected our country and they should be honored as heroes. We are safe because of their efforts. We enjoy moments of peace because of their sacrifice. They should never be forgotten and justice should be served for their violent deaths.

What really made me weep today was when I watched the eulogy of one of the SAF 44's widow. Her words were so true and she uttered one of the best quotes, "Behind every brave SAF trooper is a strong wife." From everything that I know of soldiers, being a spouse of one requires a degree of bravery more than your soldier. Everyday, you would watch your husband leave your house without knowing whether he will be coming back to you alive or in a coffin. Her bravery, as well as that of the other wives, are admirable and heartbreaking.

I pray for all the fallen heroes and the families that they left behind.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Diet 2015

I'm at it again. This will be my nth attempt to lose weight. This time around, I'm more adamant and steadfast in doing so as I am turning 40 later this year. I want to say that I lost a significant amount of weight before my birthday--some sort of bucket list.

I started my diet last Wednesday with the help of my sister based abroad. Thank God for Viber and Facebook because it's so easy to get in touch with each other. Hopefully, I will get to sustain this and eventually lose the much unneeded weight.

If I'll be successful, I'll definitely blog about it as well as the supplements that I'm taking.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Cooking Mama (Part 2)

It seems that it's only during Christmas season that I get to practice my cooking skills. (As proof, it was in Christmas also of 2012 that I was able to cook as much which I wrote about here.) I've cooked and learned to cook several dishes last month and I'm so proud that I was able to get the taste right. Here are the dishes/pastries that I was able to make:

1) Chicken Afritada
Chicken Afritada
 The chicken afritada I was able to cook a few days after Christmas when our cook and back-up cook (who also happens to be our driver), went on vacation. My mother-in-law asked me to make something for dinner and after scrounging around in the freezer, I found chicken and other ingredients for afritada.

I cheated a little by buying afritada mix and using that as the sauce base. With a little help from Google, I managed to come up with an edible and tasteful dinner. The potatoes and carrots were softened just right and the chicken was cooked to the bone. I think I added tomato sauce to the afritada mix. I seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. The sauce tasted the way I wanted afritada to taste.

2) Carbonara
The spread on the right is part of our Christmas Day lunch. It was potluck so different members of my hubby's family brought the rest of the food.

The one that I cooked was carbonara (refer to the red arrow). I also cheated here by using ready made carbonara sauce but I mixed in all purpose cream as well as cream of mushroom. I also added pasta cheese while it was bubbling away. Afterwards, I sprinkled bacon on top and it tasted really delicious. It was cheesy and creamy. It must've been really good because it was gone in less than an hour.

3) Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cookies
Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cookies
 The cookies on the left are actually my signature cookies. I've been baking them for as long as I can remember. I baked them again this Christmas so Basti can give them away as gifts to his classmates. I made the mistake of letting my son help and turning my back on him as the dough suddenly turned out to be really hard. I don't know if he put in more flour or if I overmeasured. I had no choice but to make another batch and that was enough for his 20+ classmates.

I changed the recipe this time around by substituting the one bag of choco chips (I use 2 12 oz bags in my recipe) with Reese peanut butter chips. It was a successful experiment as I love the additional taste of peanut butter in the cookies. Hopefully, I'll be able to replicate them again soon. I just love cooking for my son and this is one of his favorites.

4) Chocolate chip cupcakes
My top team gifted me with a Martha Stewart cupcake recipe book on my birthday. As I have never baked cupcakes before, I guess it's time that I learned how to do so and with the long break (which I wasted 3 days on bed because of my bum foot), I decided to test the recipes out.

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
The chocolate chip cupcakes were my first attempt. The taste was spot on however, there were some flaws with the result. For one, the choco chips sank to the bottom. I checked the recipe again and it DID say to roll the chips first in flour before adding them in the batter. I skipped that part and just dumped them in mixture.

Next, the icing was too soft. I wanted to use my new piping tips but the mixture was too soft. I didn't dare add any more confectioner's sugar as it was too sweet already. I just slathered them on and they still tasted decadent. Next time, I plan to get the Ghirardelli's chocolate buttons for that really yummy Belgium chocolate taste.

Another flaw was that I mixed the vanilla with the flour. As such, the vanilla formed little flour balls which you can taste with the cupcake. I don't know if I misread the recipe but I'll definitely will not do so again in my next attempt. 

One thing about the cupcakes, I finally was able to melt the chocolate buttons the way they were supposed to be melted. I always see them in cooking shows and how the bakers melt the chocolate. It absolutely looked wonderful when I did that. Unfortunately, I was not able to take a picture.

5) Kalabasa with Sitaw
Kalabasa with Sitaw
 The picture on the left is Kalabasa with Sitaw. I originally wanted the one with coconut milk but I did not want to risk it as I have never cooked with gata before.

My mother-in-law asked me again this morning if I knew how to cook kalabasa (squash). Again, thanks to Google, I was able to find a very easy recipe.

One thing I like about the recipe was that it taught me how to render the fat from the pork. I initially let the pork boil in 1/2 cup of water until all the water evaporated. When the oil came out, I took out the pork and used the same pot to saute the garlic and onions. It smelled absolutely delicious!

I then added the shrimp and the pork that I cooked. After letting it saute a little bit, I added the kalabasa and sitaw. I then added water and let the squash soften. For additional taste, I threw in a shrimp cube and salt and pepper. I initially wanted to use the shrimp heads in lieu of the cube but the helper threw them away before I could give the instructions. The recipe also asked for patis but I forgot to buy and we do not have any in our pantry.

6) No-Bake Cheesecake
No-Bake Cheesecake

The picture on the right is my no-bake cheesecake. I got the recipe from my friend, Johanna, and asked her to teach me how to make it. There were no exact measurements on the recipe and the reason why I'm so proud of it was that I got the taste just right.

The sweetness was just enough as I used sugar on both the crust and the cream filling. So I made sure not to overdo the sugar. I made the mistake of not using enough Knox Gelatin but it still tasted divine. My son said that this is his new favorite dessert and has not stopped asking for it ever since I made it.

7) Red Velvet Cupcakes
My red velvet cupcakes are more successful than my chocolate chip cupcakes. In fact, it's easier to make! It took me less than an hour to make this while the choco chip was so labor intensive.

I also got the icing right in terms of consistency and taste. I want to put it everywhere! However, I need to get a bigger cupcake tray as I want them bigger. The molds that I got were so small.

Hopefully this new year, I'll have more chances of cooking again and have more opportunities to learn new dishes.

Last Year as a 30-Something

I rarely enjoy my birthdays. In fact, I don't go to work during my actual birthday. I usually just go to mass, stay at home or go to the spa. Afterwards, have dinner with my family. Nothing spectacular. Just something to mark the occasion.

On my last year as a 30-something, I decided to go to work on my birthday. Because one, I've already ran out of leaves and second, I wanted to take my birthday leave somewhere near Christmas.

Good Morning!

The morning of December 3 started off somewhat disappointingly. I woke up at 430 in the morning because I got home so late the night before. My body clock is so weird that if I sleep past 11PM, I end up waking up one hour earlier than my 530AM wake-up time. I did my usual bathroom ritual and when I checked if my son was up, my son's yaya started giving me some crap about lost toys etc. I just shrugged and let her be. What made it more craptastic was that my son did not even greet me happy birthday! To be fair to him, he's only 5 so I won't expect him to remember those things. But I expected that his yaya or his dad should've prompted him the night before to greet me. They did it in the past so it shouldn't be any different with my birthday.

I then drove to church to hear mass and spent time ruminating about my birthday and I was so tempted to slip into depression mode--which is my usual penchant during my natal day. But I fought the feeling because I believe that happiness is a decision and I will not let a bad start influence how my day would turn out.

I went back home to change as I remembered I scheduled our department pictorial on that day. I surely do not want to appear in the pictures wearing an all black outfit. I changed into something lighter (if you would consider gray, lighter) and started the drive to work.

During the drive, a former colleague texted and her greeting made me cry. It's a quote by William Barclay: There are two great days in a person's life -- the day we are born and the day we discover why. I know already found my reason for living and my calling but on that day, it somehow made me doubt everything. I blame the melancholy for that.

While I was ruminating about the text, I received a voice call from another former colleague. Hearing her voice lifted my spirits and furthered my resolve to make the day the best ever!

At the Office

At my workstation with my top team
Since I attended mass, it was almost 9AM when I reached the office. I was surprised to see my workstation decorated as such. Though a part of me acknowledges that I somehow expected it considering I'm a boss, it was still a pleasant surprise.

My top team also gave me a book filled with cupcake recipes. I don't know if they are aware that baking is already a hobby but I appreciate the gift. I had them write their dedications to me on the book and I will definitely test the recipes out during the long break.

with my November celebrants
I was quite harassed that morning as I had to do a lot of updates considering I was out of the office the previous day. At lunch time, I had a scheduled lunch with my November celebrants as they invited me weeks prior.

During lunch, they surprised me again by having the waitstaff of Max's sing Happy Birthday to me. It was embarrassing to have everyone look at me while I was being presented with a cake but I truly appreciated the gesture. Little did I know that the surprises will keep on coming during the day.

Best Surprise

with my cakes presented by 2 members of my staff
When I got back to the office, I remembered that some of my staff scheduled a meeting with me to discuss our Department Christmas party a couple of days after my birthday. I was not even able to brush my teeth yet when they called me to the conference room.

They started discussing some problems when one of my team leaders entered the room. He said that he scheduled to use the conference room when the rest of my 50-strong department came inside with a couple of cakes. After blowing the candles on the cake, they said that they have another surprise for me. They then showed me the AVP that they made below.

Most of them are inside jokes but some skits are rather funny. I was touched by their gesture and the effort that they exerted to have this done. In fact, I was crying and laughing while watching the video. When they asked me to make a speech afterwards, I was barely coherent.

Like the past couple of years, we had merienda at the 3F where I treated them with my usual pancit, puto and lumpia.

with my son
Back home

Earlier in the day, I shared my disappointment with my hubby on how my son did not greet me. When I got home, he certainly made up to me by presenting me a bouquet of roses. I could not resist not to have a photo op.

I usually have dinner with my family on this day but my father in law was not available so we resolved to just schedule it on another day. 

Other Celebrations 

The next day, I had lunch with my top team at K-Pub, a Korean Barbeque restaurant a few meters from our office. I was again surprised by the singing waiters.

That weekend, my family and I stayed overnight at Crimson. My son loves hotels so it was a treat for him as well.

We were supposed to meet up with my college friends that same weekend but we were all under the weather so we met up a couple of weeks later.

I also had lunch with my bestfriend, Kay, over here at Acacia. She also had the waiterstaff surprise me with a birthday song.

Overall, it was the best birthday ever. It's the right way to celebrate my last year as a thirty-something because next year, life will definitely begin. I didn't have to throw a party to celebrate with my family and friends and I prefer it that way. The individual lunches and dinners made it more meaningful and I get to spend quality time with all of them.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

English Only, Please! Surely!

I don't usually watch MMFF movies, in fact, I can't remember the last time I watched one. Ten years ago, I would resent the festival as it would not let me watch my Lord of the Ring series until January. However, the recent years has shown an influx of quality movies. Though I was only able to watch one this year, it was definitely worth the P500 that I had to shell out.

Century City Mall Premiere
Since my husband refused to accompany me, I made plans with a friend to watch it at a mall that I haven't been before--Century City Mall. 
It's an upscale mall found in the middle of Makati's red light district--Kalayaan corner Makati Avenue. First time I saw a Pandora store and it also has Uniqlo and Cotton On--even TWG!

After having lunch at a Japanese restaurant, we found out that the movie is showing at the mall's premier cinema which costs P500 per ticket. It comes with unli popcorn and a 16oz drink. We were very pleased also with the seats as they were very comfy recliners. There as I was posing in the empty theater (we got the first showing and we were the first people inside the theater).


I first knew about the film after seeing the trailer above in my FB feed. I was charmed by the actors and the dialogue so I knew I had to watch it.

Even if the story might be familiar to some, I like the way it was presented. Julian (Derek Ramsey) searched online for a tutor to help him translate a hate letter into Tagalog and after an extensive search found Tere (Jennelyn Mercado). Apparently, Julian's Filipino girlfriend left him and he wants to get back at her by following her to the Philippines and telling her how he felt in Filipino. Tere is also a stupid person when it comes to love as she lets herself be used by an ex-BF who continues to cheat on her.

Jennelyn Mercado's acting was very real (she somehow reminds me of Sarah Geronimo when she first acted with John Lloyd Cruz). Mercado's take on Tere Madlangscay was very likeable and you will identify with her and her stupidity when it comes to love. 

Derek Ramsey is his usual charming self. His character's attempt to speak Tagalog was very delightful. I'm glad he didn't have to do some pa-cute stuff and he acted his age. Though you would have to suspend your disbelief on how one can spend $1000 to ask someone to teach him tagalog. Julian must indeed be heartbroken over his ex-gf.

My only complaint was that most of the laughter-inducing dialogues were featured in the trailer. It's a movie that won't make you fall off your seats laughing (like what Kimmy Dora did to me), but you'll definitely feel good afterwards and won't make you feel that you were robbed.

Oh and they featured the song below in the movie. One of the best songs in my 90's childhood. It's my LSS up to now.