Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gobble Gobble

It's gobble gobble time of the year!

On Saturday, we decided to go shopping for our Thanksgiving dinner. The town shop, usually dead, was busier than usual. There was a lot of frozen Turkey at the freezer section. If majority of the shoppers were rummaging for the biggest bird, we were the opposite. Since there won't be many people eating the Turkey at home, we wanted a small one. The smallest one we could find was 10 lbs. That is still too big!

We got a Butterball, and this will be Kepi's first time cooking a full bird at home. We've usually spent our Thanksgivings in Atlantic City. This year, we'll be celebrating at home.

I sold my first batch of Chocolate Chip Banana muffins. I have a couple more recipes I'm working on, and I'm excited.

Yes, I have started my Christmas shopping and some are already wrapped. Some of these will be traveling via mail.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. (John F. Kennedy)

A beautiful Thanksgiving to all!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Char Sui Buns, Grad School and the Holidays

Char Sui buns for lunch today. Thanks to the polar blast, my coworkers and I decided to just order Chinese food for delivery. The winter-like temperatures can make anyone feel lazy to go out.

I don't know, but I feel like writing today. Blame it on that Venti cafe mocha I had this morning.  Hmmm....caffeine must be kicking in.

With Thanksgiving arriving next week, the office is quiet for a change. It is that time of year when most projects get wrapped up. I do have a number of projects looming, but they're not due in the next few weeks. My boss will be out on vacation next week, so the mouse can play just a wee bit. You know, put my feet up on my desk, eat some cheese and drink some cafe mocha. More coffee?

Grad school has been keeping me busy. My decision to go back to school was met with protests. I know friends meant well, and I fully understood where they're coming from. I shouldn't be taking too much stress as I'm still in the process of recovery. In the scheme of things, this semester is tough but manageable with the help and support of my husband. Yup, I married the right guy; thank you, Kepi.

I have two weeks left this semester. I submitted my second research paper last night, and I have one more to go. My third research will be about the Russian film "Beg" and a novel "Pnin." Russian emigre is the theme. I am not sure what to think about this topic yet.

The signs of Christmas are here! I know, I know. Thanksgiving enthusiasts will shush me, but I can't help it. I'm a Christmas person. In keeping with traditions, Kepi and I will put up the tree after Thanksgiving. We're going for the real tree this year.  I've already started sending Christmas cards overseas, completing my Christmas gift list (just the list), and planning how to make the house more Christmassy. Anyone in the blog world want to exchange gifts with me this year? Just curious.

Yes, I am ready for the new year. Here's my 2015 planner and I can't wait to fill it up with new adventures and posts of gratitude.

I am so excited because life is something to be excited about.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Jardin Botanique Montreal

On our second day in Canada, we explored Montreal. One of our stops is the Jardin Botanique, and this is my second time visiting this place.  I was very excited to show Kepi around, as this is his first time visiting Montreal.

Montreal has a feel. Yup, French feel. We bought our tickets here. I forgot how much they were.
Kepi and I thought the Insectarium is way cool.
I would freak out if I see something this big crawling.
A robot dinosaur? Perhaps.
Another robot dinosaur that really intrigued me.
We were so lucky that these water lilies were in bloom when we visited. Here's one waiting for its time to bloom.
Such beauty, such elegance. It looks like she's ready to go ballroom dancing tonight.
I think this is my favorite area - the Chinese Garden. The building backdrop is the Friendship Hall.
The water lilies and their beautiful pink flowers.
These red lanterns remind me of New Year.
Friendship Hall
A glimpse of The Dream Lake Garden designed by Le Weihzong.
Did you know that the grey rocks used on this lake came from the Tai Lake of China?
I love this walkway especially with the red lanterns.
A boat floats as the Tower of Condensing Clouds keeps watch.
I find this place perfect for meditation or a retreat.
Kepi and I at the Springtime Courtyard. Yes, note those newly weds at the back. It's actually my first time seeing that they're in our photo and sort of centered too.

We had a wonderful time at Jardin Botanique, so if you happen to be dropping by Montreal, do try to visit. It's easily accessible by Metro, but we drove this time which isn't that bad in terms of traffic.

Friday, October 17, 2014


After an eight hour drive from Maryland to Quebec, we woke up pretty late the next day. It was the first time in months we woke up faraway from home. It's a weird feeling. I guess that's the effect of being quarantined in a hospital for months.

Although we barely could open our eyes, we stumbled our way to the nearest Tim Horton, had some breakfast and started the car to Mont-Tremblant.

The road to Mont-Tremblant. I imagined it would have been prettier in winter.
We parked near this flower bed.

Stopped by the Post Office to pick up Canadian stamps and send out postcards to family and friends.
Walked for a while and we came upon this sleepy dog guarding an art shop. I think this dog could be fired for sleeping...just kidding.
The name of this lake escapes me but it was a picturesque day at the Laurentian Mountains.

This dog enjoyed a good swim and went back to the water several times while we were there. We even managed to chat with the owner.
Moose fountain
A deer crosses our path.
Mont-Tremblant village

While we couldn't do some hiking at Mont-Tremblant, blame it on my achy legs and weak system, we certainly enjoyed driving around the area. I'd love to come see this place in winter and maybe learn to snowboard or ski.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Haskell Library

It was a seven-hour drive from Maryland to Vermont, but we looked forward to traveling after being cooped for months at Johns Hopkins. We also decided to drive since I'm not yet allowed to travel by plane.

I cried when we backed out the driveway. A lot of anxiety and fear came over me. I was scared to leave home; I feel unsafe being far from home or far from the hospital that's treating me. I didn't know that fear like that was even possible for someone who loves to travel.

When we finally crossed the border to Pennsylvania, I started feeling at ease and looked forward to Ana's wedding. I started enjoying the scenery.

Our rest stop in Vermont. It was drizzling when we got there.

Before we crossed the border to Canada, we visited the Haskell Library.

Entrance to the library...nothing really spectacular.

Who goes and visits libraries? Well, this library is special because it was purposely built on the border of US and Canada. A symbol of friendship and goodwill. You see that line in the middle of the library? That's the border line between US (left) and Canada (right).

The Haskell Library from the US side.

From here, we went through the Canadian Border Patrol and entered Canada. Haskell Library is quite an interesting place to visit. The neighborhood of Stanstead, Quebec and Derby Line, Vermont is quiet and picturesque.

In three hours, we'll be in Montreal.

Monday, September 22, 2014

September And Waiting

September. Indian summer has arrived. The forest has broken out in motley colors, the leaves on the trees have become brittle and are rustling as they do in autumn, but they have not yet frozen - there has been no frost. The sky is gray, a fine autumn is drizzling, if there is a bit of sun, it shines through the clouds, and it is not very warm. It is damp; but thank God for that because, "if the weather is foul in Indian summer, then the autumn will be dry." We are waiting for frost from day to day; we in the country are always waiting for something... (Engelgardt, Letters From the Country 1872-1887)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Filipinizing The Yard

It doesn't really feel like summer here. Don't get me wrong. I love these mild temperatures and that I neither miss the temperatures that could go up to 100 degrees nor the thick embrace of humidity. This summer is perfect!

I haven't been blogging, as I've been spending more time with my parents. Mom and Dad flew home two weeks ago. I miss them already. I've gotten used to having them around and I'm so thankful they were with me every single day of my chemo days. Sometimes, I still feel that my transplant just happened yesterday.

Today, I am 213 days post transplant, and I am thankful each day I am here.

Well, I have a few things planted around the house. Most of them were planted by my Dad. It's funny how we Filipinized the house. It's even cooler when my American husband embraces all these gestures. These days, you can find Kepi eating Chicken Tinola with Bitter Melon leaves.

Bitter Melon - I never noticed how pretty the flowers are.

We planted the Japanese variety - Futo Spindle. I've been harvesting the young leaves and adding them to my Chicken Tinola and even Ginisang Mungo.

The Calamondin has sprouted back to life after being kept indoors for the duration of winter.

Yes, I also have Malunggay.

If I'm not doing anything and boredom hits me, Daisy and I would go on the yard and hunt for these four leaf Clovers. We've been lucky so far. This isn't really part of Filipinizing the house, but it's a tribute to my husband's Irish heritage.

Here's my four-leaf Clover sniffer.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kitchen Diary: My Interpretation of Tupig

I have been craving for tupig or tinupig. Since my stomach is still very sensitive, I make sure my meals or snacks are all prepared at home. So I made it a mission to research the recipe for tupig and if I can use the oven instead of charcoal. I'm not sure if there's an English translation for tupig but all I know is that, my sister and I are loyal fans of this snack being sold on the streets of Baguio City. They're usually sold at street vendor stands, rain or shine, you'll see a seller fanning her charcoal stove, carefully roasting and checking if the tupigs have achieved their golden brown color. The aromatic scent of a roasted, closed to burnt, Banana leaf means there's a tinupig nearby or just around the corner. It's best to eat them warm and darn right sticky to your hands.

Breakfast Menu: Coffee and Tupig

I had to base my tupig recipe on two websites: Filipino Style Recipe and Ilokano's Best. Please check both sites and find which one works for you.

Below is my tweaked version based on these two recipes.

Ingredients: Coconut Cream, Butter, Brown Sugar, Glutinous Rice Flour and shredded Young Coconut



1 pack of glutinous rice flour
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar (depends on how sweet you want it)
1 pack of shredded young coconuts
1 stick of unsalted butter (soft)
1 can of coconut cream (see my note regarding adding this whole can)

Banana leaves for wrapping


- take your Banana leaves and pass them over a flame or grill to make them pliable or softer (doing this makes them easier to work with especially when it's time to wrap the tupig mixture); the Banana leaves should get shiny and softer

- preheat oven at 375 degrees

- do this in particular order: mix softened butter, sugar, shredded coconut and glutinous soft (don't worry if they're not mixing well that's what the Coconut Cream is for)

- slowly add coconut milk BUT make sure not to make the mixture runny or it will be hard to wrap, sticky is the consistency you should look for

- when mixture consistency is achieved, pour 1/4 cup of mixture on Banana leaves and roll 

- place on a cookie sheet, single layer and make sure they don't overlap to ensure cooking uniformity

- cook in oven for about 30-45 minutes (NOTE: Check tupigs at around 30 minutes and increase time if they're not done yet, I had to keep checking mine and cooked it for 50 minutes because I wanted my tupig to be golden brown and wanted the Banana leaf to be burnt a little bit.)

This is mixture consistency you're looking for - just enough Coconut Cream so that it's easier to wrap.

I love my tupig a little bit burnt so that it gives me just enough crunch but soft and chewy in the inside.

I hope you can start making your own tupig and let me know how it came out.

Tupig reminds me of a world gone and only accessible through the whiff of familiar memories and smells; a time when Baguio was still cold and clean. Sadly, I heard the Summer Capital isn't as cold as it used to be, and the fog is almost taken over by smog. Fortunately, I can make my own tupig and be reminded of the good things and savor once more a favorite snack from my childhood.