Friday, October 17, 2014

Mont-Tremblant

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

Tinupig

Ingredients:

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

Procedure:

- 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.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Kitchen Diary: Banana Bread

I'm crazy for Bananas!

I've made a chocolate chip banana muffin before and it was a hit with my husband. So this time, I decided to give Banana Bread a try. This recipe reminds me of our drive through Hana Highway in Maui. What is the connection between Hana Highway and Banana Bread? Well, if you've driven through Hana Highway, you'll notice all these signs from mom and pop shops offering Banana Bread. Every time we stop by a shop, the Banana Bread is gone - that's how delicious they are.

To be precise and exact for my banana bread - sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, sour cream, mashed bananas and of course - my recipe book.

I find it easier to bake when all my ingredients are ready and portioned.

My mixer finally left the basement.

My first banana bread and it filled the house with the most wonderful scent.

There's something rustic, historic and beautiful about this recipe. My gratitude to the person who made this recipe and passed it down to family, friends and now to me.

Gotta have thick slices.

These thick slices are great for french toast as well.

The bread was moist and delicious. It was perfect for our afternoon coffee and tea.
Since I made this Banana Bread, I've baked it twice already and the outcome is consistent. I did tweak it a bit and increased the Bananas and less nutmeg.

This recipe is a keeper.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Dollop Of Daisy

"Daisy Daisy... just goes with family so do a dollop do do a dollop of Daisy do a dollop do do a dollop Things taste better with a dollop of Daisy do a dollop do do a dollop of Daisy do a dollop do do a dollop of Daisy do a dollop do do a dollop of Daisy." (Daisy Sour Cream Commercial Jingle)

Lately, I've been finding myself singing this commercial jingle. I have no intent on advertising this product but it's like one of those round songs that keeps going on and on. It's crazy!

There are two reasons why this commercial keeps popping into mind: (1) my next project is to bake mini biscuits with sour cream and (2) we just adopted a dog named Daisy.

I won't delve into the sour cream biscuits this time, but I will introduce you to Daisy. She's a senior at 12 years of age, and she comes from West Virginia. We adopted her from Hedgesville Hounds, and she arrived on May 31st.

Kepi gives Daisy a welcome home hug. That's until he "thinks" he's allergic to dogs.

Daisy having time for herself.

Resting after playing ball.

Relaxing at the yard.

It's funny but at 82 pounds, she owns the kitchen floor.

Playing fetch and catch with Dad.

After her bath...of course, she rolled on the grass after all that cleaning.

An afternoon nap.
Daisy's been well-behaved and she knows her commands - sit, lie down, stay and more. The tough part is introducing her to our Dizzy, the cat.

Before we took Daisy home, we took a towel and rubbed it on her during our initial visit. The whole idea is to bring home the towel and introduce Dizzy to the new scent. At that time, it seems that Dizzy was curious about the new scent; we did that for almost a week to give Dizzy ample time to know or get curious to Daisy's scent.

We've also created a safe zone for Dizzy, unaccessible to Daisy, accessorized with a baby gate. So far, there's been only one incident when Daisy and Dizzy met in the living room, did a staring competition which ended with a playful chase. For now, it's just been Dizzy coming down in the mornings to check on this big furry creature who sleeps downstairs.

We're hoping that soon, they'll both find a common ground and in all positivity, become friends. As for the husband's allergies, that is yet to be determined. We're trying to determine what is he allergic to - pollens or dander. Spring here is late (really short) and allergy season came with a vengeance.

Daisy is a great dog, but with a great dog comes big responsibilities.

We're in the initial phase and we're figuring out how things will work out. As for any stories, we're hoping for the best because the best is yet to come.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kitchen Diary: Chocolate And Apricot Squares

It's rainy and it's a perfect day to bake. Beautiful rainy days can be enhanced with the sweet smell of cake baking in my oven especially when it's chocolate.

I found this recipe from a book, Cook's Library Chocolate, bought from a yard sale. This book shows how to use chocolate, be it white, milk or semisweet, in different recipes. What I love about this book is that the recipes are well laid out and easy to understand. Each recipe is labeled from easy, moderate to challenging. Since I'm a beginner in baking, I'm starting with the easy ones.

Before I bake, I prepare all the portions and ingredients first - eggs, dried apricots, semisweet bars and butter. Not in the photo are flour, baking powder, and salt.
Preparing to melt the chocolate and butter.

This is my favorite part, the melting of chocolate and butter. The mixture infused a wonderful scent of chocolate throughout the house. I must do this often. It's better than scented candles.

Folding the flour mix into the chocolate and butter mix.

Chocolate and Apricot Square Cake

An afternoon with a good cup of Vanilla Latte and a small square of sweet indulgence. The best part is that I made it.
The cake was done at around 3 PM and it was the perfect time for an afternoon snack. Mom and Dad loved the cake. I did too. The recipe calls for white chocolate, but I substituted it with semisweet instead. I think that with white chocolate, the cake would be overwhelmingly sweet, but I am thinking of making the white chocolate version in the near future. At the moment, the semisweet came out just right.

This recipe serves 12.

From Cook's Library Chocolate: Chocolate and Apricot Squares

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
6 oz white chocolate, chopped (substitute with milk or semi-sweet)
4 eggs
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup no-soak dried apricots, chopped

  1. grease a 9-inch square cake pan and line base with baking parchment
  2. melt butter and chocolate, stir frequently until mixture is smooth and glossy, cool slightly before mixing
  3. beat the eggs and sugar into the butter and chocolate mixture
  4. fold in flour, baking powder, salt and chopped apricots
  5. pour batter into the pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes
  6. when cake is completely cold, turn it out and slice into squares or bars