Friday, February 22, 2013

We Want Cake!

Lemon Cake.

Lemon Loaf Cake. Lemon Pound Cake. The one from Starbucks. It goes by many names and people who eat this know what I'm talking about. 

The Obvious: With the exception of boxed cake, I really don't know how to bake. It took two weeks and three failed loaves before achieving this final product, which still isn't quite perfect but good enough for a friday. The first one I made turned out pasty and pale. Not edible at all. It was tough as cement and managed a heaving thud as it landed at the bottom of the trash. The second one looked hopeful, until I heard something sizzle in the oven. The loaf rose and collapsed, leaving a burnt mess of carcinogens in the oven. I had a gut feeling a lot of it had to do with my skills in creaming butter and sugar. The lack, thereof. 

Recipes called for some kind of fluffiness, a consistency of wet sand, gritty, grainy but this novice baker decided it was done when I said it was done. So much for taking charge. Baking is a lesson on precision, patience, and timing. 

This third one finally looked like a respectable loaf. It tasted alright but not mind blowing and it took very meticulous steps to achieve this mediocrity. Sifted flour, not-melted-not-semi-soft butter, room temperature eggs, and the strength to endure the overwhelming need to put everything in the mixing bowl all at once. 

Recipes here, there (didn't want to cheat with a boxed recipe but I'm curious to try this), and everywhere.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

This Weekend

This weekend, a good friend's baby shower was the subject of my attention for the most part of the week. But alas, a nasty viral bug decided to settle down and get my baby sick, changing plans faster than San Francisco fog in the afternoon.  I suppose it never gets better for any parent, experienced or not. When a child is sick no matter what degree, even if it's just a bad cold (or croup in this case), you feel the pit at the bottom of your stomach, your body tenses up and like a programmed robot you just want to make chicken soup for her to eat, hoping it'll make her feel better.  

We like to wear party hats (from our First birthday) just because we can. We are nowhere near her birthday by the way. 

The I-will-sneeze-on-your-camera-lens look. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On The Table

Spaghetti with Broccoli Creme Fraiche Pesto

For a few years now, I've followed the culinary adventures of Smitten Kitchen with her unbelievably experienced hand in her tiny 42 square foot kitchen. She is not formally trained in the culinary sense but that's like saying an artist can't paint a masterpiece just because an education doesn't wield the brush. I'm sure she's just as great as most chef's out there, if not even better. As a home cook, I wouldn't dare dance around the flame of feeling extraordinary. I'm still finding my way in the kitchen, but I have come a long way. Six years ago - and I say this with utmost shame, I didn't know the difference between a zucchini and a cucumber, what a nutmeg was and couldn't cook rice to save my life. 

These days I'm finding endless ways to entertain myself in the kitchen, learning along the way. The recipe I found for this pesto - if we can call it that is courtesy of Smitten Kitchen of course, but modified with creme fraiche since I didn't have any heavy cream around. Thankfully, it made the dish rich and buttery with just the right tap of tartness. 

Ingredient List: 
1/2 pound broccoli
1/2 pound dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (or, more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper or pinches of red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons creme fraiche
A heap of grated parmesan (about 1/2 cup), to serve

A heap of grated parmesan is indeed key! I find that freshly grated parmesan cheese is the key that unlocks the umami for pasta - or any dish for that matter. The sharpness and nutty flavor is lost when buying the pre-grated kind.  So don't be shy with it,  pile it on like white on rice. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

One Step Forward.

Our humble home continues to evolve and the past few weekends and was certainly no exception. Windows were retro-fitted (and what a difference double pane makes!), shelves put together and installed and has now since become home to some books of poetry and a pair of milk glass vases. New house plants bought and settled into a vacant corner by the window, curtains trimmed and hung for what will be Mandarin's bedroom and bags of old pillows, washed out coats, and broken plates and kitchen miscellany donated to Goodwill. Which is, incidentally, where I found this new loft for our friendly succulents. Now all it needs to do is survive. 

The house has never seen this much action. It's a child in gestation and is on it's way into evolving into something that resembles us. No longer the stagnant vacation home of yesteryear, we want it to be a reflection of who we are as a family (which is subtle speak for saying that the old square coffee table will not be making its way back into the living room).  So, we are taking it one corner at a time. 

Speaking of corners, a designated time out corner has been inaugurated in the living room as some form of viral moodiness has been circulating as of late. A number of disciplinary actions taken (time out) with Mandarin as she continues to discover a whole range of unpleasant, albeit necessary emotions. Also learned today: dancing on a dining chair will land you some unintended floor time with a bloody lip.  Toddler time is counted in seconds. Turn your head once and in a heartbeat your toddler has swallowed that petrified cheerio, colored the wall, bruised her shin, fallen off the chair.  

Now if only I could re-locate emotion as I would these milk glass vases or my mother's thrifted chartreuse candy bowl. Today, watching the rain set me up for a mood that cleared some things up that's been stirring in me.  Years ago, when I used to work for a corporate office, I'd watch the monsoon rain sweep through the city and my thoughts would run along with it. I would feel melancholic then, thinking that if I were some place else I wouldn't feel as tormented with being lost as I was. Now, nearly six years later, I'm just looking out a different window. There are just these kind of days when you feel unhinged, like you're walking around like Mel Gibson with a dislocated shoulder, hoping to run into a wall (see: Lethal Weapon).  I seriously thought I would have it all figured out by now.  But as life would have it, figuring it out has no timeline. So as a grand gesture to the universe I wear a tiny silver key around my neck as a constant reminder that I can figuratively walk into any locked door if I choose to, but now I realize that I've was just walking back and forth a long hallway of closed doors. Maybe it's time to see what doors can be opened. 

Friday, January 4, 2013


So that's what a half digested peanut butter sandwich looks like on the floor. I will save you the photo opportunity right there. Here's a good way to start the year right, a clear reminder that children are vessels of surprise and delight, where just moments ago we were happily eating breakfast and doing Eskimo kisses and all that jazz, when out of nowhere, a gag and that was that. 

This is nothing new,  really. It's happened more times than I can easily remember and I only have a two year old. My reaction though, now that's one thing that never changes. I caught myself, deer-in-the-headlights witnessing this purge in slow motion HD. So real it hit my shoe, jammies and left an offensive sensory mess on the floor. I think we both had a slight out of body experience. Poor Mandarin was just as shocked as I was, not expecting breakfast to take flight from her so soon. 

I finally snapped out of it, asked her not to move while I cleaned up a bit, and did what any mother and child would do in this scenario. Get naked in Tahiti. Contain the outbreak. Minimize contamination. Leave clothes behind; head straight for the shower. Load the washer. 

She then asked me, "Mama, are you mad?"
"Of course not" I said.
"Aww...I'm soweee..."
"It's not your fault, love" I uttered. 
"We're just cleaning you up"
She then smiled and unexpectedly said, "I'm so proud of you, Mama"

She was obviously sounding off something she heard from both myself and her Dad, but to hear this kind of validation from your two year old, regardless of whether she knows what she's talking about or not, feels good. To hear your own child say that, pulls you right back into the moment, no matter where you are. No matter how far your mind has wandered off. 

I had an entire post written up and saved in my draft section not knowing how to end it or if I even wanted to post it. I knew it was clearly unfinished so I just left it there. I really didn't want to simply recount Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with a laundry list of what transpired. I'm trying to find meaning; I am going to share it, it might as well be meaningful. 

Oddly enough, I found it yesterday when Mandarin and I were taking down the tree and packing up Christmas ornaments. This entire season embraced Mandarin with so much warmth that every time she sees anything remotely associated to Christmas she'd say, "Christmas everydaaay!" and packing up "Christmas" seemed to profoundly confused her. 

And there it was.

I realized that I must have clocked out during the holidays because with the exception of Christmas day and Mandarin's pure excitement and joy (definitely one of the true highlights of my the year) it dawned on me that I  wasn't emotionally centered. I couldn't write about it without making it sound like Wall-E's daily log. Dressed in Pajamas....playing cards...Gin tonic was excellent...dinner...dessert...midnight. I somehow lost my center, dislodged by some probable event (still) unknown to me but nonetheless affected my general outlook in life. I'm definitely not unhappy. I just haven't lived in the moment. I haven't paid attention to the details.   

As the week progressed, I went through the motions of the household while sneaking in a trip or two to pick up a new Christmas tree (for next Christmas) and to hoard buy every ornament I came across with. Shopping for the last faux tree standing in a department store is like being faced with wolves in the woods. Alas, in the end, we got to checkout first and the lady was too slow for our Ninja (credit) slice as we took home one of two trees she needed.

Hello, 2013!

We spent New Year's Day at the Beach. It was freezing and windy, but the sun was high and it was a clear day, free of fog and drizzles, that being out was the best thing we did for ourselves. I constantly  need to remind myself that we are fortunate enough to live within a few miles from the beach. 

It was a good place to start the year, humbled by the great expanse that swelled and shifted waves, crashed into rocks and chased us back into the shoreline  We picked out smooth and well rounded stones and hurled it back into the water, the way I would rid myself of empty resolutions that never find certitude. 

Well, it is the new year, a good time to purge and start anew. Exorcise ourselves of hesitation, insecurities, or whatever demons we shared a drink with and once again be reminded that however broken we are in the past year, we can always start free and clear when we want to. Because we can.

So without making resolutions, I start the New Year with a reminder.  I must be present in all things. Pay attention. Find my center and move forward from there. That day at the beach, Mandarin drew rainbows on the sand like she already knew that this new year brings with it the promise of good, happy and hopeful.

Pick a spot. Plant a seed. Watch it grow. (A revelation from a hilariously witty TV Show I've been watching). This is how 2013 ought to be.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Solve a Problem Like Maria.

This really has nothing to do with The Sound of Music. There is however, a dilemma at play. The never ending saga of the sofa situation here at home, where the one true permanent solution is to actually buy a new sofa. As far a Julie Andrews goes, it's the holidays and The Sound of Music is in my subliminal consciousness during this time of year dating back to when I was a mere sapling. 

Or maybe it's just the first song that pops into my head whenever I look at our couch. As far as lessons go, cover ups sometimes bring more attention to the object being hidden as opposed to actually hiding it. Case in point: the wrong shade of concealer. You know how bad bad bad that can get especially on that reddish monstrosity on your forehead.

The branded slipcover I bought does an awesome job at cover up. Although it never really looked as polished like it does in the catalog.  Nicely ironed, properly folded and tied in the right areas brings new life to a tired old fabric. But beyond the framed picture of perfection are adults, sitting and stretching, toddlers jumping, climbing,  milk spilling, crayons coloring, food particles falling, and folding and tucking of endless yards of fabric. The wrinkles and folds that come undone every time someone gets up;  a couch really should not entail this much work. 

Alas, I have been defeated! After months of trying to make it work, I took the slipcovers off and the blue fabric gloated at me. Gloated! 

So now in the spirit of making things work, I have driven myself into a blue sofa frenzy. Trying to find ways to give the old hag a face lift. I'm thinking bold pillows and throws? A blindfold? Nonetheless, here are some inspirational pieces to keep me going, at least for the time being.  I think it's time to buy some statement shams! Cover up didn't work so it's time for Plan B, diversion. Whoop. Did you see that? I just pulled a coin behind your ear.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Being Thankful.

Last night's full moon marked significant change; this week's storm gates swung open like an invitation for winter to step in. Meanwhile the magic that surrounds a sleeping child is a wonder every parent can bathe in, rain or shine.

"Tell me, What is it you want to do with your one wild and precious life?"
 - Mary Oliver

I try to touch base with my environment to keep myself grounded, extend my feelers just beyond my well known sensitivities and I know in my bones that it changes the manner in which I perceive the world. Having moved and lived here in the last five years has changed my monsoon driven rhythm, it is oddly familiar yet different, more prominent in the change of its seasons and I just recently found myself craving for the richness and harvest of fall, and the hearty coziness of winter. I've become, wait for it,  festive

Taking it all in, is what it is. Just the simple things. Like a silver Reindeer made in India that I found for $6.00.  Cue the sparkles.  


Now that I know it'll be raining for the remainder of the week, I'd like to take a brief moment for an inevitable face-palm for completely forgetting to buy a bottle of much intended weed killer for the front of our house.  Next week it'll be the Twilight woods of Washington. C'est La Vie. Life moves on even for the unsuspecting weed that survives through the toughest of conditions.

Meanwhile, this weather is making me dream of homey things to do like crafting (What!?) and putting together a quilt and staring at my white antiquarian (yet hardly vintage chic) stove, indulging in my seasonal and yearly fantasy of finally buying a Le Creuset or Staub dutch oven with an imagined passed-down from-generations-legendary rustic recipe of  Coq Au Vin. Of course, there is no such recipe but in my imagined world of things, I have an exciting eclectic foodie heritage.   

Thanksgiving week has come and gone and was unexpectedly held here at home, without much preparation. It was a smaller celebration, tightly knit around immediate family members including some who drove from Auburn, WA and in spite of the lack of a traditional Thanksgiving spread (Turkey and all ) it was probably the best and most meaningful Thanksgiving I've had so far. Our family has grown once niece bigger, Mandarin has blossomed into a little girl, life has unfolded wonderful surprises- especially for good friends of ours and the year that started out on a sour note is turning out to be memorably sweet.  

With the closing date of getting this house drawing near, we are incredibly thankful for a home we have already grown into and while there is much work to be done, life in itself is progressive. We move to keep things whole - time and again Mark Strand comes into mind and in the same regard, even Mary Oliver and how to make the most out of this one wild and precious life.

For now, on this rainy Friday morning, sipping a cup of roasted green tea while in my animal print jammies will do just fine. Wild.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Home and Back Again

I've been so caught up with finding a suitable place to write at home, I've actually forgotten to write. I'm seriously considering taking the Narnia route and turning the last untouched frontier of this house - the coat room, as a possible creative space for my wandering thoughts.

Why I spend so much time trying to figure out where I can possibly have my own nook, cave, or corner doesn't come much of a surprise. I'm a crab and is very much in need of her own shell. We can thank the zodiac for that; thank you cosmos. 

In the nearly three months that I fell short of updating my blog, it's as if this space skipped beat that spanned a lifetime. Deluge of memories in the 12 hour flight back to Manila for some long overdue family time, and when it was happy, it was intensely blissful. Watching Mandarin run and play with her cousins and grandparents, my best friends - her godparents. It was unbearable to leave, and yet just the same I knew I couldn't stay. Between  an emotionally tumultuous goodbye that I had already started to fear a month into our trip, the plane allegedly getting struck by lighting and our flight getting cancelled and having to re-do goodbye's all over again the next day, it was an emotionally turbulent flight back home.

Home. The operative word here. Is it possible to call two places home? One where a past life thrives with nostalgic memorabilia and another where the current one resides. It is a blessing as much as it is a cursed longing for finding one's own place in the order of things. Having left in the peak of summer and arriving back just in time for fall; the change of seasons bearing the appropriate scenery of a life that has significantly changed over the last few years. 

One thing to note, as I have discovered. I have a copy of Gaston Bachelard's " The Poetics of Space" on both sides of the Pacific that I call home. Possibly, the most copies I have of a the same book. One left under a bed in a hotel in Hong Kong, another in the room I grew up in, and one that I keep by my bedside like a bible. All because the deep psychology rooted in the spaces we create, cook, sleep, and play affect us in more way that we initially care to understand  and I carry this book with me because it has given light (and poetry) to the spaces I occupy.

As my family and I now transition into becoming homeowners, a day I thought would never come, I find that I have extended my feelers past the room we sleep in, the kitchen, and a sliver of the living room. Like a switch going off, the official word is in - we are buying the home we have stayed in for the last five years. I have taken a stand against ALL fake plants, spray painted gold mirrors for a contemporary feel, removed dust-catching empty memorabilia that poses no great emotional attachment to anyone anyway (except to fill up a house that no one used to live in back then). 

The husband and I have virtually remodeled this home into an HGTV worthy space in our head, our creative neurons firing way ahead of a true working budget, but then again that thought on its own is the beauty of it all. We can dream of a space knowing it is ours it will be ours and someday; sometime very soon we can peel off twenty year old wall paper off the wall and paint that mother a bright bold shade like a declaration of ownership. We have arrived. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Here and There

The desk that I am currently working in is a great mirror of the random events in my life as of late.  A beach themed birthday card that opens to the first few chords of Hawaiian-nified Somewhere Over the Rainbow, a little bag of Excedrin migraine pills and Orange Dayquil poppers, a Costco coupon book, my very much neglected planner, a few embossed glittery stickers, keys, pens and markers, a Mickey Mouse DVD, a nine inch rubber number 1, business cards, and a very filthy square of measuring tape which has seen its share of DIY projects.

It's been so long since I last posted, overwhelmed with other things that need immediate attention like the peaks and ranges of laundry that's piled up in the bedroom. Difficult as it may seem, as with other things in life, you just need to sort through it one by one until you emerge from the throes of clutter with a calm sense of Zen.  Which I am still, currently, desperately trying to achieve. I still manage to function with the daily toils of life, plan events and attend parties and baby showers - even bachelorette parties and weddings. Especially the past two months which was chock full of weekend excitement catching up with well loved friends and family. Basically, I've gone off my hamster wheel of daily routes, exhausted, yet nonetheless thankful that I at least do not live a life of stagnancy.

"When they smashed my heart into smithereens, be a bright red rose come busting the concrete." 
Hitting it right home, Coldplay. 

We are emotionally pivoting between two life changing events, coming home to visit family and friends after many many years of not having done so. Meeting new family members, and properly grieving for a beloved few that have gone. Young and old. The other event is buying a house. A grueling process that I have now discovered is every bit emotional as it is financial. It is a delicate line to cross. Moving into a house you've already lived in for so many years with furniture and personal touches of taste and character that isn't yours, yet living with it as if it were your own, having its story weave into your own.  Now somewhat halfway between the journey and the destination, you can't really tell what is yours and what isn't. 

If only it was as easy as diving into a pile of laundry. There simply is a lot to sort through. I could load everything and leave it to its cycles of wash rinse and repeat for an hour or so knowing the outcome every single time, clothes that smell fresh like a breeze running through a field of flowers. At least that's what the box says. I think it smells more like the comfort and satisfaction of something being sorted, cleaned and folded. 

I can't help but feel slightly guilty for neglecting my dearest blog for the past few months. It's gotten me through complicated times and will most definitely anchor my sanity for the coming months ahead. Specially now that we're leaving in a few days, crossing the Pacific away from our morning blanket of fog and crisp summer afternoons and landing into the current unpredictable monsoon season that beckons childhood memories and the warm fizzle of nostalgia. Both of them, now home to two different sides of myself where there's probably a story that needs to be told all while jumping right into the thick of it. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hello, Blog.

What happened?

It's Friday  Saturday MONDAY already!? Seems like I just posted my last Friday Five a few hours ago. But alas, here I am rambling away, losing time, and trying to reel in where the rest of my week went.

Let's see. There was a beach trip. A donut the size of Mandarin's head. A laid back holiday at home. A very important interview I attended where I discovered I had a jovial Minnie Mouse sticker stuck on my shoe ( which of course I discovered post-interview), and a bad case of something I caught in the air that gave me a hacking cough and made me lose my voice. I think I sound like Rachel Ray, except not as perky.

Follow me on Instagram @sevenhurricane 

Meantime, Mandarin's vocabulary has increased at exponential speed. There are simple words she says that  make me ask her what it is again and again just to hear her say it; like bath. She says baaf which I find too cute for words. Or when we say surprise I syllabicate it for her and she says it with precise detail and yet when I ask her to say the entire word, her eyes light up and with full breath force she utters, Priiice!

This morning we sat on top of the stairs before heading down for breakfast and exchanged I love you's like we do each day, except this time she looked me in the eye and said,  I've you mama (that's I Love You in Mandarin speak). Suddenly everything difficult about being a parent so far, the patience you invest, all the worry you spend, and the effort and hope that you cast out like a net with eager anticipation of what returns, diffuses in to the lightness of feathers taking flight from the ground.  

She may not know it yet, the power of words. But as a mother, I do.

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