My Sunny 26th Birthday!

Have you ever had that one moment that turned out to be spectacularly better than how you planned or intended it to be? Well,  that was exactly what happened on the actual day of my 26th birthday this year. Call me highly appreciative, because the tone of this entry would probably sound similar to the tone I used in my previous one (See: My Birthday Brunch), but there really is no other way to put it! :)

I decided to take the whole day off from work just to be able to spend the day slow. In all technicality, I really wasn’t excused from receiving calls from work, but how I spent the day out of the office kind of made up for all of those minutes on the phone. Ha ha!

I started the day with a 7:30 am mass at Santuario de San Antonio parish, which was a little outside BGC. When we all sat to listen to the homily, I didn’t really expect much from it because it was after all a 7:30 am mass and more often than not, priests give the shortest homilies during early morning masses–due to either the call of breakfast or the slow re-boot of the brain from an evening slumber. Surprisingly though, the priest shared a little more than I had initially allowed him to. I don’t remember every single detail he said in the verbatim, but I remember this:

We oftentimes neglect the significance of every single moment in our lives.

It sounds so basic, I know. But it spoke to me as if the priest suddenly started using a megaphone instead of the ordinary mass mic. Neglect. That word. Significance. That’s another. The neglect we commit (which we usually blame our innocent daily lives for) in recognising–or at the very least respecting the importance of–every moment and every chance we have to make things right, paves the way for the incessant accumulation of our I should have’s and the I could have’s. 

The missed chance to be kind to the people we claim we love is a chance lost forever, and neither you nor I can say for ourselves the number of chances we are allowed to have with every person we have the privilege of sharing our love with. This brings us now to one of my resolutions for this year: minimise the what-could-have-beens, and maximise the what-I-can-do-nows.

I have little words to share about my breakfast except for the fact that I loved every minute of it.

We had it in what would seem to be my most favorite branch of Wildflour yet. The one along Rada st., in Legaspi Village Makati. I fell in love with the facade of the cafe right away, all the more with its interior. I wish I had photos to show for it but I was too intoxicated by the promise of the day that I failed to take my usual hundred-and-one photos on special occasions. Hah!

Early morning sunlight literally flooded through the glass windows of the cafe, bathing its tables and red brick walls. I ended up savouring every bite of my potato crisps and smoked salmon under that very sunlight. It was a Tuesday office day, I was at Wildflour having slow breakfast with the best company ever, and I was allowed to take all the time I wanted. Who could ask for more, really?

In the evening, we went to Sip&Gogh to paint! It was my first time and the experience didn’t disappoint. The painting we did though was pretty challenging but we powered through it. I love how the group made the experience fuss-free, complete with salami, cheese, crackers, wine, and relaxing background music! Plus, we had two instructors for the night: one to demonstrate step by step how to paint the picture, and another to go around and assist us. At the end of the night, we each had our own paintings to bring home with us as remembrances to the night.

It was the perfect way to cap my birthday. Every moment mattered, making it a great start to my 26th year. :)

Until my next birthday post!

My Birthday Brunch!

The first thing that entered my mind when I woke up this morning was: 1) There was no electricity; and 2) There was most certainly no oven to use for my strata and bacon. It was 5:30 am and it seemed like typhoon Lando was not ceasing any time soon, which added much to my anxiety. Should I postpone? Would my ingredients last another week? Would I buy flowers again for next week? If brunch pushes through today, what do I do about the oven situation? were some of the thoughts that bombarded my mind.  Today was my first time to throw a thanksgiving brunch, and there was no electricity.

Eventually (when I couldn’t stand the thoughts anymore) I stood from my bed, walked into the living room and saw my mom standing by the window. She was looking out and up to the gloomy sky. I stood beside her and watched the unwavering rain. “Ma, no oven.” I said. “That’s okay, honey, we’ll make do with what we have,” she responded in her most comforting tone.

At that very moment, I realised and said to myself: God is testing me. He’s testing how sincere I am in calling this a ‘thanksgiving’ brunch. It’s so easy to forget being grateful when things don’t go my way. Maybe this time He wants to know if my being grateful can go beyond all this.

With my mom’s confidence and the reminder of why I was throwing the brunch in the first place, I went down to the kitchen and started prepping. Brunch will push through, rain or shine, with electricity or without. The plan was to cook everything else but the strata until 9 am. If electricity hasn’t come on by 9 am, ditch the strata and improvise. Which was exactly what happened, since electricity came back on when my family and I were already in the middle of devouring the brunch spread. But by that time, I’d already forgotten about the worries I had to go through pre-brunch. I was just happy to be having a pleasant time with people I love. :)

By the end of it, everyone was full and happy! And! And! I couldn’t help but feel all the more grateful for the ray of sunshine–a combination of our jokes, stories, and laughter–we made for ourselves during on a gloomy day like today.

Top View Plate

Each plate has a simple note that says: Good morning! Here are some pancakes and bacon, and everything nice to thank you for everything you have been to Aix. :)

Sausage&Egg

The brunch spread started with my deconstructed strata (aka improvisation): toasted ciabatta bread and scrambled eggs with olives, white onions, red and yellow roasted capsicum, and fresh basil, topped with crumbled feta cheese. The meats consisted of Cabanatuan longanisa and crispy bacon (lovingly cooked by my sister Julie).

While over to the sweet side of the brunch spread are vanilla cinnamon pancakes (almonds and maple syrup on the side), fresh strawberries, and fruit jars of oranges, grapes and yogurt.

Special thanks to: My sister Julie who helped out with the cooking; Kuya Gab for bringing me to the grocery Saturday afternoon, and even helping me pick up my sunflowers from my supplier; Mommy for keeping me level headed during the no-oven situation; Papa for the ciabatta and for making sure to cover the details that are beyond my check list (replacing light bulbs, umbrellas for the guests, etc); Karins for recommending to me a reliable source of flowers; Tita Jojo, Tita Leah, Mia and Robert, for my birthday cake and most especially for coming up in spite of the bad weather! THANK YOU. :)

Home Cooking: Rösti

I am such a huge fan of breakfast!

There’s something very special about waking up on a quiet morning, going down to the kitchen in my pyjamas and turning on the kitchen heat while I get the coffee brewing in the family dining room.

A couple of Sundays ago–before the consecutive weekends of me being irrevocably sick–I prepared rösti for my parents, older brother and I. I particularly loved this recipe because it was so easy to make!

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I had 8 medium-sized potatoes with me, which I peeled and grated. In a huge mixing bowl, I added 1 cup of parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup chopped spring onions, 1/2 cup flour, fresh pepper, and salt (to taste). When mixed until the flour combines with the rest of the mixture, I made 4 equal “patties”, fried in the skillet until golden brown. Voila! Just like that, my very own home made rösti!

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The rösti went well with my poached eggs and some breakfast sausages, but I would recommend pairing this with something more saleable like bacon ha ha! :)

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Home Cooking: Steak Night with the Family

My most precious moments at home are when we’re all complete! I can’t stress that enough, what with our own individual schedules: my mom stays at the university 5 days a week, my youngest brother stays in the city and seldom makes it for the weekends, etc etc. So when it does happen that we’re all home for a weekend, we try our best to make our meals extra special.

Steak Night

Now THIS dinner was made even more special with the USDA steak we got from our family friends who went on a recent trip to Australia. What we loved about this “buy” is that we got very good portions at a very low price!

Steak is so comforting to cook, a pinch of salt and pepper on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes on the grill for both sides (alternating sides for one minute each), and voila! As we wanted to highlight the steak, we decided to go with very simple sides like sweet corn and carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy.

Of course, the dinner wouldn’t have been complete without some red wine, hearty conversation about the latest in our lives, and jokes about each other!

Steak

We had a lot of left overs from the dinner, so I got to bring some to the office for my lunch! I had to grill the left over steak again for a well done finish just to be on the safe side (A medium rare steak that sat in the ref overnight? Eep. Not taking my chances!). This steak with co-left over sides in the fridge: simple boiled broccoli and buttered marble potatoes with thyme.

Don’t you just love it when everyone’s home? ;)

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Chasing the Light: Part II

C H A S I N G   T H E   L I G H T

P A R T  II

“You wrote to me: ‘To pray is to talk with God. But about what?'”

“About what? About Him, and yourself: joys, sorrows, successes and failures, great ambitions, daily worries–even your weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions–and love and reparation. In short, to get to know Him and to get to know yourself–‘to get acquainted’!”

– St. Escriva, The Way, Prayer pt. 91

– – –

This week, I had lunch with a woman from the center. For the sole purpose of anonymity, let’s call the woman Teresa and the group she comes from, ‘The Center’. This lunch-slash-meet up, is what the center would simply describe as a ‘chat’. A chat is literally to talk about one’s personal life: school/work, family, peers, and/or current personal struggles (if there is any–otherwise, you just really talk about anything). For this entry, I would like to share with you a specific moment in our lunch that served as the newly opened window that finally let light and air into a long-abandoned room. 

“I don’t get it. I have the readings, I have the parish, I have my dad who tells riveting stories about matters of the faith, I grew up taking part in activities at ‘The Center’. I have everything made available for me to stay connected to the Bearded Man. I know what to do in a church or in the center like clockwork. How could it be that I still feel a misconnect? A gap?”

I fidget in my seat. I’m laying everything out on the table at this point of our conversation.

I hope she doesn’t judge me.

“Maybe because all of those are external things. Maybe, in spite all the inspiring people/things that surround you, the inside is still empty. Maybe this time, you have to really allow Him to enter your life by putting more effort in your interior life.”

Teresa answered with a smile, in the kindest as-a-matter-of-fact tone.

The hinges came off and the window flung open, allowing some light in. There it was, the elephant in the room: my interior life lacks prayer.

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Home Cooking: Blueberry Balsamic Pork Chop

The only reason why this dish happened was because we had left over blueberries in the fridge. Ha ha! I didn’t know what to do with them as I am no dessert expert (as if I even come close to a ‘savoury expert’!) so I searched up possible recipes and picked out the best one based on the ingredients I had available in our fridge.

The winner recipe? Blueberry Balsamic Pork Chop by Tiffany of Creme de la Crumb.BlueberryPork

Actual cooking time: 18 minutes for one oven tray.

I followed full instructions on the marinading of the pork, even up to broiling it in the oven. The only tweaking I did was the blueberry sauce as what I had in the fridge was the canned one with its own sauce. I skipped the part about adding sugar and water to the supposedly fresh blueberries and instead went straight to heating it with the balsamic vinegar. You can do that, too, especially with the fact that fresh blueberries aren’t exactly a normal commodity in the Philippine market.

Overall, I think this recipe was worth recreating. The pork chop turned out to be tender and flavourful, and the balsamic vinegar balanced out the blueberries perfectly.

To view the recipe, visit: Blueberry Balsamic Pork Chops by Creme de la Crumb.

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Chasing the Light: Part I

C H A S I N G   T H E   L I G H T

P A R T  I

“I’m not as religious as you are,” an old friend of mine said to me.

“I’m not religious. I’m just simply looking for my peace of mind.”

To me, being labeled as a religious person is dangerous for a number of reasons. I am highly flawed and when people stereotype me into this one description, I am left with very little room for error. I NEED my room for errors, I find it to be the most effective place for me to learn a couple of unforgettable real life lessons. Number two, I hail from a family who seems to have it all figured out when it comes to faith so let me set the record straight: I am the outlier, the unconvincingly convinced, the quiet storm, the theory that keeps falling short during practice.

The thing is, I’m not exactly forlorn about my imperfections and my being at the peripheral. But there is always that underlying tug that prompts me to keep wanting to know more about matters of faith and the bearded Man behind all of it. There is always that ‘tug’ that can be classified with the ‘discontentment’ of settling to be merely human. The “this is me, so deal with it” ideology that justifies nothing really, and more often than not roots to more forms of discontentment, doesn’t exactly appeal to me because of the following uncertainties: Is this really the best I can do? Because if this is it, then why am I still here?

Why am I me? What was I created for? 

I was once told that “there is life….and there is LIFE!” and I intend to embark on the search for the extraordinary way of living that would align myself to who I was really meant to be. For me, the best way to do ALL of THAT is to go back to who created me. Who is He? What does the bearded Man, Master Orchestrator of all THIS, want for me? Maybe by then, I will finally be able to to put this discontent heart to rest.

296 words into this entry and my only point is this: Welcome to Chasing the Light. This is a series of entries that will document my search for answers to those fundamental questions I have under my sleeve. I will write about raw encounters, meaningful exchanges with other people, actual readings, and personal realisations as I go along this route.

What do you say? Is this interesting enough for you? If it is, come and chase the light with me!

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Project: Oil on Canvass

 

This is the first time I tried oil painting. Very tricky, this one, as it turned out very difficult to manipulate. I’m no maestro and my first work may look very amateur-ish but I found this project the most calming I’ve had in months. There’s something about having lost myself in the creation of this work, at the same time having successfully shut out the noises of the outside world. Truth be told, this was actually the first time in months that I felt most at ease and most calm with my own thoughts.
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I’m pretty sure I did not do sunflowers some justice with what I did. But, this work is now hung on my bedroom wall and every time I get to look at it, I am taken back to that afternoon when I felt most whole and at peace with my own silence.

Best,

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