About Me

United States
Belle is a mother of 2 beautiful teenagers aged 19 and 18 years old. She is originally from Bato, Catanduanes. She loves fiddling around with computer on her free time.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Security Tips to help prevent "Identity Theft".

I thought I would pass these valuable tips on to others.

  • The next time you order checks, have only your initials (jn place of your first name) put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name, but your bank will know how you sign your checks.
  • When accepting credit cards, it's important that the "back of the card is signed by the customer." Some credit cards are issued with a picture and signature of the customer laminated on the front. The signature policy is the same and the signature is still required on the back of the card. "Do not accept unsigned cards." If the card is unsigned, request a photo I.D. and have the customer sign the back of the card in your presence. This policy was established by the credit card companies and it is an added layer of security for merchants as well as customers if a dispute arises.
  • When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, do not put the complete account number on the memo line. Instead, just put the last four digits of your card. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone handling your check will not have access to the complete account number.
  • Put your work phone number and address on your checks instead of you home information. If you have a PO Box, use this for your address. Never, ever, put your Social Security Number on your checks.
  • Use the credit cards company's address as a return address on your payment envelope. If someone intercepts the payment, they will not have your home information.
  • Copy all of the contents of your wallet or purse on a photocopy machine. Copy both sides and you will have all the information needed to contact the individual companies in case of lost or theft. When traveling abroad, keep a copy of your passport with the paperwork.
  • When you check out of a hotel that uses card keys, do not turn in the keys. Destroy them. Many of those little cards carry on them all the information you used on check-in including address and credit card numbers. Someone with a card reader or any employee of the hotel can access all this information.
  • If your wallet, purse, credit cards, etc. are stolen, call to cancel the cards immediately. They are probably already being used. Next is to file a police report in the jurisdiction where the theft or loss took place. Lastly is to notify the three national credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security Number. The alert means any company checking your credit will know of the stolen information and will have to contact your personally by phone to authorize new credit.
The phone numbers for the three agencies are:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian: 1-800-397-3742
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

Monday, November 27, 2006

Stir Fry Vegetables- Yummy In Your Tummy

This morning, my husband and I took a walk along the lake again. While walking, I started thinking of what I was going to fix for lunch today. And this is what I came up.

To be continued.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Typical Rural Life Scenes

These were some random shots taken a year ago in my barrio in Catanduanes. I especially chose these pictures to post in my blog because it depicts rural life activities that I was accustomed to. Having lived outside the Philippines half my life, I surely miss everything from home. Indeed, the saying, "no place like home" is true!

Have you ever experienced eating food on a banana leaf? I don't know what it is about it, but the food tastes so much better on these leaves and it makes you devour food in great quantities. Nowadays, people are starting to use banana leaves as lining/covering on native plates made out of rattan in social gathering. . It is convenient and very economical. When you finish eating, all you need to do is throw away the leaves in the compost pit. Because it is perishable, it will decompose over time, and will make good fertilizer for our garden. You see, nothing is wasted in the whole process.

When I was little, I couldn't hold still in the house. Well, for one thing, we didn't have television or toys to keep me entertained and I didn't like being cooped up in the house all day long with nothing to do. I preferred to wander into places with my friends. Sometimes, we would stay in the tree house for hours and end up napping because the cool breeze from atop seemed to hypnotize us. Often, we were awaken by the holler of my father from the house, screaming obstreperously for my name mandating me to come home. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, afraid of the possible consequences that would befall me ; the dreaded whipping. I was supposed to be home helping my mother in the house. If I got lucky, depending on his mood, he spared me the lashing...usually whips on my poor bottom..hehehe.

Other times, we would go in the forest looking for firewood. Woods were so easy to find then. We usually got our limit in no time giving us more time for fun and little mischief. We had hilarious memories with Antutan tree close to where we searched for firewood. Antutan tree had a loathsome scent which resembled like a "tot." I think that is the reason why the tree was called Antutan because of its smell. It made us gag. Anyway, we would pick some leaves off the tree and would deliberately have someone sniffed on it without his/her knowledge. Oh boy, was she/he infuriated, and attempted to pay us back. I made sure I always watched my back just in case someone was pulling that same trick on me from behind. Hahahaha...silly memories!

Those pictures above show rural life scenes typical in my barrio. In the afternoon until dusk, people like to gather outside along the side of the road just to catch the latest news/gossips or to chew tobacco. Chewing tobacco was common among the elders including my father. I had done some errands for my father on many occasions looking for nganga ingredients such as buyo, apog, bunga, and some tobacco in the neighborhood. There was absolutely nothing from that concoction that appealed to me. Yikess! It was gross. Why were the elders so hooked on it was beyond me. I am so thankful I didn't become a nganga chewer.

One picture above shows myself sitting on the balcony railing with my feet up. It is my favorite position when I need a relaxing chat with friends and relatives. It looks funny and odd but I feel comfortable in this position. Try doing it yourself and let me know what you think.

The other two pictures are of my mom who just passed away not too long ago. In one picture, she is seen making the molido that I promised to bring a friend in the US. She was the only one in the family who knew how to make the molido. Unfortunately, she didn't pass it on to any of her kids.

The other picture is of the four of us; mom, me, and my two daughters, playing domino. Somehow, she managed to communicate with my daughters even in broken English. I am glad, she had a chance to bond with my children before she joined with the Creator.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Our Thanksgiving Trip to Roosevelt, AZ.

On our way to Roosevelt, AZ. to spend Thanksgiving dinner with our friends, we stopped at the viewpoint and took some pictures of the Roosevelt Lake. It was once the largest man-made lake in the world. It offers many recreational activities from boating, fishing, jet and waterskieng, camping, and just merely sightseeing. When the lake is full, it can cover more than 88 miles of shoreline, big enough to accommodate large crowds.

We had good memories in this lake with family and friends. We used to go fishing here and caught quite a few of crappie. I remember my husband tossing the children in the water from the boat and they got a kick out it. They were like little fish. They swam for hours until their lips became purple and puckered up from soaking too long.

The picture on top is thornless Prickly Pear. Seven years ago, my husband planted the cactus about 2 inches long. When the plant was little, Javelina liked to chew on it, undeterred by the cactus' spines, so my friend, Bob, installed a perimeter fence for protection. Now, they don't seem to bother the plant anymore because, for one, it might be too tough for them to chew or it could be that the Javelinas (wild stinky peccary, which resemble wild boars) feel threatened by the plant's size. It is about 8 feet tall. Huge!

The Saguaro Cactus, the second picture from the top, is the state flower of Arizona. This particular cactus only grows in Arizona, and in Mexico. It grows very slowly, perhaps an inch a year, but to a great height, about 15 to 50 feet. This particular cactus has five arms and is about 25 feet tall. It blooms in springtime and it surely is a pretty sight from the freeway. The flowers are about 3 inches wide and have many creamy petals around a tube about 4 inches long. The fruit of the cactus is edible and was the food source of the Native Americans of the region. They used the flesh, seeds, and the juice.

I have tried eating the fruit of the Prickly Pear only to be stung by its spines. It can be deceptive because the spikelets are not that visible until you touch it. The spines quickly prick your skin as if they are being pulled my a magnet. The fruit itself tasted good but the pricking incident was enough to dissuade me from picking the fruit off the plant unprotected. The use of gloves is absolutely necessary in case I decide to try another shot at it. .

It took me an hour to get rid of the darn prickers using a twissor. Oh, I actually had a friend remove it for me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sinigang na Bangus

This is what I had for dinner tonight--siningang na bangus. It was delicious. I could eat this meal every week and never get tired of it. I know, for foreigners, this dish doesn't look appetizing. My husband, who is an American, doesn't care for it. Sour soup doesn't appeal to him. My eldest daughter is allergic to fish. Even the steam from cooking the fish makes her sick. This time, I turned on the exhaust fan at full blast. She didn't even notice it.

In this dish, I threw in six different vegetables; okra, eggplant, long beans, Taiwan bok choi, radish, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and slices of ginger. I used a combination of tamarind and guava ready-made broth. I didn't use any oil or butter. I made sure that I did not overcook the vegetables. I put in the bok choi last, covered the pan and turned off the heat. This dish is very satiating even without rice. It is a healthy dish.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bahay Kubo

Remember the song, Bahay Kubo?

The song goes like this:

Bahay kubo, kahit munti
Ang halaman doon ay sari sari
Singkamas at talong, sigarilyas at mani
Sitaw, bataw, patani.

Kundol, patola, opo't kalabasa
At saka meron pang
Labanos, mustasa
Sibuyas, kamatis
Bawang at luya
Sa paligid nito puno ng linga.

I took this picture when I went to the Philippines 3 years ago. I was just fascinated by it. The moment I laid my eyes on it, it instantly brought back some childhood memories: the rustic primitive abode, the simplicity, peacefulness, and slow paced way of life, to name a few. Nowadays, people are always on the go, and are deeply engrossed in their chosen careers that they don't have time anymore to appreciate simple and little things in life. We spend more time at work than at home. We barely know our own family. Sad, isn't it?

For me, this picture reminds me of home...not just a simple structure or dwelling but a home where the HEART is. It a place where you can kick up your feet and relax. It is a place where native delicious cooking takes place. It is a place where family spends more quality time together.

Many years ago, when I went back home, I always made time to visit my friend who used to live in this house. I spent few hours with her. She was a bit retarded. She talked to herself a lot especially early in the morning when everybody was still in deep slumber. Since we lived right adjacent to her place, I couldn't miss her blabbing. I got used to it and considered it as my morning alarm clock.

One thing, though, I had noticed about her, she didn't owe anybody anything. She was debt-free. She was a hardworking and self-sufficient woman. Amazingly, she never ran out of food, and she ate three good meals a day composed mainly of brown rice and vegetables. She threshed her own rice grain producing a nutritious brown rice. She was a good fisherman as well. When she went fishing at the swamp, she always came home with a basket full of seafood. She would convert half of the catch into cash for her personal expenses, and she would keep half to her own.

Unfortunately, she passed away several years ago. She left behind this special house.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Mogollon Rim

This afternoon, my husband, Steffi, and I went for a history lesson, and took a hike as well in the Mogollon Rim. It was quite a drive on an unpaved road. The road was not that bad though compared to the road going to Puraran in the Philippines. The fastest we drove was 30 miles an hour.

We went to see the battleground of US cavalry and Apache Indians. It was located at the Mogollon Rim (mountains) at 7,500 feet elevation . When it became impossible for us to drive further, we swerved right into the open space to park. Then, we began our grueling hike. The hill was precariously steep! I saw footprints and droppings of elks and deer. The trail was rather gloomy. I begged my husband to turn around because coming back was harder yet, and it was getting late. But, he stubbornly acted as if he didn't hear me and kept going. Steffi was right behind him. I maintained a good distance from them from behind because just in case he made a sudden turn around, I would save myself from traversing the challenging and slippery course. However, he carried on and so I walked a little faster as I didn't want to be left further behind. I caught up with them in no time.

The battleground was interesting. It was an open space where the US cavalry and Apache Indians fought ferociously. However, the Indians did not come out victorious in this fight, one of the few they lost. This battle was actually the last one fought between the US soldiers and the Indians. It was called the Battle of Big Dry Wash, year 1882.

The lake you see is called the Blue Ridge Lake. The water is green. I was thinking that should we get lost, we would be able to survive for a while because of our close proximity to the water although I doubt if we would be able to handle the freezing temperature at night Steffi was singing the whole time. I could hear her echo from the other side of the ridge. I urged her to stop because the place was eerily quiet and I was afraid of annoying the invisible people...hehe. She would not listen.

Steve had a hard time climbing the steep hill back. He called me chipmunk because I cruised right through it while he groaned and moaned. He took forever to reach the top.

The pile of stones you see is a marker that people put together to find their way back. I saw quite a bit of them. We followed the stones and took us right to our destination.

Cauliflower Mushrooms

Have you seen this type of mushroom before? It is rare and it is exceptionally good. My friends from Seattle go mushroom hunting right around end of October and they usually find boxes of wild mushrooms of various kinds. Our family went with them once, and it was a pleasant experience. You need a pair of good eyesight, though, to find them.

Anyway, cauliflower mushroom grows mostly in rocks and at the base of the rotting fir trees. It is a fungus so it grows in sunshine-free places and requires plenty of moisture. Once it is established, it can grow fast and within two weeks, it is ready for harvesting. Mushroom hunters must pick them at the right time. otherwise, if they wait too long, the frost will get it, and besides, its lifespan is short.

This particular mushroom can weigh as much as 40 pounds. The one they found weighed 28 pounds. Can you imagine lifting one that heavy while hunting?

Baboy or Pig

My daughter had a blast seeing a pig for the first time in her lifetime in the province. The pig put quite a show, too, and seemed happy to meet my daughter. Sadly, this particular pig was long gone as it was butchered for the fiesta two years ago.

In the province, every household raises a pig or two to earmark for special occasion, usually, a fiesta or wedding. It takes about 6 months to grow one to a shoat. It used to break my heart when the pig was about to be slaughtered. I went as far away as I could so I would not hear the squealing.

Pigs are very intelligent animals, and they make good pet. I remember when I was young, I used to put my mother's pig to sleep by rubbing his belly. He loved it! Reason why I got attached to these creatures, which made it hard for me to see them butchered. I wished there was a way of butchering them the easy, painless, and crueless way.

Pigs do not have effective sweat glands so they cool off during hot season by immersing themselves in the mud or by using water. They use mud as a form of protection from sunburn. They like rooting dirt with their snouts. They practically eat everything, from greens, insects, worms, rotting carcasses, and even their own young.

My Hometown, Catanduanes, Philippines

Familiar with the scenery? Beautiful, isn't it? It is a picture of idyllic setting in my hometown. My daughter took this picture when the rice plants were all green, which made it interesting. Yes, we do have rice terraces that we can call our own.

When I was little, about 11 0r 12 years old, I took a job of planting young rice plant for people, and I got paid Ph6. 00 a day for it. Boy, for that money, it was a hard job! Not only that I had to be in muddy soil, slogging through the mud for more than 8 hours, the job was backbreaking! I started at 7 AM and ended at 5 PM. When I came home, I couldn't see straight from too much fatigue. Right after I finished dinner, I went straight to bed and slept through until morning. When I woke up, my whole body ached. I was lifeless! It took me several days to recuperate. Then, I began to realize that it was not worth it for me. I told my mother that I would/could not do this again, and she understood. I swore to never submerge my feet again in that muddy soil.

Trike or tricyle is a major form of transportation in the province as shown in the picture. It is not a comfortable ride, and it produces significant noise and air pollution. My husband had tried it once and wasn't thrilled about it. Since half of the road in the province is paved and the other half is unmaintained, it is hard to avoid the potholes, thus, making the ride hellishly unpleasant. My husband preferred renting a van instead to take him to and from. Fortunately, there are available cars and vans for rent in Catanduanes for reasonable cost, and usually, it comes with a driver for free. Of course, tip is optional. I ended up tipping my driver because he was very nice and helpful to us all throughout our trip.

Naturally, I don't mind hopping in the tricycle because I grew up with it. My brother owns one and just like car, it takes us anywhere and whereever we want to go and yet, it is not expensive to operate and maintain. For people who have limited money, owning a tricycle is the way to go.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Puraran Beach House

The house below is located in the island of Catanduanes, Philippines, in the town of Baras, in the barrio of Puraran. It is just a short walk to the ocean, about 100 steps to the beach. The 2 pictures on top are of breathtaking Puraran beach.

Puraran is a surfer's paradise. It has powerful waves that break into corals 100 to 200 meters from the beach. Surfers and tourists from all over the world come to this place to take advantage of the majestics waves that people rave about or just to relax and enjoy the beautiful sceneries. It has white sand. The beach is nestled by the mountains on the east side. Two resorts here offer basic accomodation for reasonable cost. For Ph300, you can have a room and two meals. The meal is mainly composed of rice, fresh fish, veggies, and a bottle of water.

This house is still going through finishing stage. When it is done, it is going to be up for sale for Ph4, 000,000, which includes furnitures and appliances. The house should be finished by March or earlier. Personal items are not included. So, if you are a retired surfer and would want to live frugally in a state of the art house, this is a perfect place for you. You get fresh fish from the local fishermen, and sometimes lobster at reasonable prices. You can also hire a maid for US$50 salary per month. If you are interested, email me at liwayway07@yahoo.com.

Beautiful Green Valley Park, in Payson, Arizona

On our walk this morning, I thought of bringing the digital camera along to capture some routine scenes along the way. This lake is within walking distance from our house. It is a beautiful man-made lake. Of course, all lakes in Arizona are man-made except for one. This particular lake, however, uses reclaimed wastewater. It is planted with trout, crappie, and sunfish. People from different places come and fish in this lake.

This afternoon, I saw a kid catch a large trout about 14 inches long. He was happy and excited! He proudly showed his trophy catch to his grandpa who was situated on the other side of the lake, who, also, was fishing.

To fish in this lake, an adult is required to have a license, otherwise, if you are caught, you are fined. The license costs US$16.00 and is good for a year. However, kids, ages 14 years old and below (not sure) are free. When my children were little, we used to go fishing here. It was fairly easy to catch a limit. I cleaned them good and fried them until they were crispy. It was a good treat!

Payson, by the way, is located about 90 miles northeast of Phoenix. It is where the mountains meet the desert. It has the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the country. One thing I like about Payson is, it has four seasons so there are so many things to do and and see all year round from golfing, hunting, fishing, and camping. It is one of the free ozone places in the US.

My Delicious Pansit Dish

Since my daughter is here for Thanksgiving break, I thought of fixing her favorite dish, which was pansit. I used shredded barbeque pork that I bought from Best Hongkong Dining in Phoenix, AZ., and some average sized shrimps. I sliced some carrots, celery, and Taiwan bok choi. I added some stock for more flavor.

It hit the spot. It was flavorful. I had a good serving, and came back for seconds and so was everybody else. The other dish I made was left untouched, hopefully, we will have it for lunch tomorrow.