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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Different Approach to Cooking

Here's how the packet of Vege Fresh Fish looks like (for dangkin) The picture on the left is showing only half of the diameter of the packet.

Does this dish look appetizing to you? Do they look like fish steaks? Well, this is actually a vegetarian dish made out of soy. Believe me, you will love it. Even the picky eater like my daughter ate it with gusto. My husband thought it was because of the sauce that I whipped together to spread over the dish. Nah, the veggie fish steak itself was good.

You know where I got it? From the oriental store in Phoenix, called Lee Lee. It costs a little over $6.00 but it makes a meal for the whole family. One slice was enough to fill me up plus a veggie side dish, of course. It is a good alternative for meatless dinner and it is healthy.

It was so simple to cook. I pan fried each side until light golden brown. Then I chopped some red and bell pepper, some mushrooms, onions, slices of ginger and threw it all in the pan and cooked it until transluscent. I added a tablespoon of blackbean garlic sauce for flavor. Let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Then I spread it over the dish. Finally, I opened a package of brown gravy and boiled it up as per instructions. I then poured it over the whole dish. There you go, a delectable meatless dinner.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Orchard

Just to show my friend, Dine, how fig trees look like. I haven't had a chance to take pictures of our fig trees when they were loaded with fruits. The above picture (that I lifted from a site somewhere (http://www.fotosearch.com/photos-images/fig-tree.html)resembles my figs during summer. By the way, the fig leaf is mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 3:7) when Adam and Eve covered their private parts with fig leaves.

Persimmon tree, one of my favorite fruits.

We had a summer supply of fruits last year and it lasted through the fall. A lot of the fruits were wasted on the ground for the javelinas to feast on. I was able to bake a couple of apple pies and hmmm, nothing could beat fresh picked apples. They were full of juices and just scrumptious. Thanks to my dear husband for planting the trees. We have also several fig trees, plums, and another variety of pear that are not included in the pictures I posted.

These apples make good pies. I just forgot the name.

Granny Smith apples, great for apple pies

Bartlett pears, sweet and juicy.

Fuji apples, my favorite apples.

Asian pears, huge, delicious, and juicy. One pear fills me up. Notice there are bruises on the fruits? It got hit with hailstorm in late spring.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Our Memorable Cruising Days

My family used to enjoy spring vacation aboard a cruise ship. At first, I was apprehensive about the idea because I felt that it was not family friendly. I was wrong, of course. It was actually one of the best places to take the family. My husband would take advantage of cruise special discounts and would bring the kids along free so we ended up paying for two people only: my husband and I. What a deal!

No doubt, kids loved it! I loved it! Dad loved it! We got to enjoy feeling like a queen, king, and princess for a week. No dishes to do, no bed to make, no cleaning to do. Food was awesome! Lobsters, sword fish, tenderloin, filet mignon, sushi, pizza 24 hours, fresh tropical fruits, cakes, chocolates, etc. And the fun part was I got to dress up two nights a week. It felt good to be glamorous occasionally, and to be serenaded by good-looking crew.

After I indulged myself, I usually looked forward to the state-of-the-art fitness center. I stayed there for about 2 hours to burn the calories and to get ready for another big meal in the evening. I pushed aside dieting for a week. We followed the cruise ship motto, "Eat, live, and love!" Cruise activities were endless: aerobics, yoga, lounges, enjoy a day excursion in a private island, snorkeling, scuba diving, or shopping the entire day.

The kids enjoyed the cruise ship activities designed mainly for the children while dad and I got to savor private moments. Kids liked the generous pampering and the attention that they received from the waiters who were mostly Filipinos. Whatever the kids asked, the waiter granted. One time, the waiter asked one of my daughters what she wanted for dessert. My daughter said, "Nothing." "Okay, I will be right back" the waiter replied. A few minutes later, he came back with a plate that had the word "nothing" written on it using chocolate syrup. Corny eh?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

All Region Choir...Worth Watching!

I went through a lot of effort just to watch my daughter sing at the All Region Choir. Earlier this week, I already decided that I wasn't planning on watching her this year because the place where the choir was going to be held was too far of a drive. It was in Snowflake, a place I have never been before. My daughter headed to Snowflake on Sunday night and stayed two nights and two days over to get ready for the event. She called me from Snowflake on Monday morning and begged me to come and watch her because she and 2 other girls were chosen to sing trio. I told her that I was going to try my best to get off early but I couldn't promise. You see, today is the day after the holiday and we were swamped with work. Getting off early was not an easy thing to do. Nevertheless, I tried my best with all my might. I skipped my morning and afternoon breaks, lunch break, and I rushed through. I thought if I got done by 3:30 PM, I should be able to make it there by 6:00 PM (start of the program). I was flying! I only had a couple of bananas and a glass of odwalla green juice for energy. Fortunately, I was on my way home at 3:45 PM to change into regular clothes and to freshen up a bit. I told my husband that we were leaving in 10 minutes.

The drive to Snowflake wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. We crossed over snow-covered mountains, and then drove along an open rangeland for 1 1/2 hours. We saw a different countryside. The trees are shorter and bushier, probably because they don't get as much rain as we do here in P.

We arrived just in time. We noticed a long queue leading to the auditorium. We thought we were going to grab something to eat first once we found the place but it seemed the most logical thing to do was to skip our dinner The show was about to start.

The choir show lasted an hour. I thought it was time for us to head home because I was starving. Though they encouraged us to sit throughout the show but the stomach growling and the long drive home were good reasons enough to sneak out. And so we did.

The drive back was nice and relaxing. The sky was sprinkled with starlight, and the Milky Way stretched from horizon to horizon. The moon provided us light on the long dark road. My husband kept reminding me to keep close watch of elks so we don't hit them. I didn't see any.
Despite the fact that they were only given two days to sing as a group, nevertheless, the performance was superb. In this picture, she was one of the frontliners singing and dancing while the rest of the choir were in the back.
This picture was taken before the rendition of the next song. She knew daddy and I were taking pictures, so she flashed us a quick grin.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mango, Our Lovebird Pet

Take a look at this fruit for a moment. Doesn't it resemble with the bird below?
Meet our one and only pet, Mango. He was named after the fruit, of course. Don't the colors look exactly like the fruit, mango? Mango has been in our family since the kids were little, about 10 years ago. Our after-school-babysitter owned him and suddenly, she announced to our kids that she was selling Mango for $75. It didn't take a lot of convincing, the kids told our babysitter, "consider it sold." The kids paid for it out of their own money, if I recall it correctly. Dad said, "hey if you can take care of him, fine with me." My husband doesn't like pets and I am not fond of them either. I am too busy. The kids have been doing a good job taking care of him, I must say. When daughter S is home, she takes Mango to her room and spends time with him. She makes him do little tricks like letting Mango lie on his back on the palm of her hand and Mango gets mesmerized by it. She is the only one who can make him do it. He is so attached to her.
Mango sleeps in daughter A's room every single night. She takes care of the food and water and the cleaning of the cage ocassionally. Once his cage is covered with a blanket, it is his cue to go to sleep. He sleeps through until 5:30 AM in the morning. He let's us know when he wants out of the cage because he keeps rattling the cage door or he makes clucking noise. He will not stop until he gets our attention and it can be annoying. My husband who doesn't have tolerance to noise is the first one to come to his rescue. He lets him out and wanders around the house.
Lately, he found a new place that he likes to hang out...perching on top of my monitor. I don't know why but he seems to enjoy it here even when I am not home. I wonder if he feels that eventually my daughter will be going to college, thus, he senses the need to start bonding with my husband and I this early on. It is perfectly fine with me. However, he gets carried away when I turn on my speakers. The other day, I was audio chatting with friends in the Philippines, and I had trouble understanding what my friends were saying. Mango chimed in with the noise. The louder the speakers, the louder he gets, too. Therefore, I had no choice but to turn the speakers off and resort to typing my message on YM instead. He is full of antics! Lately, he seemed to find enjoyment pooping on the screen of my monitor. I think it was because I reacted the moment he did it and he thought it was fun. So, I knew then that I needed to send him a message. Now, every time he turns around and acts as if he is about to drop something, I would sternly say "NO Mango, NO!" Good news, my monitor has been nice and free of any droppings lately.

Friday, February 16, 2007

My L Turned 18

My daughter A turned 18 on Valentine's Day. I took a day off so I could spend some time with her. While she was at school, I went shopping for balloons, cake, and the ingredients for chicken wraps. I planned to fix her lunch because she had a dinner appointment with her classmates at Denny's.

L doesn't care much for filipino food except eggrolls. I didn't want to spend the whole morning preparing eggrolls so I opted to make her favorite food---Mexican food.
These are soft tortilla chicken wraps. I cut the chicken in small cubes, seasoned it with mild chili powder, some paprika, salt, pepper, and flour (for thickening). I used masa flour for the recipe above. While chicken was cooking, I added some brown rice and cooked it for about 10 minutes. For the side dish, I made a avocado salsa. If you scroll down below, you will find the recipe for Avocado Salsa.

In the hot pan, I heated up two soft tortillas. I then placed the warm tortillas on the plate, scooped about 3 tablespoon of cooked rice chicken filling. I added a tablespoon of salsa, tablespoon of sour cream, and some chopped up cilantro. Delicious, I must say.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Fun Day in Sariaya, Quezon Province.

Thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest in Sariaya, Quezon Province. May 15 is the feast of San Isidro, Labrador, patron saint of farmers in Sariaya. Several towns in Quezon celebrate the day as Thanksgiving for the year's bountiful harvest. In Sariaya, Quezon, the celebration is called "Agawan Festival" (Grabbing Festival). The festival is not only a day of Thanksgiving but also a way of sharing one's bounty.
Those chandeliers you see are made out of eggplants, carrots, and rice talks strung together. Pretty clever, eh?
You see the bamboo trees (known locally as bagakays)? They are adorned with fruits and junk foods, and the whole thing are lowered down after the procession for people to grab on for fun.
Interesting colorful decorations made out of native fans and hats.

You see those girls at the window? They are friends of mine who were lucky enough to experience the unique, enriching, interesting, and visually festive way of celebrating Thanksgiving in the Philippines.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day to you All

This morning before I went to work, I reminded my husband that tomorrow is Valentine's Day. "Oohh, okay," he said. As always, I was running late. I quickly grabbed my purse, took a couple of bottled water, some fruits for lunch, and hopped in the car. I was driving a little over the speed limit. I made it to work just in the nick of time. I am always the last one to arrive. It has become my signature being a late comer, and my postmaster has accepted it.

As I was doing my morning routine, I thought about the old woman in my route. Yesterday, she approached me and asked me if I had a card for her. I told her to wait a few minutes until I was done sorting the mail. I didn't have anything for her. So, I went to where she was seated and told her that she didn't recieve any mail today. Out of curiosity, I asked her if she was expecting a letter from someone. "Yes, a Valentine card from my grandson" the old woman replied. I said, "it might arrive tomorrow or next day." Of course, nothing came for her today.

This particular woman lives in the retirement center. Letter from a loved one like her grandson is what she looks forward to everyday, but the sad thing is, she seldom gets letter. What ever happened to her son and daughter? Are they too busy with their lives? Have they forgotten her completely? Why is the grandson the only one who cares to send her a card on special day? It surely not easy getting old in this country. When they are no longer able to care for themselves, without a choice, they are sent to a facility and leave their house, pets, family, and garden behind...the things that mean so much to them. This way, they will not be nuisance to their sons and daughter. Such a sad life!

Today, I bought three roses with her in mind. If I see her today, I plan to hand her a rose to hopefully cheer her up. I didn't cost me much.

The red roses, by the way, was a surprise gift for me from my hubby. The reminder I gave him this morning surely paid off. So ladies, it doesn't hurt to cue your husband once in a while. They need it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Custom-Made is, by far, The Best

About 5 years ago, we built our dream house..the first house we've ever built. We wanted a house that was just the right size for us. Our old house was rather big, with a pool and huge back lawns that required a lot of maintenance. Every time, we went out of town, it was absolutely necessary that we locked all the gates to prevent people from using the pool. Per Arizona law, it is my responsibility if anything happens to any one of them so I had to take a necessary safeguard.

So, when we finally decided to build our house, we made sure we eliminated the pool for that reason. Next, I wanted my house simpler and had ample storage. We also liked the idea of open floor plan where my living room, dinning room, and kitchen room were all in one room. We liked the living room to be bright and cheery and to face the view of the golf course. To do that, we put all three bedrooms over at one side of the house so we could take advantage of the view from our living room. We had to have a three-car garage since my husband longed for one. Sometimes, we need to make compromises to get the important ones. We installed many large windows in the living room. We also liked the idea of recess lighting in our kitchen so we had about 12 bulbs put in. The ample lighting and the spaciousness of the kitchen make the daily cooking activity worthwhile and fun. From the kitchen, we get to watch hummingbirds feeding in our backporch and view of our vegetable garden. Such a sight to watch!

I got the idea of the chandelier design when I was looking for our chandelier in Phoenix. I saw one similar to that only only smaller but was not available for sale until three months later. I couldn't wait that long. So, I went to our local metalsmith and showed him our design and specifications. It wasn't easy to make. It took him a month or so to finish it. I paid $800 for it. I didn't realize it was a bargain until one day when I had a visitor in our house from California who sold metal art. He took notice of my chandelier. He said, if he was to make it, he would sell it for $2,600 to $3,000. Wow! I got the chandelier for a bargain. It looks beautiful at night when lit. In fact, it is the main attraction of the living room. In the future, should I decide to move again, for some reason, I will make sure I take that chandelier with me.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Arizona Monsoon

Since I don't have photos of Arizona monsoon in Payson, I lifted this picture from Yahoo!Photos of himanshur-tyagis photo.

I conceived the poem below while delivering mail on a rainy summer morning.

The much Anticipated Rain

It was a gloomy morning
way cooler than usual,
nice for a change

came a lightning
followed by a big roar
it went on for a while
while I hurried
to get my job done.

Until at last
it slipped into rain
gentle at first
light as a mist.

Gradually a little heavier
and heavier
pouring down
lots of it
soothing the parched lips
of the barren land.

It went on
until I could work no more
all vehicles doors shut
and watched in awe
the much anticipated rain.

It kept pouring,
thunder reverberating in my ears
its robustious noice
had left me
and silenced.

Trees seemed happy,
grounds soaking deep
water gushing,
gutters racing
creeks busy once again
filling up
our reservoirs.

I couldn't wait no more
to work, I must resume
the rain had let up a bit,
grabbed my raincoat,
torn and old,
good enough
to protect the mail,
your mail
from getting all drenched.

Friday, February 9, 2007

My Comfort Food

I don't have that much of a free time today to write a longer post so I will be as brief as possible. My friend is meeting me in half an hour for a walk in the mountains. Of course, I will take my camera along in case I find interesting scenes that strike my fancy.

The pictures above are the kind of food that I crave for and look forward eating when I get a day off like today. I spent a few hours cooking these dishes this morning. I love fish. I can eat fish practically everyday and never get tired of it. I usually cook it in sour broth with plenty of veggies. This time, I tried the different approach...steaming inspired by Chateau. Boy, it is delicious. Steamed fresh pompano is awesome. You should try it.

First, I washed the fish and patted it dry. Then I sliced some ginger and spread it on top of the fish. I added about a tablespoon of soy sauce and steamed it for half an hour or until it is done. Of course, I checked the fish every now and then to make sure I didn't overcook the fish. When the steaming was over, I shredded some green onions and placed it on top of the fish. I then heated up some olive oil to a sizzle and poured it on the fish. You know when the oil is hot enough because it makes a hissing sound when poured on the steamed fish. Then I added another tablespoon of soy sauce.

Before I eat my meal, I usually eat fresh fruits. Many of you may wonder. Simply because it helps me avoid overeating since I am usually half way full after eating the whole mango or banana. Also, I discover that when I eat my meal in this particular order, I feel much better. I don't feel gassy and stuffed.

I also cooked togi today(stir-fry mong sprouts, tofu, and slices of pork). For some reason, I can't seem to eat a meal without vegetables. I can get by eating veggies and rice only even without fish and meat but not the other way around. I have to have those greens on my plate, whether it is salad or steamed veggies.

At work, I try to eat as little as possible because I tend to get sleepy when I eat huge meal. My kind of job requires me to be alert on the road at all times. Besides, it is difficult to work when stomach is full. Therefore, I usually go for veggie tuna salad or avocado sandwich, which is not only light but also healthy. Notice the salad is placed on top of a tray of letters. I took during my lunch break in my vehicle. You see, I do carry my camera to work but not often as it can be a nuisance.

Ooops, I have five minutes to drive to our meeting place.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

My husband's a Fashion Critique

This is me without the head. I kindly asked my hubby to take a shot of me so I can blog about my recent shopping spree. I purposely left out the head as my face didn't look decent enough for posting.

Anyway, last weekend, I went shopping for my clothes to wear in the Philippines anytime soon. My wardrobes are getting outdated and, therefore, need a little makeover. I usually take shorts, tank tops, camisoles, cotton skirts, and one formal outfit in case I get invited to a wedding, baptism, or go out on a formal dinner. The shorts, tank tops, I can re-wear but definitely not the dresses, sandals, and shoes.

I like this particular dress because it looks comfortable, simple, and the price was reasonable. One problem though, my husband thinks that the necklace doesn't complement the dress well. He said the necklace camouflages the dress, which makes it hard to notice. Huh? How well does he know about fashion? Was he right?I would have been perfectly happy with my choice had my husband not said those words. Now, I am contemplating on exchanging it to maybe yellow necklace with just a few touch of green. That means another long trip to the valley. What do you think?

Saturday, February 3, 2007

At The Edge

Hello friends,

I thought I would share with you the very first recording of my daughter, Stephanie.
She expects to release few more songs this summer when she has all the time to concentrate on music. Mom and dad always remind her that academics come first.

At The Edge, music and words by Stephanie Hilliard. Please click "Tepsie" on the top of my "Link list" to listen. Music plays automatically after a few seconds.

She sang "At The Edge" at a fundraising concert held in our local cafe along with 8 of her original songs for the benefit of the typhoon Reming victims in my village. For a small town with a population of roughly 14,000, we had a good turn out. The house was packed! She did excellently, people said.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Donations for Education

I might as well get blogging about my family over before I move on to a more interesting and non-family related topics. I know most or some of you will probably get tired of reading posting about my two precious daughters but I will go ahead anyway. After all, this is a free country.

The article below was written by my daughter S 3 years ago during her junior year in high school. She was supposed to be posing with the Marilima kids from Virac, Catanduanes in the photo but for some reason, her second trip to the Philippines didn't happen as planned despite of the preparations she had done. I took her place instead, though I felt the disppointment from each of the children. They were very much looking forward to meeting my daughter for the first time. They made all kinds of preparations for her coming. They brought all kinds of goodies, delicious native food, native gifts, and even showcased the beautiful artworks that they created from the art supplies that they received. Only they didn't get to present it to her personally.

Additionally, from the article you will be able to learn and depict my humble beginnings. Please read on...

A project that holds much meaning to me is the one that I created called "Donations for Education." The inspiration came when I visited the Philippines last summer and saw the elementary school in my mother's village. The children were very poor and the school was very simple and stark. The school's walls were bare, the chairs were broken, and the children barely had any pencils or pens to write with. Also, they had few art supplies and books to read. When I walked back to my mother's old house, I noticed that my cousin was studying for her final exam. She had managed to crowd all of her notes onto a single sheet of paper. When I asked my mother why she did not use more than one piece of paper, she informed me that paper was hard to come by, and it was important that my cousin saved every single piece.

I found this surprising since I remembered that I had reams of paper lying around my house. I also had many old boxes of crayons and markers that could be better utilized by the Filipino children. I had several old backpacks, binders, and folders that I did not need anymore. I realized that if every person in my community could donate a few extra school supplies that were available in their homes, even the simplest items such as a few sheets of paper, it would be enough to support several elementary school classes in the Philippines. I decided that the easiest way to plan out this endeavor would be to create a school supply drive in which community members could easily donate any items relative to education.

To accomplish this goal, I asked my Key Club for their help. I proposed my idea during a club meeting, asking if they could help with the project advertisement, and other related tasks. I was the head chaiperson and called several committee meeting throughout the duration of the project to organize and plan the school supply drive. Together, we decided to hold both a community-wide and a school-wide drive.

Through the project "Donations for Education", more than thirty four hundred school supplies were collected. These included pens, pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, backpacks, children books, paper, colored construction paper, scissors, glue, etc. Large shipping boxes were filled to the brim with the supplies (in fact, we were not able to fit all the supplies into the three boxes...which will be carried over into the next year's drive.) The Filipino children received many essential school supplies that would help them with their schooling. Additionally, the students now had backpacks to help them carry their belongings during their long walking trips to and from the school. The teachers were very enthusiastic receiving art supplies, teacher's manual to several textbooks, and children books in english.

Not only did the project affect the lives of many children, it also taught me to believe in myself. Before, I did not expect a project of this much planning and organization to follow through, but I discovered that I do have strength within myself. I learned to set my mind on my goal and understand that obstacles will certainly get in the way, but I just have to overcome them with confidence. The closer friendship that I gained with the rest of the Key Club members were invaluable. Additionally, I gained a connection with my Filipino heritage. Even though the Philippines is halfway around the world, it felt like the distance didn't matter since I was able to help them no matter how many miles away they were. When I received thank you letters and pictures from the students, I was truly amazed to see them holding up school supplies in the pictures that had been previously held by my own hands. I never imagined that I would be receiving letters with personal signatures from the students and creating new friendships. I am truly thankful for this project, not only for the result that it has accomplished, but also for the joy and gratitude that it has instilled within me.

My daughter A has been spearheading the drive for the last two years now.