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.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Garden and its Surroundings

View from my living room. If only the electric post was not in a way, view would have been better.

Our fig trees are doing well this year as evident by the fruits all over its branches.

This is the pear tree that is void of fruits this year.

Another tree, plum tree, that was caught by early frost. This tree hasn't produced at all and am hoping it will someday otherwise...

This is the garden that my husband was trying to cultivate. I will join him as soon as the danger of early morning frost is over. I have the seeds ready like ampalaya, opo, etc, that I ordered through catalog. Hopefully, they will thrive in our area.

Since I will be pressed for time this week, I might as well take advantage of my Sunday to post as many posts as I could. We will be short-handed at work this week so no day off for me for sure. But then again, I might actually have a day off. Let' see.

The moment I got up this morning, I noticed how pleasant the morning was. I looked through window, and the scenes outside looked so inviting. So, still in my pajama, I came out with my camera. Ohhh, the weather was nice and comfortable. I was hoping I would be able to capture some hummingbirds hovering the feeder in our front porch but no luck. Summer time though, they come in droves and in different species. Fun to watch and they are so cute and just beautiful!

Our trees are doing well although some of them have no trace of fruits at all this year. The frost might have gotten the buds earlier. Fortunately, they bloomed at a different time so some of them, like the bartlett pear and few apple trees, were spared. But the asian pear, my favorite tree, was one of the unlucky ones. Oh well...

My husband has been trying to start a garden this year but some creatures have been nipping the seedlings and it can be frustrating. I told him to cover it with cheesecloth until they are big enough. Let's see if this will do the trick.

Homemade Jewelry

This was intricaly soldered piece by piece out of a gold wire. Notice, no two flower designs were the same?

He made this necklace out of gold nuggets that came from Oregon, alternated with manufactured 14K gold chain.

He carved this in wax and made a mold of it, casted it in bronze and gold plated it.

This is a reversible pendant, one side was made of torquiose and the other side was made of onyx(see next picture). Chain was handmade. I notice that the silver chain and the frame that surrounds the stone need polishing badly.

The pendant is an iridescent Russian jade. It changes colors as it catches the light. With this piece, all he did was mount the pendant but didn't make the chain.

With these rings, he carved them in wax first, made a mold of them and casted them in gold.

There was a time when X company was downsizing and laying off workers right and left, so my husband thought he better protect himself by picking up another trade in case he was one of those unfortunate ones. So, he took a series of jewelry making classes at the Community college which offered a jewelry making program for a couple of years. Fortunately, he never got laid off but he never took the jewelry to a higher level.

Jewelry making became his hobby while he continued working for the X Co. He would immerse himself in the jewelry room and tinker for hours. It was interesting watching him but it was something I couldn't picture myself doing. It looked so complex, intricate, and required steady hands, which I didn't have. But seeing the beautiful creations made me appreciate what he did. "Did you make it yourself?" I often asked. "Of course!" he answered with pride.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dinner and American Idol

While waiting for the American Idol much awaited result, I whipped up some healthy and savory dinner. The show had so much commercials and fundraising in between for two hours, so to make time more useful, I spent half of the time in the kitchen. One good thing about having a kitchen and dining open floor plan, you can cook and still be able to see what is going on in the living room.

I usually don't cook elaborate dish because my husband is on special diet, my daugher is very choosy of the foods she eats, and so I often find myself digging for leftover in the refrigerator. Tonight, I was all pumped up and ready to get dirty in the kitchen, eyes fixed on the television part of the time.

Tofu and Shrimp Stir Fry dish came to my mind. Lucky, I had all the ingredients in the refrigerator: cube of tofu, shrimps, pechay (bok choi), lots of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sweet soy, and chinese vinegar.

It came out really delicious! It was so easy to fix, and it is healthy. If you want the recipe, please let me know and I will try to come up with one, otherwise, bon appetit!

Here's the recipe:


light soy sauce
sweet soy
chinese wine vinegar
thin strips ginger
crushed garlic

Per the picture, cut the tofu into cubes of your size preference. Marinate in generous soy sauce, 1 T (tablespoon) of sweet soy, and 1 t (teaspoon) of wine vinegar, strips of ginger, and lots of crushed garlic for half an hour.

Put 2 T of olive oil in pan and brown the tofu cubes on each side on medium heat.

De-shell the shrimps, (de-vein if you wish), and add some soy 1 T of soy sauce, 1 t of sweet soy, 1/2 t of wine vinegar, and 1 t of cornstarch. Let it soak for 5 to 10 minutes.

Wash pechay and cut into bite size. I like to blanch it in hot water with a teaspoon of oil before I add it to the dish the last minute.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan, add garlic, and ginger from the tofu marinade, and fry it gently until golden brown. Add the shrimps, stir fry until brown. Add the browned tofu, the veggies and mix all together. The cooking shouldn't take long. For gravy, use the tofu marinade, add some broth liquid or water to make 1/4 cup. Add a heaping teaspoon of cornstarch and mix well. Add to the dish and let it thicken and mix everything together.

Remove from pan and pour it on the serving plate. It should look like this. You may add some chopped green onions for garnishing.

Note: I just poured out whatever it felt right so the measurements that I gave you may not be accurate especially for the gravy. On this particular dish, I used light soy.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Graduation Photos of my Two Darling Daughters

I have been meaning to post graduation photos of my daughters but being a computer illiterate that I am, I kept putting it off. I have been begging my youngest daughter to walk her mother step by step on how to scan pictures, and she finally gave in.

"Okay, put the pictures in the scanner and I will be there shortly," my daugher said.

I quickly went to my bedroom where my computer is located and did exactly what she told me.

"I wonder which way should I position my photo?" I murmured.

"This way, mom!" "Thanks!"

Finally, I can get to showcase my daughter's graduation photos to all my friends, blogger friends, that is. As a mom, I am allowed to brag about my daughters once in a while, right? Well, A, who is graduating in high school this May, belongs to the top ten percent of the graduating class. Mom and dad are proud of her. She will be receiving an award on April 26 and so whether it is a working day or not, I always make time for this occasion. One good thing about our boss is he is very accomodating and understanding. A recently recieved a tuition waiver at a university in AZ, renewable every year through the four years, depending on whether she can maitain a certain grade point average. Am keeping my fingers crossed...hehe.

The other picture is my other daughter S taken on her graduation two years ago. She had posted one of the highest point averages in the history of her high school. She was also chosen as the "2005 Woman of the Year" which was really a feather in her cap. She was the finalist for a National Merit Scholarship by obtaining an high score on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test she took 3 years ago. For more info. about her click on this:http://www.paysonroundup.com/section/localnews/story/18702

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pili Tree, Pili Nuts, Pili Sweets

Familiar with this tree? It grows wild in the province. Can you guess what it is? Give up? It is a pili tree. My Japanese friend was so curious to see a pili tree while we were in the province so the moment we saw one, we stopped and we let her get off the car and relish the sight of it. She took all kinds of pictures. She asked if she could take pili nuts back to the US and I said, "I don't see why not!" You see, my friend has eaten pili sweets before because I brought her a jar of caramelized pili from the Philippines and she liked it a lot. She had this idea that she could grew this in Hawaii where her sister lives. It is probably true as Hawaii has a similar climate as the Philippines'. Unfortunately though, we didn't see pili nuts during our trip because our province just recently got hit by a super typhoon last November. Too bad!

When I was young, we would go to the mountains and we would climb a pili tree regardless of who owned it..hehe. Their pili trees were our pili trees, too, you know. I would de-shell it carefully so I wouldn't break the meat. I must say, I was good at it. And I would pop it in my mouth and savor its delicious taste. It didn't take much to fill me up because just like any other nuts, pili nuts are quite rich.

I lifted these next two photos from this site: http://www.marketmanila.com/archives/fresh-pili-fruit-and-pili-nuts, because pili nuts were not available when I visited the market or I didn't look hard enough. That is how they look when pilis are de-skinned. There are two ways of de-shelling the nuts. One is by cracking them open with a piece of stone and other way is by using a machete and applying just enough force to break through the shells but careful enough not to hit the meat. Then you slowly split them open.

These are the pili pods or the pili nuts. The skin of pili is one of my favorite appetizers in the province. We would submerge a dozen or so of pilis with skin in hot water for a minute or two and remove them right away and let the skin soften. The reason why you shouldn't leave them long in hot water because the skin tends to get saggy, hence, it will not taste good. The skin sort of remind me of olives and it is best when dipped in fish sauce or "patis." Delicious!

Caramelized pili is super super tasty! When I travel back to the province, I usually buy at least a dozen to give out to people but on this recent trip, I only bought a couple for my daughter. Amazingly, this is the only nut that my daughter can eat. So, I pamper her with pili delicacies when I make a trip to the province. Mind you, a jar of caramelized pili is not cheap. It costs php90.00 per jar, about $2.00, but it is all worth it.

These are Mazapan Pilis made out of pili nuts, condensed milk, cheese, and eggs. For me though, I prefer the caramelized pili as it tastes so much better and it doesn't have those rich artificial ingredients, which to me, alter the delicious taste of pili. The more natural it tastes the better, I think.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Village Life, Simply Life in Barrios

My American friend who came with me to the province found the scenes below unique and worth capturing. Every time he came across settings like these, he would ask the driver to stop the car and go out and take his time to take photos of everything that fancied him. These things didn't normally mean anything to me when I was living in the province, but after about 20 some years of being away from home, looking at these take me back to the memory lane. It might strike you with wonder but what you see below are the things that I had experienced doing when I was a young girl. Yes, I did all those! I climbed the mountains barefoot on rainy days so I could have better grip of the slippery hills. I would dig my toes on the muddy soil and slowly walk my way up the hill where my parents were doing the abaca stripping. Haaay! those were the daysss....

Drying palay on the pavement is common in the rural barrios. It takes two good days to dry the palay completely before it is milled. Sometimes the whole road is covered with palay and the motorists try to manuever their vehicles to avoid running over it if possible.

I actually enjoyed doing this job with my friends because we got to have fun while looking for firewood. We ran around in the forest doing mischief with each other.

I would spend half a day in the river washing clothes with my bare hands. Since I had four brothers living with us, you can imagine how heavy the load was.

During my time, this is not how it was done. I would put a fair amount of rice stalks on the mat, and I would use my huge feet to rub the stalks off to remove the palay. Sometimes, it took my mother and me all day to finish the whole thing. It was one grueling job!

Ohh, I had done this job countless times. My mom (bless her soul) would wake me up in the wee hours of the morning so we could get a head start before others started showing up. You couldn't just turn down people those days as they had to eat, too.

Shown above is a man doing abaca stripping manually. This is one tough job as it requires a lot of strength to pull the stalks through the serrated knife to produce fiber.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sonoran Desert in Bloom

My husband and I went to Phoenix today to do some important errands and to return my daughter's prom dress to the mall. (See update on prom dress on the post below titled, "It is Prom Night." On the way over, I noticed that the desert was starting to show some colors. I came prepared for the photo shoot. I asked my husband to pull over on the side of the freeway so I could take pictures of the Sonoran desert. Sonoran desert, by the way, was barricaded with barbed wire to protect the cattle from reaching the highway. Soon, we saw ourselved crawling under the barbed wire. Here are some pictures that my husband and I took.

Note: All cacti have thorns, even the thornless prickly pear has invisible thorns, which are hard to see by the naked eye. Once it gets into your skin, it becomes painful and it is hard to remove. My husband went on a quail hunting one day and inadvertently got close to Cholla cactus. He couldn't remove the thorns and he was hurting so he ended up throwing away the good camouflage hunting pants. So, stay away from it as much as possible.

Buckhorn Cactus

Ocotillo cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus

Baby Barrel Cactus

Cholla Cactus

Dead Saguaro

Hedgehog Cactus

Barrel Cactus

Saguaro Cactus

Monday, April 16, 2007

Family Get-Together in my Humble Abode

Two days before we flew back to Manila, I rounded up my nieces, nephews, brothers, in-laws, friends, and tourist in my hut for a cook-out, courtesy of my Japanese friend, E. Arigatu, my friend. My heart swelled with love and joy seeing my relatives around, especially those who I rarely see.

My relatives and I bumming around in front of my humble abode.

The kids swarmed into the table like bees. Good way of getting rid of the food.

My nieces and nephews playing scrabble. How nice of them to gather at a corner and be quiet for a change. Often times, I heard shrieking, crying, and lots of laughing.

Now, that explains why I gained some weight. I ate, slept, ate, and slept.

This is my dirty kitchen where most of the cooking preparations were done. It was so much fun and comfortable being out here.

Shown in the picture is my caretaker getting ready with the fire for barbecuing.

My brother and sister-in-law chopping and marinating the meat. They fixed "Humba", an ethnic filipino recipe and one of my favorite province dishes.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

It is Prom Night

Update: I took the prom dress today to Macy's mall in Phoenix for a refund or an exchange without the receipt. My daughter threw the receipt thinking that she didn't need to return it. Guess what? They were so apologetic about and felt so sorry for my daughter. Since they didn't have the same dress available on stock for an exchange, the manager gave me more money for what the dress cost, which will the cover gas and for the distress that it caused my daughter. I thought it was good business. Thanks Macy's.

Pahabol: this was taken on the prom night.

It is prom night at P High school. Daughter A is going to the prom again for the last time before she goes to college this fall. Things started out good. When I got home from work at about 4 PM, I saw her sitting on the couch applying nail polish on her nails and looked relaxed . She wasn't dressed up yet and so I asked why. She said, "it is only 4 PM and C is not going to pick me up until 6 PM." So, I let her be.

Then at 5:15 PM, she started applying make up and fixing her hair. I thought I was going to help her with the make-up, reason why I came home half an hour early from work. She said she could do it herself and could get it done in 15 minutes. She didn't need my help after all. Everything was under control until she was about to put her dress on. "Mom, look!" Oh my! The security tag was still attached to the dress. Macy has done it again. The salesgirl left the security tag on the garment. I knw those tags are impossible to remove except with a special tool. I tried yanking it on each side but to no avail. She then asked for daddy's help. Daddy immediately got up and headed to the garage. He found a plier and wedged it in between the tag. Suddenly, a yellow paint squirted all over her dress. It was an ink-security tag! "Oh my, what shall we do?" I tried washing it off but it made no difference.

Lexie remained calm while I felt devastated. I was mad! Mad at myself for failing to notice it at the store. Mad at Macy for not doing their job like they were supposed to. And why didn't we notice it before the prom? Why or why? All these reprimanding questions will certainly not help A on her prom night. A, however, never showed her frustration and remained positive about the whole thing. She said, "it is okay." I said, "let's just hope no one notices it."

Let's see if you can detect the marks on the last two pictures.

Arrrgh! What a disaster!

Taken on the rock lawn in front of our house.

Taken in the back porch.