Zero Plastic Use, Happier Nemo

As I see more and more videos being uploaded online about how much garbage is in our oceans, I couldn’t help but feel sad. I feel sad for the marine animals. If they could only speak of their unhappiness – for they have no choice but to adapt to the damages we’ve done to their home. I feel sad for us, humans. Is this really how irresponsible we’ve become? I feel sad for myself thinking that I am part of all this- that in one way or another, I have contributed to this atrocity. Should this continue, will our future children ever have the chance to appreciate these sea creatures? Will I be able to experience eating fresh seafood with my bare hands ever again? Maybe not. And that’s sad and scary at the same time.

So, I’ve started asking myself, how can we help solve this problem in our own little ways? A little act of kindness goes a long way for sure.

My husband and I have started assessing our habits and re-calibrating our behavior towards the use of plastic. We strongly oppose single plastic use. Here are some of the small steps we’ve taken to help keep Nemo and his friends happy.

Lately, when Alberto and I would eat out, we make it a conscious effort to inform the servers not to put plastic straws in our drinks. Imagine? One plastic straw can take up to 200 years to decompose! Oh my gulay! How many future generations is that?! Plus, whenever I see someone using plastic straws, I couldn’t help but imagine one turtle in so much pain because of a plastic straw stuck in its nose.

When I go to coffee shops, I bring my own cup so that they don’t serve my drinks in plastic cups anymore. We have also started recycling plastic bags whenever we do our grocery shopping by bringing used plastic bags to the supermarket so that we don’t get new plastic bags each week. I have also stopped using cling wraps to store our leftovers in the fridge. We have purchased these silicone stretch lids online and I must say that this is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life! Hehe.

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Not only that, two weeks ago, I asked my husband to get us these bamboo toothbrushes from Amazon:

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There’s still so much work to be done when it comes to saving our oceans but by sharing what we do to help address the problem, we are creating awareness. Start telling people what’s going on with the world’s oceans and what they can do to help and make a difference. How about you? What have you done to help?

Homemade Kale Chips: A Healthier Option

My husband and I love snacking! We never fail to make trips around the snacks section of the supermarket whenever we do our grocery shopping. Can you blame us? The perfect ‘home cinema’ experience will never be complete without snacks on the side paired with some beer or vino on Friday nights! The usual suspects that go in our shopping cart will have to be potato chips, chicharon (the husband’s favorite), and chocolates. I know.. I know.. salty, fatty, and sweet- not a healthy combination. So, we slowly started ditching potato chips and chicharon. Ang hirap, man! It’s like getting rid of your favourite pair of running shoes! But then again, it’s not the end of the world if we don’t eat it. Plus it really helps us towards our goal to live a healthy lifestyle.

What replaced potato chips and chicharon you ask? The husband researched and we started making our homemade popcorn. We just bought some corn kernels from the supermarket and popped it at home. That’s a step closer to a healthier diet because the ready made popcorn packs that are available in the supermarket contain lots of salt and butter. At least when we do it from scratch, we can control the amount of oil and salt that goes in it and it tastes better! But we need to find other alternatives since we don’t want to stuff ourselves with too much corn either!

As I was writing my grocery list this week, I thought why not make homemade kale chips? I bought some fresh kale leaves and gave it a try last night. It was perfect! 29102000_10212898178063347_2442851555423027200_n

You only need these ingredients:

1 medium-sized bunch of kale- washed and dried very well

2 tsp olive oil

a pinch or two of salt

a pinch of garlic powder

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  2.  Wash and dry one bunch of kale, making sure the leaves are completely dry. If there’s any moisture left on the leaves you’ll end up with soggy kale chips.
  3. Rip the leaves off the stems and away from the chewy veins of the kale and into chip-sized pieces.
  4. Arrange the pieces of kale on an unlined baking sheet. I used parchment paper.
  5. Drizzle the olive oil as evenly over the kale as possible. Using your hands, gently massage the oil well into all the folds and onto the entire surface of each of the kale leaves. At first it may not seem that 2 tsps. of oil will be enough but adding more oil will only add too much moisture. If you need a tiny bit more oil, add it one drop at a time.
  6. Once you’ve finished massaging the kale, sprinkle a pinch or two of sea salt and a pinch of garlic powder over the kale. Massage the kale leaves so that the salt and garlic powder are evenly distributed. Place the pan in the oven.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan, flipping any pieces that are starting to look crispy and bake for another 10-15 minutes, watching the pan closely for the last 7-8 minutes to prevent over browning.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and leave the kale chips on the pan for 305 minutes before serving so they can crisp up even more.

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My first attempt turned out perfectly crispy and crunchy! I’m happy to have found a healthy and guilt-free alternative! What about you? What’s your favourite no-guilt salty snack? Share them in the comments below.

Yoga-ta Take Care of Your Body!

…aaand I’m back from a writing hiatus! So many things have happened in my professional career that I have put blogging in the back burner. But, no matter how busy I got with work, I still found time (with the help of my husband’s constant nagging and encouragement. LOL) to a) run (we took advantage of the nice weather during summer and we ran at least 3x a week), and b) practice yoga.

My husband and I dedicated this year to keeping ourselves healthy which is one of the many things we need to do to make us ready for parenthood. This year, I’ve also heard and read a lot of  health issues and stories from friends and families. All these made me rethink of the way I take care of my own body-from what I eat, what I do, and how I think and feel.

Many times we all get busy trying to focus on financial and professional success, balancing life and work, and taking care of the people around us that we forget something as basic as taking care of our own bodies. Health should never be compromised, it should be a priority (at least for me because I would still like to see my children grow and succeed in life). So, enough of the excuses of not having time to spend at least a few minutes of your time exercising. If you have  time to surf the net everyday, well, you really have time to workout. So, what’s stopping you?

So for my comeback article (naks!), I thought of writing about yoga because to me, it’s more than an exercise. Yoga doesn’t make you feel like you need to drag yourself like when you have to go to the gym. Once you start practicing it, you feel the willingness to do it. The willingness to surrender to an energy that’s so powerful that after the practice, your whole body feels good, and that you’d want to do it again. This might not be the case when you do it the first few times (you’ll feel sore afterwards for sure) but believe me, your body will thank you for it.

I started my yoga practice when I was still in Singapore, fell in love with it, and vowed to keep practicing on my own. So, to help you get started, here are my favourite easy yoga poses for beginners.

  1. Mountain pose– Stand tall with feet together, shoulders relaxed, weight evenly distributed through your soles, arms at sides.Take a deep breath and raise your hands overhead, palms facing each other with arms straight. Reach up toward the sky with your fingertips.
  2. Downward Dog-Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders, knees under hips. Walk hands a few inches forward and spread fingers wide, pressing palms into mat. Curl toes under and slowly press hips toward ceiling, bringing your body into an inverted V, pressing shoulders away from ears. Feet should be hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold for 3 full breaths.
  3. Warrior– Stand with legs 3 to 4 feet apart, turning right foot out 90 degrees and left foot in slightly. Bring your hands to your hips and relax your shoulders, then extend arms out to the sides, palms down. Bend right knee 90 degrees, keeping knee over ankle; gaze out over right hand. Stay for 1 minute. Switch sides and repeat.
  4. Bridge Pose– Lie on floor with knees bent and directly over heels. Place arms at sides, palms down. Exhale, then press feet into floor as you lift hips. Clasp hands under lower back and press arms down, lifting hips until thighs are parallel to floor, bringing chest toward chin. Hold for 1 minute.
  5. Seated Twist– Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Cross right foot over outside of left thigh; bend left knee. Keep right knee pointed toward ceiling. Place left elbow to the outside of right knee and right hand on the floor behind you. Twist right as far as you can, moving from your abdomen; keep both sides of your butt on the floor. Stay for 1 minute. Switch sides and repeat.
  6. Cobra– Lie facedown on the floor with thumbs directly under shoulders, legs extended with the tops of your feet on the floor. Tighten your pelvic floor, and tuck hips downward as you squeeze your glutes. Press shoulders down and away from ears. Push through your thumbs and index fingers as you raise your chest toward the wall in front of you. Relax and repeat.
  7. Child’s Pose– Sit up comfortably on your heels. Roll your torso forward, bringing your forehead to rest on the bed in front of you. Lower your chest as close to your knees as you comfortably can, extending your arms in front of you. Hold the pose and breathe.

There you go! I hope this article will inspire you to #startmoving today! Namaste!

Photo courtesy of melaniesykes.com

Love Letter to the BIG GUY

Dear Lord,

I don’t even know where to begin because saying thanks isn’t enough. I know I always talk to you in my prayers and this should be easy because it should just be like praying. But my heart is so overwhelmed that I don’t even know where to start. I just want to let the whole world know (and my not-so-many readers) of your goodness. I feel like shouting at the top of my lungs just to glorify you and use up all my voice just singing praises all day. Now, as I type this, I can’t help but cry because I feel so undeserving of all the blessings you’ve been showering me with, particularly the recent one you gave me. It is so overwhelming to feel that amazing kind of love, so complete and comforting, that it makes me so content.

Even before we came here in Canada, you heard my fears but your love reassured me a billion times that things will be okay. It wasn’t easy to adjust to all the changes but you took my hand and led me to where you know is BEST for me. I gladly followed because I know you will not put me where I’ll be harmed. The road you made me tread was bumpy at times but you were so ready to pick me up whenever I’d fall (both literally and figuratively). You made me walk on that road for me to learn valuable life lessons and even more so, not to lose hope and to just remain faithful to YOU. There were times I felt hopeless, tired, and broken but you reminded me of how great your love is in the little and simple blessings everyday. You kept mending my heart again and again. Once in a while, I would feel impatient, wanting to fast-forward everything so that I could accomplish my goals. I keep forgetting that you are also busy running the universe, that it might take a while for you to hear me out. But that’s okay, Lord. Everything happens in YOUR time, not mine. I have kept this Bible verse close to my heart, Lord, and it comes handy when I become impatient.

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Thank you, Lord, for always reminding me that YOU are all I need and that all these, in this world, is fleeting. You are my rock and my soul shall remain anchored in your great love. I am blessed and I will tell the world of your greatness. Use me as an instrument, Lord, to help those who are in need that we may all glorify only your name.

Salamat sa lahat lahat, Panginoon. Si iyo ang lahat ng papuri!

Love,

Abe

Shrimp Boil Foil Packets

Seafood enthusiasts, rejoice! Seafood, sausage, veggies cooked in less than an hour! This recipe is heaven-sent for people on the go and calorie-conscious!

Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 (12.8-ounce) package smoked andouille sausage, thinly sliced or any spicy sausage is fine
  • 2 ears corn, each cut crosswise into 4 pieces
  • 1 pound baby potatoes
  • 4 heads of red onions (whole)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons cajun seasoning
  • chili flakes (depends on how spicy you want it to be)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill over high heat.
  2. Cut four sheets of foil, about 12-inches long. Divide shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes into 4 equal portions and add to the center of each foil in a single layer.
  3. Fold up all 4 sides of each foil packet. Add olive oil, cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, chili flakes, chili powder to taste; gently toss to combine. Fold the sides of the foil over the shrimp, covering completely and sealing the packets closed.
  4. Place foil packets on the grill and cook until just cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.*
  5. Served immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

Now that it’s winter time on this side of the world, I used my oven and baked this for 22 minutes at 425 degrees F.

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Bacon and Chicken Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes in Garlic Cream Sauce

If you are tired of the usual Filipino-style spaghetti and carbonara, this pasta recipe is a must-try! It’s a complete dish for it has meat, carbohydrates, and veggies! Making this dish also saves you a lot of time in the kitchen too!

 

What you need: (this is good for 4 servings)

6 bacon strips

1 lb chicken (I used chicken breast)

6 garlic cloves (minced)

1 cup spinach

20 pieces of cherry tomatoes (whole)

penne pasta

Italian seasoning

paprika

olive oil

1 1/3 cups half and half milk; I used lactose-free fresh milk for my recipe and added some evaporated milk

1 3/4 cups parmesan

1/2 tsp chili flakes

How To Cook: 

Cook the penne pasta, drain, then set aside after cooking.

In a large skillet, on high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot. Add chicken and cook on one side on high heat for 1 minute. While it cooks, sprinkle the uncooked sides of the chicken with paprika and Italian seasoning. Flip the chicken over, and cook on the other side for 1 minute on high heat. Reduce heat to medium, flip chicken over again and cook, covered, for several minutes until no longer pink in the center. Remove chicken from the pan and keep chicken warm. Slice chicken into strips.

To the same pan (but without chicken), add tomatoes, spinach, garlic, 1/3 of the chicken (sliced into small strips) and half the bacon (it should be already cooked and drained of fat). Mix everything.

Add half and half (milk) and bring to boil. Only after cream starts boiling, add grated Parmesan cheese

Immediately reduce to simmer and stir, while simmering, until the cheese melts and makes the sauce creamy, only about 1 minute (at most 2 minutes). Then, immediately remove from heat. Season with more chili flakes and salt, if needed.

To serve, top the pasta with chicken strips, grated Parmesan cheese, half of the bacon, and more chili flakes depending on how spicy you want it to be. 🙂

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Perfect with vino! Enjoy!

Habits That Can Help You Save Money

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My parents have instilled in us that hard-earned money should be spent wisely and that if you want something, you need to save up for it. I would always get kind words from friends that I am good at handling money, saving, and investing (though my husband thinks otherwise). The usual advice we get from people when it comes to saving is to save a certain amount of your monthly salary. But oh boy! When unforeseen expenses come, we tend to dip into our piggy banks and use the money we’ve been trying so hard to save. So, what should we really do to be able to save up for the rainy days?

It’s a brand new year and probably you’ll find this topic oh-so-boring. But hey, after all the expenses you’ve endured during the holidays, it’s time to get you finances back on track. I am not a pro on this but I will try my very best to share some habits and mindset my husband  and I have to save up and we hope these will also help you in handling your finances and free you from financial burden.

  1. Cocktails/Drinks at Home. Back in Singapore where a bottle of booze=gold, my husband and I learned that drinking at home is way much better than drinking in clubs or bars. Not only that they are cheaper, drinking at home with friends also gives you a better chance to communicate with each other. So now that we are here in Canada, we brought that habit with us and would once in a while go to LCBO to buy some cans of craft beers, a bottle of moscato for me, and enjoy it with pizza on Friday nights.
  2. Do-It-Yourself: Learning new skills such as plumbing, painting, baking, cooking, and even something as simple as sewing can save you a lot of money. Imagine, not having to call someone to get these things done? In no time, you’ll be able to travel around the world! 🙂
  3. Practice Delayed Gratification: Tough. How many times have you gone window shopping and happened to find a dainty, well-crafted, sexy pair of shoes? You tried it on, fits you perfectly plus it is super comfy! Are you going to buy it or not? When I was younger, I couldn’t care less, as long as I want it, I need to have it in my life. Now that I’m older, I realised that I should not buy stuff based on ‘love at first sight’ kind of thing. What I’d do now if I see something that I really, really want in the mall, I’ll go home, sleep on it, and ask myself, can I live without it? If yes, I won’t buy it. If not and by the time I go back and it’s not there anymore, it’s just not meant for me to have it.
  4. Set up Automatic Payments. Sometimes, we do forget our due dates because of the many things we need to think about. So, if you have online banking system, set up your accounts to make automatic payments for your bills. That way, should you forget, you won’t be charged of any interest.
  5. Prepare Meals Ahead of Time: My husband and I probably could attribute our efficiency in saving to this. We go out once in a while but on normal weekdays, I see to it that we have our packed lunches. Trust me, it saves you a lot of money and time too. Not only that, preparing our meals at home makes our food healthier because I am in total control of the ingredients I use. This is a win-win for us. 🙂
  6. Know When to Invest in Quality Products: Do not skimp on things you use a lot. The more you use it, the higher the price you should pay for. It saves you more money in the long run.
  7. Spend Only the Money You Have: Listen to your debit card, not your credit card. As Simple as that. Whatever is it that you buy using your credit card, be sure to be able to pay the full amount when due date comes. You don’t want paying interests.
  8. Use the 5-Question Rule: Want or Need? Do I need it? Do I see myself using it? How often? Is it worth the time?
  9. Invest on Things That Appreciate and Last: This, of course, is hard when you don’t have extra money to invest. But come to think of it, a lot of us would buy branded bags, shoes, clothes, etc. and if you just add up all the money you’ve spent to buy these things, then, you can afford investing your hard-earned money on properties, jewelries, life insurance, and travels. 🙂 I told my husband since we came here in Canada that I am foregoing my Chanel bag dreams as long as he gives me a nice kitchen and of course, a fireplace, but all in all, a nice and comfy home we would be excited to go home to every day. And of course, more travels. 🙂
  10. Be Content. Very difficult indeed especially if you are constantly bombarded with 24-hour ads everywhere. If you constantly buy things (worse, if you already have them but you just want it in different colour), it’s a race you will never win. If you learn to want the things you already have and they are still pretty and useful, that, my folks, will save you a lot of money.

These are the some tips I can share with you all. It’s a new year so it’s time to re-think our spending habits. Your personal health is as important as your financial health. Cheers to a brand new year and healthier pockets!