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. 🙂

pasta

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!

 

Seek Inspiration

What if all we ever wanted
                isn’t hiding in some
secret and faraway dream
                but inside of us now
         as we breathe one another
and find home in the way
     or arms always seem fit
perfectly around the spaces
          between us?
What if we are the answer
      and love is the question?
What if all this time
   it was us you were supposed
         to find?
I am filled with wonderings
       questions and doubt
      but of one thing I am certain:
it will always be you
      that gives flight to the
butterflies inside me.
calm to the sea I have become
and hope to the darkness
     all around us.
It is you and it has always
been you…
you.
      You that soothes and excites
and spreads joy like rainfall
on the already damp earth;
You that pulled me from the longest
sleep and kissed my tired eyelids
             awake.
If life is a question mark,
       then you, my love,
are the proud and bold period
that is typed with certainty.

 

 

 

I Got My Green Thumb From My Grandma

When we were kids and used to stay at my grandmother’s place, she did a lot of gardening in this wide empty lot across her home. During summer, my cousins and I would spend most of our days playing hide and seek, setting up our makeshift tents made up of dried coconut leaves, and foraging different kinds of fruits from the trees that my grandmother planted in the garden. There were guavas, banana, santol, duhat, guyabano, aratilis, etc. There were vegetables too like okra, eggplant, malunggay, saluyot, etc. If she’s lazy to go to the market to buy some vegetables, she will just make a trip to her little paradise and when she comes back home, her rattan basket is full! My grandmother liked keeping herself busy and gardening is her forte. I remembered her saying the last time I saw her before she passed away that she’s got hands that give life to anything she plants. Then I jokingly replied how I wished she’s got the hands of King Midas instead! LOL.

In primary school, I dreaded home economics time. I got traumatised after we were asked to grow cucumbers. After our first harvest as a class, my classmates brought home huge ones while I wasn’t able to bring home any because I had a hard growing them. Then, I never looked back. I thought, that’s it for me and gardening. I will be moving on. But who would have thought that after decades, here I am, enjoying as I watch these plants in our backyard grow everyday.  We have corn, runner beans, rhubarbs, tomatoes, cabbage, raddish, pepper, and different herbs too! My grandmother told me that for plants to grow healthily, you need to talk and sing to them! So yep, you can imagine a deranged-looking woman in the backyard talking to these plants while watering them every afternoon. But what the heck? I don’t mind as long as they grow healthily.

I thought of featuring them today because they deserve a round of applause after surviving the summer heat all day long. So, ladies and gentlemen, here are the stars of our backyard:

Runner Beans

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Can you spot the sitsaro?

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Repol-Yo!

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Red Hot Chili Peppper

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Rhubarb

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Getting them ripe for salsa

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Strawberries

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Zea Mays

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Lettuce

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Basil (Valdez) 🙂 I know, lame. Keep scrolling down.

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Rosemary

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French Taragon

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Parsley

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Thyme

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Potatoes

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Whenever I miss my grandma, I would head down to our backyard and somehow through these plants, I feel calm and connected with her. She must be smiling down from heaven seeing me enjoy what she enjoyed the most.

 

May is Coming!

 

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As much as I would like to keep my political views to myself, it is difficult to stay mum amidst the increasing political online posts and news especially now that the presidential elections is just around the corner. Politics was never my cup of tea and being married to a son of a former ambassador doesn’t help either. As a matter of fact, whenever my father-in-law would talk about the South China Sea dispute and other political issues both in and out of the country with his children, I keep quiet and just basically listen because I know politics will never be my thing. So, before I begin, let me put a disclaimer: this is solely my opinion (which I know I am entitled to). I am not an expert on this but just like you, I am hoping and praying for a better Philippines.

The clock is ticking. I know whose name I’ll write in the box as vice-president while who to vote for as president still has a big question mark. Here are my thoughts about those running for the presidency:

  1. Binay- Multiple allegations of corruption. Thinks and feels that Makati is his. A congenital liar. Claims to come from a poor family but doesn’t have a genuine platform on how to alleviate the life and living conditions of the poor. It’s all for show and if he truly is sincere, I dare him convert his hacienda to a housing project for thousands of homeless in Manila or Makati rather.
  2. Poe- this is a no-brainer. Simple lang. Why will I vote for someone who has renounced her citizenship? Article VII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution provides that no person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election. If she can get her way despite what the rule of the land requires, makes me very scared of what she can do if she becomes the President so, a BIG no.
  3. Duterte- yeah, he made Davao what it is now. I like his platform on corruption and eradicating crimes and drugs but I couldn’t bring myself to agree with his position on some issues like giving away the presidency to Bongbong Marcos (if he wins as VP) if he couldn’t keep his promise of eradicating crime like he said. No to another Marcos (who is unapologetic and another congenital liar) as president, please?
  4. Mar- where did the Yolanda funds go? What has been done to improve the traffic in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces? When will our international airports be on par with the international airports of our ASEAN neighbours? Authored a number of bills and resolutions but I see lack of balls in implementation.
  5. Santiago- the depth of her knowledge on our laws surpasses all the other candidates. could be very feisty but is she fit enough to carry our country’s problems on her shoulders?

The difficulty in choosing my president lies in my sincere desire to see a better Philippines because it is high time for our country to be ruled by someone who is very much qualified and capable to govern, has the will and sincere desire to change the Philippines for the better, and whose values we can all look up to and respect. We need a leader who will drive our economy to greater heights, yes, but right at this moment, our country is in dire need of someone who can affect change in each one of us. We always say we need to see a change in how our government is being run but really, the change we need is a change in the way we think, behave, and act as citizens of this country. For me, it takes a great (actually, phenomenal) leader to inspire people to begin the change within themselves. I have set my standards so high because I know my country deserves so much more and I hope you do too. Thus, let us not be fooled and fall blindly for anything that looks and sounds good. It is time that we make informed decisions not only for ourselves but also for the future generations. The future of the Philippines lies in our ability to discern the right from wrong now.

As election day becomes imminent, I pray that we make the right choice but even more so, that, whoever will win be surrounded by people who can rebuke him/her when he/she does something wrong. We need these people in the new administration. People who can point out the mistakes of the leader and a leader who doesn’t only take in the compliments but humbly recognizes his or her mistakes too.