Our 4th of july 2021

Hope everyone who celebrates had a safe and fun 4th of July holiday. Our 4th of July this year was very different from last year’s celebration. In contrast to last year where everyone on our street and all over the Bay Area came out to blast the evening away, no one on our street lit any including Mr Sweetie who looks forward to lighting fireworks year after year. We did not want to light fireworks in respect to city officials’ requests to hold off due to threats of wild fires. Of course, it still did not prevent people from lighting even a week before July 4.

We spent July 4th weekend finishing up renovating the kitchen floor. Well, he did all the work but I spent all of Saturday putting things back and reorganizing after the final tile was dry enough. We were so pooped that it was pizza night delivery that evening. All the hard work was so worth it, though. Mr Sweetie did a fantastic job and I have a beautiful new kitchen floor! For Sunday, July 4th, I cooked up a storm. On the menu:

  • Tomatoes, avocado, red onion and lime salsa served with tortilla chips
  • New York steak for him
  • Salmon for me
  • Sides: Twice baked potatoes and corn on the cob
  • Berry Cobbler for dessert

HOW I COOKED THE STEAK AND SALMON:

I was proud of myself for making this meal. The steak was perfectly medium rare. I seasoned the steak with salt and pepper, and seared it first on high heat (using a combination of vegan butter and oil) then lower the heat to medium. I cooked it for about 8 minutes on one side then about 6 minutes on another. As you can tell, the salmon was still raw in these photos. I waited until the steak was done and let it sit for about 10 minutes to let the juices return to the meat. Then I cooked my salmon in the steak oil and juices until it was just little bit done but still pink in the middle. It gave the salmon a nice flavor of the meat but the taste of the oil and butter were not overwhelming. Plus I was trying to be efficient and creative.

I will let the photos do the talking at this point. I hope to post the recipe for my Berry Cobbler next.

Have a lovely summer season!

Being grateful | may 2021

I hope that everyone is having a beautiful summer! We are in the middle of June as I am writing this. We are finally experiencing summer in the Bay Are while we are in the middle of a heat wave. I am not sure how long this is going to last because we often say that summer in Bay Area does not really happen untill October for a couple of weeks then all of of sudden fall kicks summer in the behind.

How I miss writing these gratitude posts where I chronicle and remember all of God’s blessings all throughout the month. Happy moments and simple joys are once again re-visited as I put those memories in this little space on the internet. So far, I have only written one post in this series which I posted on my old blog, and it was for January 2021.

My blog has gone on many revisions this last year and half because of the pandemic. I have been blogging for almost a decade now primarily as my form of journaling, writing restaurant reviews, food photography and to keep recipes of food that I cook. With the lock down, my blog has turned into a cooking blog. How I enjoyed those moments of cooking and taking pictures while WFH in the midst of the raging pandemic. Cooking made me feel safe and grounded despite all sadness and devastation, and connecting with other bloggers all over the world while we were all staying home.

Those days are over now as I returned to work full-time on June 1st. I thought that I was going to be sad but I am actually very happy going back to the intimacy of my own office. This also means that I will not be able to cook and take food photos as much anymore. This also signals that I need to revive my Being Grateful series.

I promise that there will be more recipes to come but there are also going to be more posts on restaurant visits now that we are allowed to dine safely again. Thank you for visiting and I am glad that we all survive and continuing to survive. Please remain safe, healthy and happy. In the mean time, these are the things that I am grateful for in May:

BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS OF FRIENDSHIP

BFF and I spent a Monday afternoon at what we consider our BFF HQ which is the Ferry Building. It was such a memorable and enjoyable afternoon as we lingered over a bottle of bubbly and noshed on cheese and mezze. As always we could talk for hours catching up about life, family, friends and food! It was very cold and windy that day in this part of San Francisco but it was actually quite cozy.

SATURDATES

We finally got to dine out after a year and half of ordering food delivery on Saturdays! We saw this Mexican restaurant while we were driving home from a home renovation store. (Mr Sweetie is renovating our kitchen floor as his Saturday hobby/project.) We saw that the parking lot was converted into a spacious and cozy outdoor space, and I felt safe enough to say “yes, let us eat here.” How I enjoyed eating a plate of tortilla chips and salsa, and food that did not come in to-go boxes. I had a shrimp plate with Mexican rice and beans while Mr Sweetie had Chile Relleno. Such a nice meal despite its simplicity!

Other delivered meals we had in May:

  • Cheesesteaks and curly fries during Memorial Day Weekend
  • Trio of Sam’s Crispy Chicken (Oakland) with waffle fries. (These were so delicious that we ordered them again a couple of weeks later.)
  • Korean pork bowl from Belly (Oakland). It was also very good that we went to eat there in June.

FAMILY SUNDAY

I got to visit my sister, nephews and brother in law after online church. As always I was fed with delicious Filipino food. My nephews and I made sushi bake after lunch. It was hit!

IN MY KITCHEN

My kitchen adventures are over for now since I returned to the office full-time since the end of May. I miss my cooking days tremendously which I managed to do while working from home. This month, aside from making Sushi Bake with my nephews, I got to cook Korean Braised Tofu and Garlic Noodles.

No worries, I will always be posting new recipes but not as often as during the lockdown.

ETC….

  • Among my simplest joys during the lockdown and WFH were my morning egg toasts with coffee while I was checking my emails in my pj’s. I will miss those mornings tremendously.
  • My sister got me a couple fancy Filipino-flavored butters (Enseymada and Buko Pandan). I enjoyed them with toasts as well.
  • One of my supervisees gave me a nice candle and mug as she was leaving on a scholarship at John Hopkins. She will astonish the world one day with her success, intelligence and compassion. It was a pleasure to be her mentor.

What I am Grateful For…

Mr Sweetie got me these roses while we were having dinner at the Mexican restaurant. A flower vendor was selling flowers. He asked me if I wanted a bouquet. I chose the simplest one while he gave her double the price of the roses. I was happy and the flower seller was happy. Mr Sweetie was happy to have made us happy. Happiness all around! 🙂

There is so much to be grateful for this month. I am grateful for more freedom to enjoy the simplest things that were not safe to do just few months ago such as dining outdoors, and something as simple sharing a basket of chips and salsa. As much as I am sad to be no longer WFH, I am grateful to be able to return to the solitude of my cozy office, and see my co-workers again where we are all healthy and safe.

I am grateful for beautiful moments of friendship such as the Monday afternoon spent with BFF, and fun moments with my family.

The end of May brought challenges where faith has seen me through although I did not get to know the wonderful outcome until June. It was all well — everyone and everything.

I am grateful for His blessings that He poured onto me and my loved ones this May 2021.

Here is my Gratitude Post from May 1-9, which I posted here.

Weekly joys in pictures | May 1-9, 2021

The lockdown has given me an opportunity to indulge in things that I really enjoy such as cooking and taking food photos. These used to be just items on my “someday list” before the pandemic. I am happy that now my blog contains delicious recipes and photos of the food that I cook. I miss posting, though, about other things that bring me joy. When I first started blogging in 2013, my blog was really a journal of my everyday life with my family, friends and BFF, reviews of restaurants where Mr Sweetie and I dined, and keeper of simple joys.

I miss posting about all of the above in addition to what I cook in my kitchen. Even though I am working from home, life continues to be as busy as ever with not much time left for other hobbies that I want to pursue such as reading, scrapbooking, more photography, writing, etc. etc. (I want to do it all!) I am also lagging behind in my Monthly Gratitude posts which I have faithfully written for years. I managed to finish my “January 2021 Being Grateful” post just a couple weeks ago and we are already in May! LOL! (If you want to read it, I posted it on my old blog here.) In reviving the spirit of journaling, I am starting with these snapshots:

SIMPLE YUMMY JOYS

Food brings me lots of joy, most especially these that that were given to me by family and friends because it meant that they were thinking of me. Here are the treats that I got this month:

  • Mocha Sponge Cake — My sister gave me this Asian cake. I shared it with my team mates who really enjoyed it.
  • Empanadas and Artisan Bread — I also discovered the joys of freezing my food. (Thanks, BFF!) I used to compost everything past their expiration dates or if I knew that I could not eat them. BFF gave me artisan bread and empanadas which I froze. Finding treats in the freezer was like finding treasures. Guess what, bread freezes really well! The empanadas were yummy, too, after two minutes in the air fryer! The artisan bread loaf was so good toasted topped with Smoked Salmon Spread from Trader Joe’s.

DATE NIGHT YUMMY EATS

  • Aburaya (Oakland) — Food delivery have been blah. They are just not the same. My Japanese friend chicken from Aburaya was the bomb. Will definitely get more next time!
  • Homeroom (Oakland) — He has been surprising me with mac and cheeses from Homeroom! They are deliciously wonderful but I cannot possibly eat all of them. I ate one bowl while the garlic mac and cheese to the freezer it went!
  • Governor (Oakland) — It was British food galore! Governor would provide one meal to a family in need for every meal ordered which was why I chose to try this eatery. We had fish and chips, yorkshire pudding, chips, mashed potatoes and gravy. Too salty for our taste but it was nice to try something different and to know that another family was being fed as well.

FAMILY SUNDAY

Lunch with at my sister’s house. Had apritada cooked by my brother in law. Chicken apritada is Filipino stewed chicken in tomato sauce with potatoes. Very tasty. My BIL is a great cook. The my nephews and I made mini-donuts on my DASH donut maker. As you can see, they went crazy with the toppings — Nutella, chocolate syrup and powdered sugar! LOL!

CINCO DE MAYO

Tacos and margaritas for Cinco de Mayo. As it has been our yearly addition, Mr Sweetie made me margaritas although he did not drink any this year. I made yummy tacos.

MAY FLOWERS

We did not get April showers this year but the world seems to be exploding in May flowers! Sadly, I miss walking among the flowers in the spring. I missed stepping on crunchy leaves of different colors during the fall. I miss walking in my neighborhood and the freedom to explore anywhere I want. I miss being able to stop on a whim to take photos of things that make me smile during my walks. A year and half ago, in January 2020, I had a scary experience while walking home from work. I am thankful that I was completely unharmed. (Remaining calm and having the presence of mind were what helped me get out of the situation unscathe.) I stopped walking since then. Materials things were taken from me which were readily replaced. What I am still trying to recover is my sense of safety and security. I try to find joys whenever I can find them while still feeling safe such as visiting the farmers market. I am slowly trying to stretch my comfort zone by challenging myself to walk again instead of driving everywhere. Coupled with my experience are the atrocious attacks on Asians. Being Filipina who has lived most of my life in the US, I have never felt afraid for my life or safety while participating in daily activities of life. Now I am often in a state of hypervigilance while walking on the streets of San Francisco or being on the train. The only times I feel safe are when I am home or in my car. As much as I live in a beautiful and safe neighborhood, the threat of being hurt looms around me and follows me everywhere. Ignorance, racism and violence hurt all of us even if we think that we are immune from those issues.

While we were visiting Mr Sweetie’s parents during Mother’s Day, I saw the deep pink flowers on a long stalk across the street from their house. The stalk was tall and high bursting with beautiful fuschia flowers blooming from it. It was as if it was reaching out to the sky. I took a picture because it was a beautiful and unusual plant, but also because it reminded me to remain hopeful for better things to come.

Please stay tuned for part two of May in Pictures! Thank you for reading and stay safe.

Being grateful | december 2020

We have arrived at the end of this very challenging and unexpected year! I am happy to turn over the last page of this chapter of 2020. However, it is also with grateful heart that I look back. Despite the heaviness and darkness that 2020 has brought, it also brought unexpected blessings. My last “Being Grateful” post for 2020 is about remembering and celebrating this last month of the year.

December was a quiet month of nesting at home. Lockdown continued on since November. There were no Christmas walks in San Francisco with BFF to look at holiday displays, Christmas trees and gingerbread houses this year. There were no holiday parties although my co-workers decorated the building with festive decorations that lifted up our holiday spirits every time we walked in, and work has provided boxed lunches. Christmas was a quiet and socially-distanced affair.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

This holiday, though, brought time and space for solitude and contemplation that were often missed during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. I love being home during the holidays even before the pandemic. I am grateful for the coziness and warmth of my home where I enjoy life’s simplest pleasures — hours of reading, a hot cup of tea, watching holiday movies, baking and hanging out with Mr Sweetie watching football or our shows. Speaking of holiday movies, by December, I was pretty much burnt out watching sappy Christmas movies on Netflix since I started watching them after Thankgiving. LOL! I watched at least 8 Christmas romance movies and they were enough for me for the year!…. With the pandemic and not being able to go anywhere, I really enjoyed every moment of quiet and solitude as I was surrounded by holidays decors without any guilt of missing out with what was usually going on in the world.

SATURDAY DINNERS

I hate to say that we lost our Saturday night meal delivery mojo. Delivery food just do not taste the same and not as appealing. Sometimes I would even tell Mr Sweetie to just order for himself. I would rather eat my own cooking. As an example, I ordered an egg sandwich with fries. I should have just made my own! With the steep price tag plus the service and delivery charges and tips, it was like throwing our money away.

However, Eureka Berkeley brought back our Saturday date night at home mojo. We ordered the aptly named meal set “Date Night with Alcohol.” LOL! He chose an American Burger while I loved my Fresno Fig (burger with fig marmalade, goat cheese and arugula). Our order came with fries and brussel sprouts, AND a margarita for 4! We had a couple of sips each before we put it in the fridge. It was strong! This meal was one of the best delivered ones we had! I also liked our sushi, and vegan mac and cheese from Homeroom in Oakland. He also brought me a couple of musubi which I love and the only time I eat Spam!

IN MY KITCHEN

I had a lot of fun in the kitchen this month and cooked many comfort food. On the menu were:

  • Fried egg on toast with arugula and persimmon topped drizzled with Spicy Cashew dressing and sprinkled with Everything But The Bagel spices both from Trader Joe’s.
  • Garlic rice with Asian chicken sausage and fried egg. I enjoyed this while Mr Sweetie was away on a business trip.
  • Blueberry pancakes. December is for pancakes and maple syrup although I cooked these for him as treats. I did not have any– next time!
  • Curry noodles. These looked great in pictures but they were meh. Will not make this dish again.
  • Bouikos or cheese scones. These are so addictive! See my recipe here. I will be making these forever!
  • Apple Muffins. So good! Here is the recipe on my blog.
  • Sticky Lemon Tofu. Also a keeper. I have been making this recipe and will be making them again for the 4th time. Recipe to be posted soon.

CHRISTMAS WEEKEND

CHRISTMAS EVE was very nice although it was busy for me. I worked from home on Christmas Eve while cooking stuffing and slow cooker apple sauce in between meetings.

CHRISTMAS DAY was spent at our other house. On the menu was baked salmon, pork ribs, tamales, mashed potatoes and gravy and the apple sauce and stuffing that I made the day before. It was a simple but delicious meal shared among 4 people. We opened our presents. We stayed up until 11 pm on Christmas Day. As always, he spoiled me with new Uggs, name necklace and lots of new clothes. I gave him shoes, 2 pairs of his favorite pj’s from Ralph Lauren, new iPod and a fun gift from Man Crate which contained cookie shots. It was fun to watch him pry open the crate with a crow bar.

HIS BIRTHDAY WEEKEND — Since we are on lockdown for the second time around, I could not take him to a steak restaurant on his birthday. I ordered a ribeye steak for him from Wood Tavern in Oakland. He loved his birthday dinner. This birthday was extra special as he was restored to health this year after a minor surgery.

DECEMBER 27 — Even though fraught with worries, I got to see my family to bring them their presents. With masking and social distancing, I got to spend a couple of hours with them watching them open their presents and my little nephew play with his new toys. They sent me home with food as always as we cannot eat together.

BFF AND CHRISTMAS TREATS

Despite the lockdown, BFF and I got to see each other briefly to exchange Christmas treats. She came to my workplace to drop off cookies and chocolates. Even though we missed all of our Christmas friendship traditions, we our holding out hope that we will get to do them again next holiday season.

WHAT I AM GRATEFUL FOR

It is hard to not be grateful for everything in my life. With the uncertainties of 2020, faith and love grew stronger. Holidays brought gratitude for family, loved ones, friends, warm home, good health, hope and a table laden with delicious food. This Christmas really made me focus on aspects of my life that are most important which are togetherness despite the distance. I exchanged messages with my family in the Philippines and Japan which I hardly get to do before the pandemic because of time differences. I had daily conversations with my mom and dad. This Christmas is really about generosity — which is what Christmas is truly all about. These messages get lost in holiday parties, material things, sparkling decors, giant Christmas trees. Not this Christmas. This Christmas is about giving instead of receiving.

December is for tying loose ends. I am happy to say goodbye to 2020.

I wish you New Year that is full of blessings, hope, faith and the love of your family and friends.

GOODBYE, 2020!

WELCOME, 2021!

San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge during my walk in December
An unexpected alley
Beautiful fall in December