Candies and Make Believe

When I was turning six years old, Mom and Dad thought it was okay to have a party at my school. So they prepared everything including loot bags for my classmates to bring home.

Among the contents of the loot bags were candies. What candies? Monica candies!

I have not seen this candy since I was in grade school. Back then, everything that had your name made you feel special.

My Dad made me believe they had those candies made especially for my birthday. I believed him for a year or two until I saw packs of these candies in the grocery. Oopsie… 🤣🤣🤣

I should try these candies one of these days…

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My Not-So-Wheaty No-Knead Turbo Wheat Bread (Whew!)

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” -James Beard

I have baked cookies, muffins, cakes and cupcakes. Yet, I have never tried making bread. You know, that bread you use for sandwiches and toasts. The thought of using yeast scared the carbs out of me.

My Aunt Lory’s the first person I met who made bread at home. I loved her bread so much that I asked for the recipe. Hers is a no-knead version too but has to proof for 18 hours. I am not that patient. Hahaha…

I looked for videos online on the no-knead method of making bread when I came across Steve’s YouTube channel, ArtisanBreadWithSteve. I watched him make bread using his no-knead turbo method and was hooked on how easy the recipe was to make. Plus, I only had to proof the bread for an hour and a half. It’s the perfect waiting time for impatient people like me!

What’s also great is that it only used four ingredients: warm water, active dry yeast, salt and flour. I made sure my yeast did not touch the salt until they were in the water.

Also, because I am stubborn and could not be bothered to buy bread flour, I used 2.5 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of fine whole wheat flour instead. I wanted to see if it will work just as well.

I heated my glass bowl in the microwave for one minute on high. Then, I added in all the ingredients just as shown in Steve’s video.

The dough was a little bit tough to combine. I used a lot of elbow and shoulder grease. I believe it’s my fault for using wheat flour because it seems like it absorbed the water quicker than I had time to mix them all together. Nevertheless, I had fun. Next time, I will use my hand mixer with the dough hook attachment.

Once the dough has been mixed well, I covered my glass bowl with cling wrap and covered it further with a dishcloth. Then, I put it near the window where the sun shines through.

Instead of one and a half hour, I let it proof for one more hour.

It grew to twice its original size! I proceeded to do the degas, stretch and pull method before transferring to my loaf pan. I let it proof for another 30 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of proofing time, I pre-heated my oven to 204°C.

I let the bread bake for forty minutes. I was not used to this waiting time because my cookies took only 8 to 12 minutes to bake while my muffins only took around 20 to 25 minutes. Having made it this far, I waited for the 40 minutes to be over.

It was amazing!!! I tapped on the top with a butter knife and it did sound hollow, meaning it’s done. The top was crispy/crunchy but the bread inside was so soft! It went well with garlic butter!

Another item off my bucket list! I’ll try my aunt’s recipe next. 18 hours, just you wait!!!

Caramelly Good

“I think love is caramel. Sweet and fragant; always welcome. It is the gentle golden colour of a setting harvest sun; the warmth of a squeezed embrace; the easy melting of two souls into one and a taste that lingers even when everything else has melted away. Once tasted it is never forgotten.”

-Jenny Colgan, Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams

I was recently able to go to Fontana Leisure Parks & Casino in Clark, Pampanga with my former colleagues who remain my good friends. Because the trip was decided only within the week, we were not able to buy everything we needed right away. So, we went on a trip to Puregold Duty Free near the resort.

Lo and behold!

It’s a pack of caramel, filled with memories of childhood!

I cannot remember anymore how old I was back then. My uncle who worked in San Francisco, California visited Manila and gave us packs of sweets. One of them is a pack of the very same caramel bites. Maybe the packaging has changed over the years but I cannot forget those cubes that basically scream happiness.

I would eat them, sneaking one piece at a time until there was not much left that it was obvious someone was eating them all up. They started teasing me that it was meant for cooking and was not ready yet to be consumed. I was sooooo worried that I ate something raw. 🤣

It’s been a long time. This is the only time I ever got to see this pack again. It’s still the same, sweet treat that I enjoyed as a kid. No wonder I kept on sneaking one more piece! It’s so yummy!

Have you tried this too? Did you like it as well?

Majestic Bloom: The Queen Sirikit Flower

Again, while in Fontana and my friends were enjoying the pools, I wandered around trying to find something interesting. In my wandering around, I noticed a plant with pink petals so I immediately got my camera to take pictures.

But when I got close to the plant, I was quite surprised that what I thought were pink flowers was actually a yellow flower with these pink petal-looking stuff that I do not know whether they are also flowers or if they are leaves.

Meet the Queen Sirikit.

This flower is a mussaenda that came about by crossing of West African mussaenda erythrophylla and a selection of mussaenda philippica from the Philippines (thank you Learn2Grow.com!). I learned that the yellow part is the actual flower and the pink stuff surrounding it are groups of sepals/calyces. Those were the biggest sepals I have ever seen!

A variety of mussaenda philippica, Queen Sirikit has the following ladies in waiting defined by the color of their sepals and actual flowers, respectively:

  • Doña Luz (salmon pink and yellow)
  • Doña Aurora (white and yellow)
  • Doña Evangelina (dark red and white)
  • Doña Alicia (very bright pink and yellow)

Oh yeah! Because women should stick together and lift each other up!

I was so glad there were no bees around when I went to the flowers. I experienced being stung by a bee before and my arm felt like it was getting chopped off. That was how painful it was for me. Funny though was that there were no flowers around me when I got stung!

I hope to visit more places and get to know more flowers I have not encountered before.

Do you like flowers too? What is your favorite kind?

Berry Poisonous

“That necklace contains an herb called Vervain. It protects you from being compelled. I wanted to protect you from Damon’s influence. But I also wanted to protect you from me.” -Stefan Salvatorre

Remember the flower I saw in Fontana? I finally know what they are called! Thanks to Chelsea Owens for asking her neighbor what these are!

These are lantana camara flowers known in the Philippines as kantutay. I know, sounds awkward for a pretty flower.

Anyway, thank God I didn’t try the berries. I read that the berries, especially unrip ones, can be toxic.

Further research led me to learning that it’s a relative of vervain. Yup. It’s that herb they used in Vampire Diaries to prevent being compelled by a vampire. Now I wonder if they planted these to ward off any similar creatures… Creepy!!!

We’re Not Perfect

It’s easy to be irritated by people who cannot meet our expectations. Even I am trying hard to be more forgiving too. It’s the idealist in me that sometimes clouds my understanding of other people’s situations.

I guess it helps to realize that we are all just a bunch of folks, trying to navigate life the best way we could. That each of us are trying our best and sometimes, we just fall short of other people’s expectations. Sometimes, we just don’t make the cut.

But standards are subjective and not all roles are meant for us to play. Being bad at something does not mean being terrible at everything. And it goes the same way. Being great at something does not mean you can be awesome at everything.

It can be tough to be compassionate to others. It is easier to criticize. Maybe it’s because we were designed to see everything but ourselves that we still need a mirror to help us with that. Even then, it’s easier to point out other people’s faults than ours.

My college professor in business tax always told us that the key to happiness is to lower your expectations. Notice that he only said to lower and not to completely remove expectations. I guess it’s normal to expect something from others but what makes us unhappy is our inability to be flexible with those expectations.

It’s tough being us. But it may also be tough being them. At the end of the day, we’re all just pretending we have it all figured out. Because no one can ever have it all figured out when it comes to life. We’re all just a bunch of fools trying to survive.

Jacuzzis and Discoveries

The earth laughs in flowers. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

A recent trip to Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino had me dipping alternately between hot and cold water. I went with my former colleagues who happen to have become my really good friends.

I am not sure about the temperatures stated because the jacuzzi was not as warm but the cold water pool was as cold as the winter in Hong Kong.

We had fun teasing some of our friends into diving into the cold water without warning them how cold it was.

The jacuzzi was relaxing although I would have liked it just a tad bit hotter.

Because we swam towards the time for the sunset, we did not have to worry about too much sun exposure or the weather being too hot for comfort. Although, I admit wishing we started a little bit earlier, like an hour earlier.

While the others were still in the pools, I wandered a little bit because I saw this flowering plant with buds of flowers bursting with bright pink, yellow and white colors. They looked so cute I had to snap a photo! But since it was a little bit windy, I could not get the flower to stay in the center.

Just when I thought the flowers were the most exciting part of this plant, I was surprised by something else.

It has fruits! Or, at least I think they are fruits.

I tried researching what these flowers and fruits are but I guess I am not using the correct keywords because I was not getting what I wanted.

That’s me, sometimes. I zone out and withdraw from the group to recharge. Along the way, I discover little wonders that I probably would not have seen. If I stayed in the pool, I would not have see these cute little wonders of nature.

The nice things about the friends I have made in my former work colleagues is that we all have our quirks and unique qualities but they are accepted as part of who we are. We do not bother about “fitting in” so much because there was no need to in a group so welcoming to the idea that we are all different.

They called me when it was time to go to a different pool so I bade the plant goodbye. I do not know why it was alone (I did not see more of the same plant around) but I wish I got to let it know that it was so beautiful.

Tips on Beating Summer Heat (Without an A/C)

“One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” ― Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

In the summer, days are long. The sun does not set until a few minutes past six in the evening allowing one to feel like he or she has more time than usual to get things done.

It’s also the season when Philippine island and beach resorts are packed with local and foreign tourists out to dip in our beautiful waters and to get a fierce tan. Sunscreen products are in demand and freezers are working non-stop to freeze water into ice.

With summer comes heat. And when you live in a tropical country, the humid heat can make you feel sticky, grimy and uncomfortable. For this reason, malls are also packed with people who want to take advantage of free A/C, especially on weekends. But what can you do if you do not have A/C at home and you don’t want to have to spend money in the mall just to justify your stay there? Here are the things I do and use to beat the summer heat.

  1. Get a cooling bath

Filipinos take personal hygiene seriously. A bath is taken at least once or twice daily. It’s also one of the ways we cool down our body in the summer heat.

Take your bathing to a higher cooling level by using products especially meant to give cooling effects.

For body wash and body scrub, Human ❤ Nature has a body wash and a body scrub that makes bathing extra fun because of their cooling properties.

  1. Put on more cooling body products

IMG_6349I love Human ❤ Nature’s Cooling Leg and Body Cream! I talked about it in my post about recovering from sprain and how I used this cream on the swelling of my foot when I did not have an ice pack around.

This product is amazing! When it says its cooling, it so damn cooling! For that reason, I only put it on specific areas life the backs of my knees, creases of my arms or my nape. A little goes a long way!

IMG_6347I also love Snake Brand Prickly Heat Cooling Powder. I discovered it way back in high school when it was still sold in a square, tin powder canister. Now it’s sold in a plastic container but the product remains as great as it always was. It smells amazing and cools down your skin too!

Okay, it’s not as cooling as the body cream from Human ❤ Nature. It’s subtler than that but powder keeps you fresh and dry and is more convenient to use when you are not a fan of lotions or body creams.

  1. Wear light and loose clothes

Stay away from body-hugging clothes and those with fabrics like jersey and fleece. Keep your clothes light and loose so you can move freely and keep your body from not being able to breathe.

  1. Get blackout curtains in light colors

IMG_6355Blackout curtains are ideal from blocking the light and the heat from the windows that get the most sunshine. Don’t get me wrong. I love sunshine! But during the summer, the heat from the sun can zap your energy out before you can even start on your day.

Since my bed is next to the window and my room was built in a way that makes it impossible to rearrange furniture, I rely on my blackout curtain to keep myself away from the heat and light of the sun when I am in my room.

Getting them in light colors also make your room less dark considering it’s blocking the sunlight already from getting in. Also, dark colors absorb more heat so it kind of defeats the purpose of your efforts.

Mine is in a shade that’s close to aquamarine or mint green or somewhere between those two.

  1. Get fanning

There are a lot of handheld fans with cute designs that can be a part of your OOTD. Channel your inner Mia Thermopolis and start learning the art of the fan while cooling yourself down.

Or, if you prefer, you may those adorable mini, portable fans that you just recharge and take out when you need it. It’s less tiring than manually fanning yourself too! I also prefer the ones with the blades caged in because I feel they are safer.

  1. Stay hydrated

Drink lots of water!!! Invest in water bottles that are easy to bring with you.

If you can spend more, get one that keeps your drink cool for long periods of time. I am actually saving up to get myself a Kleen Kanteen.

7. Make ice pops!

Make your favorite flavor combos! I personally loved pineapple and coconut milk. Remember my failed Disney Dole Whip attempt? It led to making my new favorite ice pop flavor!

Another flavor I loved is vanilla greek yogurt and strawberry. I got a super cute ice pop mold from Miniso and it created sundae-looking ice pops!

Even without an A/C, you can still keep yourself cool. The most important thing about summer is to enjoy and have fun. Don’t let the summer heat beat you down!

How do you keep yourself cool?

Corn dogs and Memories

The most complicated relationship I have is the one I have with my dad. I never truly understood him and his ways. Sometimes I wonder if I did not try enough or if he never let anyone understand him at all.

I do not have a lot of fond memories with him in the twenty-three years I lived with him. I was mostly scared of or angry at him. No family is perfect and mine was far from being a perfect family.

Dad loved to eat. So, it’s no wonder that when I have to think of good memories I had with him, I end up thinking about food. Corndog, in particular.

Despite finding pleasure at eating, Dad disliked eating out because he found it an unnecessary expense. But from time to time, we went out to eat in fast foods like McDonald’s. But because Dad was more on the stingy side, my sister and I would have to share one meal. He would rip the lid of the styro container and divide the food in half. He would order a la carte for everyone except for one meal that came with a drink that he would upsize to the largest size. Then he’d ask for extra cups and divide that drink among all of us. Mom would feel so embarrassed sometimes at how stingy he could be.

So what’s with corn dogs?

When I was around eight or nine, we always went to Festival Mall in Alabang every Sunday because that is where we went for groceries. In the food court was a store/stall that sold corn dogs called Hotdog on a Stick. Nope, it’s not the Purefoods Tender Juicy stand. The store sold freshly-made corn dogs that were really yummy!

Dad never made my sister and I share one corn dog. He would get one for each of us and bought us our own drinks. He and Mom would wait for my sister and I to finish them and then we’d go to the grocery.

Eventually, the store closed and there were no more corn dogs on Sundays.

These days, it’s difficult to find corn dogs. I know Purefoods sell them in their hotdog stands but nothing could ever top that store I loved as a kid where I could watch it get prepared and cooked. The closest I could get them is from FamilyMart but it still is not as yummy as the corn dog from that store years and years ago.

I have long given up on having the father-daughter relationship that I used to wish for as a child. And these days, I do not see him or talk to him anymore. I’m still not ready to.

But from time to time, I buy corn dogs and remember the good times I had with him whenever we bought them before. I would remember him asking the store attendants to coat mine extra thickly because he knew I loved the coating. We would watch as it cooked and he would remind me to blow on it before taking a bite because it was too hot having just come from the fryer.

I have not sealed shut any door. I know that one day, I am going to have to see him again. I am not yet close to being ready for that. But, who knows? Maybe, when that day comes, it’ll be over a snack of corn dogs. Maybe, that time will also be a good time.