Hong Kong – September 2018 (Part 1)

“I have seen travel plans happen only when they were made overnight.” -Sanhita Baruah

I had to go see my sister. That was all I thought of when I booked my flight to Hong Kong. If I had to break my back and extend hours at work so I would not cause any problems meeting our deadlines, I was determined to do it. I had to see her, so I was going to do whatever I had to.

Fortunately, fate was kind to me and several events took place that made it okay for me to fly to Hong Kong without having to worry about deadlines that much. I will be eternally grateful because I was already missing my sister terribly.

img_8972As much as I wanted to fly via Cathay Pacific (my absolute favorite), I could only afford Cebu Pacific at the time. I figured that I was only going to fly for about two hours anyway and I would rather have more money to spend for shopping than for my flight. So, I booked my tickets online and I even learned how to pay for my tickets via BDO online banking. I made sure to pay for window seats going to Hong Kong and going home.

I booked an afternoon flight because I had to bake cookies for the birthday and baptism party of my boss’ daughter. I was going to fly at 5:40PM and I was so glad that the plane was already ready and waiting when I arrived at the airport at around 3:00PM. I immediately checked and learned that sunset was going to be at 5:51PM so I prayed to be able to get a good glimpse of the sunset up in the sky.

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Unfortunately, it started raining. Despite all efforts to have my camera zoom in on the sunset, it focused on the raindrops of the plane window instead. Even when it has stopped raining and there were no raindrops of the window, it was too cloudy to see the sunset. Oh well, maybe next time then.

My flight was very smooth and I landed around ten minutes earlier than the expected arrival. I do not remember having to ride a shuttle from the plane to the airport during my past trips, but I enjoyed seeing the huge planes from other airlines. Using my auditor’s eyes, I kept on the lookout for any Cathay Pacific plane missing the letter F. I saw none.

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I had no trouble at the immigration counter and the officer who checked my documents was familiar. I think he’s the same officer from when mom and I visited last Christmas. I think he’d be even more handsome if he smiled. But, I guess his job required them to keep a poker face or people will not take them seriously.

My sister was already waiting for me when I got there. She arrived too early, so she was also hungry already when I arrived. To my happiness, there’s a branch of my favorite restaurant at the airport!

We ordered my favorite pork dish and some lemon iced tea. Unfortunately, the tables at the airport branch did not have the adorable drawers filled with utensils like the branch we visited in Mong Kok back in 2016, Still, I enjoyed dinner with my sister.

img_9020We opted to ride the bus on the way home since it was only HKD40. It’s cheaper than taking the train that I think is around HKD100. Also, my sister said that since she took the bus to the airport, her trip going back was only going to be HKD20. Plus, we will not have to transfer to another ride because the bus was going to drop us near her place already. God, I missed the efficient transport system of Hong Kong. To my embarrassment though, I forgot how their tap card system worked and I kept tapping my Octopus card on the wrong place. At least the driver didn’t shout at me, haha.

Too tired for anything else, my sister and I spent the rest of the night watching shows on Netflix. We didn’t have any plans on what to do and where to go. That night, I felt how much it didn’t matter anymore because being with her made me happy already. Then, I realized we had to share her bed and I remembered how much she tosses and turns in her sleep. It was going to be a long night…

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Just Baked: Cream Puffs!!!

“Maybe  there’s no scientific evidence of desserts curing what ails you, but if you ask me, the jury’s still out on science anyway. ” ― Crystal Cestari, The Best Kind of Magic

Cream puffs are one of the treats Mom used to buy us when my sister and I were kids. Despite not being a frequent treat we received, I remember loving cream puffs so much because of the custard filling. I didn’t like the filling too sweet though. I wanted them just right.

When I eventually started working and had my salary, I used to buy cream puffs from a Beard Papa’s stall in Glorietta until one day, I noticed that the stall was no longer there. A few years later, just recently, I discovered that Beard Papa’s is reopening in Glorietta. This time, it’s not just a stall; it’s going to be a shop!

While waiting for Beard Papa’s to open though, I decided to attempt making cream puffs in my own kitchen. I looked for recipe after recipe until I discovered the recipe from Kitchen Conundrums with Thomas Joseph segment in Everyday Food’s YouTube channel. I also searched for the video on how to make the filling that they dubbed as the No-Fuss Pastry Cream. It was the perfect recipe for me because I did not have to think about tempering the eggs to make sure they do not scramble and all the “fuss” that comes with making pastry cream.

What I did find difficult though is piping the batter and the pastry cream. I watched a lot of YouTube videos where the baker pipes stuff out of a pastry bag without looking like he or she is struggling or exerting any effort at all! My hands and wrist hurt a lot after.

I was surprised at how much they puff up. They looked so tiny when I piped them out. I left them to bake while I piped another batch and ten minutes later, they were already big! I remember turning around to check my oven only for my eyes to almost pop out of my head when I saw how much they have risen.

I was very sure then that they were going to have this huge air pocket inside for the cream to fill. They were so light once out of the oven!

I may have gone overboard with some because I filled them too much that some pastry cream oozed out the other side. Nevertheless, I was so happy I finally got to make these! It was just one of the treats I would think about but not dare try. Not anymore! I was hooked!

Please do check out the links of the recipes I linked above. They really are beginner-friendly and taste amazing!

I still cannot wait for Beard Papa’s to open soon.

A Bottle of Happiness

I love bottles. I love jars. I don’t know why. When we go to the household section of a mall, I always look for the rows of bottles and jars. It’s not like I buy one every single time, but I like looking at those stuff. The crazier and the smaller, the more I feel like a toddler given a teddy bear. Plastic is mmmmmkay; glass is perfect.

Sometimes, I would look at them and think of what I can put inside, trying to find justification should I decide to buy one. When I started baking, I thought a cookie jar would be cool so I have a nicer way of presenting the cookies I bake and bring my colleagues. I figured that cookies looked more appetizing in a proper container. I still haven’t gotten one, thank God.

I wonder why I like these little containers so much when I suck at organizing. Sometimes, I tease my mom that I used to be a mambobote in my past life. In my native tongue, bote/botelya means bottle. A mambobote is a junk collector who goes around collecting empty bottles and old newspapers to sell them to the junkshop.

Some bottles can be so adorable at times that I buy not for the sake of the contents, but for the packaging.

Sometimes, I buy stuff because I was after the freebie. In one instance, I got an earful from my mom for buying a huge box of artificial sugar substitute because I was after the mini mason jar/mug that came with it. I now use the jar for my instant yeast for breadmaking.

Sometimes, I encourage Mom to get stuff I am not sure I even like or will like because they were in cute containers. Recently, I supported her wish to try an apple chutney because the jar it was in was too adorable.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a hoarder yet. I cannot even consider myself a collector. Ican still exercise self control when I know I will have no use for the stuff eventually. Still, I wonder why I like these stuff.

Is it because I tend to bottle up my feelings? Does it tell me I feel empty inside? Hmmmm…

I like to think that I just view an empty bottle or jar as a sign of all the space there is for possibilities and creativity. That being said, I saw these cute bottles in the shape of a lightbulb from a brand called Kasa Ko (translates to “my house”). It made me want to go on a bartending/cocktail mixing workshop so I can fill them up with colorful drinks that I can pretend to be potions. My inner witch was excited upon seeing them, hihihi…

I wonder if I was a genie before and lived in a bottle or a lamp. That might be another explanation! Hahaha…

A Merry Berry Breakfast

“One should not attend even the end of the world without a good breakfast.”  -Robert A. Heinlein

Last August 21, my country celebrated two holidays: Ninoy Aquino Day and Eid al-Adha. We were actually hoping for Eid al-Adha to be celebrated on the 22nd like the rest of the world, I think but even just one day of rest from work is already very much welcome.

I took the opportunity to go through the ingredients I had at home and realized that my whole wheat flour isn’t gonna last for long. I needed to bake it into something despite my and my mom’s lack of fondness for whole wheat bread. Initially wanting raisin whole wheat bread, I realized we only had dried cranberries at home. So whole wheat cranberry bread it is.

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It has risen!

I got the recipe from King Arthur Flour and just simply tossed in a handful of cranberries. The ingredients I used after tweaking are as follows:

  • 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons Himalayan salt
  • a handful of dried cranberries

I had a fun time kneading the dough using my handheld mixer with dough hook attachment. Eventually, I started using my hands to incorporate the cranberries into the dough. It looked so cute while it was proofing!

While waiting for the dough to proof, I decided to bake the frozen blueberries and strawberries that I bought on a whim. I discovered the Sunny Morning Muffins recipe the day before and just knew I had to bake a version of it! From the name alone, I was expecting the muffins to be as bright as the sunshine in deliciousness!

The ingredients I used after tweaking are as follows (2 batches):

  • 2 cups strawberries, chopped
  • 2 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (the nuts I got were salted already so I reduced the salt by half)
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups chopped salted cashew nuts (the only one available at the time)

The muffins were fairly simple to make. You just combine all the ingredients and that’s it! No special method of folding or mixing. What took me long was filling my muffin tray (one that makes 24 mini muffins) and ensuring that each well will have enough berries and nuts.

For step-by-step procedures, you may click on the link to the original recipes.

After hours of baking, I had a large loaf of bread and about 5 dozens of mini muffins. What should have been the last dozen on mini muffins, I made into four larger ones.

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The whole wheat bread turned out to be really soft. It tasted pretty much just like plain bread; nothing extra special. The cranberries just added some tartness and sweetness to it. As much as I enjoyed making it though, I really cannot find it in me to love the texture of whole wheat bread when eating it.

But, the muffins! They were really, really good! They were soft but not mushy. The combination of strawberries, blueberries and cashews in one bite was awesome! The berries were not too sweet and were a just a tiny bit tart, giving balance to the sweetness from the sugar and the banana. Also, it was a good thing I used half the amount of the salt required due to the cashews already being salted.

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If anyone knows how to make whole wheat bread without the gritty texture in the mouth, please let me know! I’d be so happy to learn.

Out of Breath and Paralyzed

My aunt died of an asthma attack. I wasn’t going to let it be the end of me.

I have had asthma since I was a kid. While others grew out of it, I didn’t. Blame it on genetics, I guess.

I don’t really recall being on maintenance meds for a long time. I did take Seretide everyday until I used up the whole inhaler, but that’s pretty much it. We never saw the need for maintenance meds since I didn’t have it often like every day or every week. But, when an attack comes, it can be very bad.

The first time an asthma attack was almost the end of me was when I was ten. For some reason, I think I pissed my Dad so bad he started yelling at me. With his deep, big voice, I got so scared that I locked myself if the bathroom and cried so hard. Half an hour later, I was having an attack.

They had to unlock the door and get me out. I don’t what else came with the attack but my hands were locked into fists so tightly that even the adults couldn’t pry them open. They put me on the nebulizer and they tried to get my hands to soften and open up. It took so long before the medicine kicked in that they almost had to bring me to the hospital.

My Mom was panicking and I remember being told not to do it to her again. Apparently, she was traumatized already from her eldest sister having asthma. Hers was so bad that Mom always had to rush her to the hospital. Her perspiration already smelled of her asthma medicines and she was so frail. She was so frail that a verbal fight with a foreigner customer in the resort of their aunt caused her to be angry and get an attack. That was her last attack. She didn’t make it to the hospital.

It was then that I understood why my Mom didn’t like dealing with my attacks. She bought me my meds and brought them to me when I get attacks but that’s pretty much it and a scolding to avoid doing what she thought might have been the trigger. Heck, I learned how to operate my nebulizer on my own! There were even times that I would wake up in the middle of the night and have to assemble everything by myself while having an attack.

Night. Most of my attacks come in the middle of the night. And while the attacks have been months and years apart as I grew into adulthood, they were still very bad.

What’s worse than an asthma attack though is one that comes in the middle of a sleep paralysis episode; another sleeping problem I get every now and then.

Last week, I had an asthma attack and wanted to get out of bed to get my inhaler. But, I found myself locked in a sleep paralysis episode. Tried as I might not to panic, the fact that I was having difficulty breathing made me feel like I was going out of my wits. In my mind, I was fighting to fully wake up but my body won’t respond.

The harder it became to breathe, the more I tried to wake up. Still, I remembered Mom’s warning. So, as difficult as it was, I tried not to panic anymore and to remember the drill when having a sleep paralysis episode.

I read somewhere that one cannot really wake him/herself during sleep paralysis and that one must simply wait it out. I guess though that try to focus on body parts one can start moving helps in getting the mind off panic mode. So, I tried moving my eyes, looking from left to right. Then, I tried wiggling my toes.

Eventually I woke up. Then, I woke my Mom up. She got me my inhaler and scolded me for not buying a replacement for the reserve inhaler I kept on my study table beside me bed after it has expired. Gosh, thanks Mom. If only you knew how I panicked a few minutes before thinking I was gonna die in my sleep.

I bought a new inhaler the day after.