Just Tried: John and Yoko Cosmopolitan Japanese, Greenbelt 5

I can always count on gyoza to make my day.

My sister is home over the weekend! The two hours I spent waiting for her at the airport was worth it because I missed her so much! The last time I saw her was back in March, when I went to Hong Kong with my friend, Jana. That is why I was so excited to be seeing my sister again.

She arrived a couple of minutes past midnight last Saturday. After getting some sleep, she wanted to have her nails done at Nail Tropics. She estimated that I would have to wait an hour and a half for her to be done. Having very short nails (damn nailbiting habit!), I felt it too expensive to have my nails done there so I just opted to have my eyebrows threaded at Browhaus.

Unfortunately, my eyebrow threading lasted only 15 minutes and I had nowhere to go in Greenbelt while waiting for her. I opted to have coffee or any cold drink somewhere while waiting. My feet led me to John and Yoko, remembering the big poster they had of their milk tea selection (which had like three options only). Learning that it served Japanese food, I decided to order gyoza with my brown sugar milk tea because I was a little bit hungry from not eating enough at breakfast.

I just loved the interior of the restaurant! It was cute and cozy, appealing to my girly side that loved pink and mint green color combo. The place wasn’t packed unlike the restaurants on the same floor, making it an ideal place for me to wait because I dislike very noisy restaurants. Not that I don’t want people talking inside the restaurant, I just get headaches when exposed to too many sounds all at once.

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My milk tea order came first. I did notice that there were huge chunks of ice in my drink to chill it. I was kind of disappointed because I felt like the presence of ice was going to water down my drink when melted. When I took a sip though, the caramel-like taste of the brown sugar tasted so yummy, though a tad bit too sweet for my liking. I then appreciated the ice knowing it will water down my drink a bit if I leave it alone for a couple of minutes, just enough to lessen the sweetness of the milk tea. Still, that drink was yummy and the boba pearls were cooked just right! John and Yoko’s milk tea is now part of my favorite milk teas list.

It took a while to have my gyoza served. It makes me wonder if they did not have pre-made pot stickers just waiting to be steamed because I doubt gyozas took that long to cook. Anyway, I was excited about it when it was finally served to me.

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I am normally not used to being served gyoza with the fried bottom facing up. There was some good browning, with a spot or too a little darker than the rest. Oh well, the gyoza was still gyoza no matter which side was facing up.

I was not prepared at all to love their gyoza so much! I mean, I am no connoisseur and is yet to learn how to describe food other than delicious, yummy, and tasty. I also have not been to a lot of Japanese restaurants to be able to say I have sampled so many gyozas to know what’s good and what’s not. Still, I loved how John and Yoko’s gyoza tasted! The filling was cooked well and the wrapper was not too thick or too chewy. While I did poke some holes due to my struggling with the chopsticks (lack of sleep makes my hands shaky), the wrapper did not tear that easily once you bite into the gyoza. You see, I already experienced having gyoza wrappers fall apart after a small bite, leaving the remainder of the filling between my chopsticks.

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After almost more than two hours, my sister was finally done with her mani-pedi session. I told her to just meet me in John and Yoko. I ordered her another gyoza set and brown sugar milk tea. We also ordered Samurai All-Meat Pizza. My sister ate five pieces of gyoza, one after the other. I knew she was hungry by that time, but hearing no complaints from her meant the gyoza really was good.

The pizza took the longest to be served. I was surprised how small the size was (the picture made me think of larger serving size), yet equally amazed at the amount of meat on that pizza with a super thin crust. They did not skimp on the meat at all! Just take a look at those big pieces of bacon! Doesn’t the pizza look so yummy!

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There were no uncooked chunks of meat and they were not overly salty. I do not know what cheese they used, but it wasn’t the stretchy, stringy kind. However, it was so creamy and it complimented the Pomodoro sauce and the meat toppings really well. The crust was crispy, but not too hard. The only downside though was that the inner slices were a little tricky to eat because of the weight of the cheese and the meat toppings. The outer slices still had some crust to hold on to while eating, but the middle part was not.

We were stuffed at the end of the meal! I really enjoyed what we ate and I am excited to try their other dishes. Overall, I was more than pleased with John and Yoko’s food and service quality. I will surely be back.

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Just Baked: Double Chocolate Cookies

“There is nothing better than a friend unless it is a friend with chocolate.” ― Linda Grayson

You know what’s better than a chocolate chip cookie? A chocolatey chocolate chip cookie!!!

I still had leftover chocolate chip morsels that I badly wanted to put to use already. I also had a little bit of dutch-processed cocoa powder left. Initially, wanting to bake brownies, I decided I wanted cookies instead. Searching for recipes that involved the two ingredients led me to the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies by Kathy.

What I loved about her recipe was that it asks for a cup of butter. That being said, I did not have to bother cutting my bar of butter up anymore because I hate having to do that. I also liked the fact that it’s almost like making a brownie cookie.

Anyway, her recipe was very easy to follow. Except for adding another teaspoon of vanilla, I did not do any more tweakings to the recipe. Oops, I did use macadamia nuts instead of walnuts.

Guys, the house smelled of brownie heaven! The smell of chocolate was simply divine! It was a miracle I was able to wait for the first batch to cool before trying one cookie out. And, just as expected, the cookie tasted like a brownie that’s a little fudgy in the middle. It was so delicious and not overly sweet!

People at work loved the cookies too. I brought them to work together with the coconut oatmeal cookies and these brownie-like cookies disappeared faster than I expected.

Please do try her recipe out. To make it more aesthetically pleasing, don’t put all the chocolate chips in the dough. Save some to put on top after scooping them onto the baking sheets. That way, you get these little melted chocolate chips on top after the cookies bake. They firm up again once cooled.

 

Just Baked: Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

For I am coconut, and the heart of me is sweeter than you know.” — Nikki Grimes

Technically, I baked these cookies weeks ago. I thought all the while that I’ve written about it already. After getting back from Hong Kong though, I have been busy with work that I forgot I only started writing this post.

This is almost an extension too of my Hong Kong adventures post. You see, the inspiration to make coconut cookies were because of the coconut-flavored egg rolls that I got from Kee Wah Bakery at the Hong Kong International Airport. I was only planning to buy penguin cookies, but a lady asked me to try free samples of the egg roll. She did not have to convince me much because I loved it right then and there.

When I got home, I knew I had to have something with a coconut taste. Therefore, I took it upon myself to find a coconut recipe that I can work with. The problem though, was that I only had desiccated coconuts in my pantry and all the recipes I was finding said to use shredded coconuts. To hell with shredded coconuts, I was going to use my desiccated coconut pack instead.

The recipe I decided to follow was from Food Network for coconut oatmeal cookies. It had five stars with 29 reviews and I think all of them only had praises for this recipe.

I did not do much tweaking except for adding 1 tsp of coconut extract and 1/2 tsp of salt. I thought to myself that cookies without salt will not have that added depth in flavor. Salt actually adds a little bit more oomph in baking. So, in salt went into my dough. I also added half a cup more of desiccated coconuts because they are not as bulky as shredded coconuts. I wanted my batch to yield a lot of cookies.

Guys, the whole house smelled so lovely and coconutty! It smelled like a vacation on a tropical beach, with coconut water for refreshment. It was simply amazing!

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Here’s the deal. Because I did not use shredded coconut, the cookies were a tad bit drier than I would have liked. Still, they were chewy because of the oatmeal. Boy, they were yummy though. They were so yummy that I was actually debating whether to still bring some to work and share them with my colleagues or to just keep them all to myself. Of course, sharing is caring. So, I brought them to work.

The thing with coconuts is that not everyone is a fan of them. Even I took some time to warm up to this drupe. So, while some loved them, there were some who weren’t as fond of them. Despite that, I was still told that the cookies were good.

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Perhaps I will try to find shredded coconut next time. Alternatively, perhaps I can just rehydrate desiccated coconut? I still think shredded coconut is different from grated coconut. Grated coconut is not difficult for me to get, but shredded coconuts? I have a higher chance of finding flaked coconut than finding the shredded version.

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That’s it for now, guys! Hope you try the recipe out too.

2019 Trip to Hong Kong: Where to Eat

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” ― Mark Twain

Hong Kong can be very expensive. You must save up if you want to enjoy the best accommodation and shopping experience. What is equally undeniable though, is that Hong Kong is also an amazing place to let your tastebuds feast and have fun.

Here are some of the places I enjoyed eating in throughout my travels to Hong Kong since 2016.

Tai Hing

Founded in 1989 by Mr. Chan Wing On and Mr. Yuen Chi Ming, Tai Hing has grown to have several branches across Hong Kong. There’s even a Tai Hing at the Arrival Area of Hong Kong International Airport, Terminal 1. It prides itself with its QSC management policy, which I think stands for quality, service, and cleanliness. For more information on Tai Hing and to where their branches are, visit their website here.

This is the restaurant that’s closest to my heart. It was in 2016 when I first tried eating in Tai Hing in its Grand Tower II branch. That was the year my sister was moving to Hong Kong to start her new job as a regional IT auditor. Without a lot of funds at that time, we made sure not to spend too much on eating out. Tai Hing’s food selections are already reasonably priced compared to other restaurants, in my opinion.

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What I love best here is that one does not have to wait too long for food to be served. Despite the speed by which you get your meal, the quality is great and the food is awesome! I also love how smart it maximizes its space. They have tables with drawers that contain the utensils and sugar packets! Check out my IG post below and don’t forget to swipe left.

What I loved:

1. Roast pork rice and barbecue pork rice.

You definitely have to try their roast pork. It has the crispiest skin and the juiciest meat that will make you want for more! The meat was so good that I don’t remember dipping into any condiment to enhance the flavor. Just Google “Tai Hing roast pork” and you will know why this dish is a must-try in Hong Kong.

The veggie was okay. I mean, it’s a straightforward piece of what I assume is a bok choy. The nice thing about it though was that it was not overly cooked. There was still a crunch to it that was nice.

2.  Milk Tea

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Don’t forget to add sugar if you’re not fond of strong tea taste because their milk tea definitely has tea! It’s so unlike the usual milk tea drinks these days that have more sugar and milk than tea. Tai Hing’s milk tea is the real deal!

I liked it hot, surprisingly, but try to have its chilled version. I heard they dip the glass in a bucket of ice rather than putting ice in the drink. That way, the milk tea does not get diluted by melted ice. I was not able to experience ordering the chilled version, but you may try in order to confirm their manner of serving it.

3. Lemon iced tea

Theirs is not the commercial powdered iced tea that’s flavored with lemon. Their lemon iced tea is so refreshing without being too sweet. It goes really well with their rice pork and rice dishes.

4. Luncheon meat and scrambled eggs instant noodle

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It looks like a simple dish. It is! Yet, it tastes highly of home comfort food. The broth was tasty, yet light at the same time. The noodles weren’t mushy and the luncheon meat remained firm.

What I did not like as much:

1. Mandarin orange with honey (drink)

It tasted like paracetamol in syrup form. Think Biogesic or Tempra. It did not live up to my expectation of refreshing orange drink sweetened with honey. I do not know why it was that way or whether it was an isolated case.

2. Preserved cabbage and shredded pork rice vermicelli (noodle soup)

I could not understand the taste of the preserved cabbage. Best not to order this dish if you do not like preserved cabbages.

I am so glad I was able to bring Jana to the same Grand Tower II branch I’ve been to in 2016. However, their breakfast selections are not too varied and are a little bit pricey in my opinion. I hope to be able to bring her there again when it’s past breakfast time.

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Tsui Wah (Hong Kong International Airport)

It started as an Ice cafe in Mong Kok in 1967. It eventually grew to one of the popular chains of restaurants in Hong Kong. It has branches across Hong Kong, a branch in Singapore, and several branches in China. For more information and for the list of their branches, please visit their website.

The first Tsui Wah (and technically the only) branch I have tried was the one in Hong Kong International Airport’s Departure Area. I was trying to prolong my last few moments with my sister at that before going back to Manila. It was my first time at that restaurant as well, and I was not sure what to expect. All I knew was that their place looked fancy and expensive.

It turns out that more or less, their prices are pretty much okay for an airport restaurant. With the rather large servings, I think we got our money’s worth that afternoon.

What I loved:

img_9110Their food selection is varied, I must say. While I normally do not order curry dishes out of the fear of their spices being too much, my sister convinced me to try their Malaysian curry dishes. Oh dear, I did not regret it at all! The curry sauce? It was so flavorful and yummy, with the spices just enough to give heat, but not too much that I would feel my mouth burning. I was so full at the end of our meal!

I was excited to let Jana try their food, so we tried to visit their Portland Street branch in Mong Kok. Just like Tai Hing, they served breakfast until 11:00 am. Even then, as I was looking at the menu, there wasn’t anything that reminded me of the menu from their HKIA branch. It was like looking at a totally different restaurant’s menu because there was nothing familiar to me. I didn’t see any Malaysian curry dish too. I guess the food they serve vary among branches.

The Dining Room (Hysan Place)

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After, visiting Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, we traveled all the way to Causeway Bay to meet up with my sister, Kristine. She told me she’d treat me and Jana to our first dinner in Hong Kong this year.  I was excited to see her as I have not seen her since December.

At the 12th floor of the very beautiful Hysan Place, you can find The Dining Room. This restaurant is a member of the Tansh Global Food Group, along with Shanghai Min and Maison de L’Hui. The Dining Room serves Shanghai-style food and has a strong presence in China. For more details on the Tansh Global Food Group, please click here.

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The restaurant has this vintage clock that the restaurant staff looks at to check if your 90 minutes is up.

There was not a lot of people when we got there, but I noticed a sign that said customers can only stay 90 minutes max. I guess this place gets packed and they have to impose the time limit so that other people can get in. Smart!

The staff was made up of attentive and courteous people during our visit. See that blue bag on the chair? They placed a cover on top of it to prevent it from being ruined by accidental food and drink spills. They provided the cover without being asked (and frankly, I didn’t know they had such thing).

We were given the menu and a slip of paper where we had to check the items that we were ordering. For the most part, Kristine chose for us since she has eaten here in the past. She was telling us how this restaurant served Shanghai-style dishes, which I am not sure I have tried in the past.

What I loved:

1. Braised pork belly with eggs

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Argh! My mouth is already watering at the sight of this dish! This was my favorite out of all that we tried.

The braised pork was so tender and oh so juicy! The pork was coated with this sticky, flavorful sauce that was neither too salty nor too sweet. It was just right. There’s a good amount of fat in these pieces of meat that I loved so much. I don’t eat a lot of pork (especially pork belly), but when I do, I love eating the fatty part, making sure to eat them at the end of the meal. Save the best for last!

The serving size seems small, but it was actually enough for the three of us to have tried it. It paired really well with the rice that I’ll be talking about later.

2. Steamed pork & soup dumplings (xiao long bao)

img_1441I have found a rival for Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao! The buns were neither too thin or too thick. They were sturdy enough to hold the soup inside and not tear easily when you try to lift them with chopsticks. Thankfully, they also did not stick to the paper lining the bamboo steamer basket.

Whatever soup they put inside, I was such a huge fan! If only I could order a bowl of just the soup, I would be very delighted! You see, despite being a clear type of soup, it was not the runny kind that suddenly floods your mouth as soon as you bite into the bun. It flowed gently, coating my tongue and bathing my taste buds with a light, yet flavorful soup. The soup nicely complemented the pork inside, which was cooked just right. The pork was not tough, not mushy, and neither overcooked nor undercooked.

Believe me when I say that one basket with five xiao long bao pieces is not enough for me. I will gladly just eat this dish and be content. That’s how good they were!

3. Fried rice with salted pork and vegetables

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Fried rice and spicy beef brisket pot

Fear not that “salted” part of this dish’s name. The pork was only lightly salted, enough for the rice to make you want to serve yourself some more. The long, thin grains were coated with deliciousness that enhanced the other flavors of the other dishes we tried. That’s because the rice was far from being bland, yet did not compete with the tastes of the other dishes.

That small bowl was enough for the three of us to share. So, if you ordered plenty of meats and dim sum, you do not have to order plenty of rice.

What I loved just a little bit less:

1. The eggs that came with the braised pork belly.

I think they were cooked a little too long. At least that is what I think seeing that gray part between the egg yolk and the egg white. I still liked it, although I wished that the yolks were a little on the softer side. I like my yolks just set and creamy.

2. The spicy beef brisket pot

My sister assured me that it was not as spicy as I was fearing it to be despite its bright red color. I should have known not to trust my sister’s taste buds that have a fondness for spicy foods. Even she admitted later on that the dish was spicier than when she first tried it.

The heat from the spices aside, the beef strips were not too chewy that your jaw will hurt from chewing too much. I truly hate it when the beef is too tough, yet I also do not like beef that’s too rare. I am not sure whether it was due to its being cut into strips, but I liked the texture of the meat.

img_1442The noodles were a little tricky though. I was having a hard time getting them with my chopsticks. I think I need a lot more practice with the ones that tend to slip my chopstick’s grip.

By the way, let me just say that I was so fond of those gold teapots. I mean, I wanted one for myself. The last time I saw golden teapots were in TWG and each pot was priced at Php 25,000 at that time.

Texas Burger (Langham Place)

Move over, stairway to heaven! This is an escalator to heaven!

img_2339When I went to Hong Kong last March, it was my first time to step inside Langham Place. It was so beautiful inside, yet also a little confusing. Despite not being a very wide place, I felt like I was still getting lost inside. I guess I should visit more often to memorize where the stairs and ramps (very useful for those with suitcases) and elevators are.

The highlight, though, was the escalators that transport people from the 8th to the 12th floor without stops in between! Yup, you read that right. You skip three floors to get to either the 8th or the 12th floor, depending on your direction.

Very close to the escalator on the 12th floor was Texas Burger. Having had Asian Food for the last couple of days, it was nice to finally have some American food. Besides, don’t you think those seats look nice? Well, we weren’t able to stay in one of those. Bummer.

Forgot to bring your wipes? No problem! Inside their utensils basket, they provide a pack or two of wipes so you can dig in and eat without worrying about the germs from your hands. I think there’s only one piece per pack though. I need to check the one I brought home as a souvenir.

img_2344Food is a little on the pricier side here. I guess it can be expected seeing how lush Langham Place is. Rent would surely be expensive and therefore, their prices would have to be enough not to drive them out of business. Still, there were affordable items on the menu like the ones we got.1.

They had a lot of items on their menu, but we weren’t looking to eat so much for dinner after our Ocean Park trip anyway. So, we decided to go for the lighter items on the menu, despite how yummy their burgers looked.

What we got:

1. Pulled Pork Soft Taco

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Taco Bell lover Jana did not surprise me when she ordered soft taco for HKD48. She chose the pulled pork variant that had some creamy sauce, tomatoes, and guacamole. Even I, who dislikes guacamole, liked the filling of her soft taco when she placed a teaspoonful on my plate.

Also, look at how cute it looked! I love the wooden taco holder that they used to serve it to the customer. So adorable!

2. Garlic and Parmesan Fries

2807924461460609761_img_2497At HKD 58, I was only expecting fried with garlic and parmesan flavored powder. Boy, I was so wrong. The fries came with real garlic and parmesan cheese!

Although not as photogenic as the soft taco of Jana, I can say that it’s still a good deal. The potatoes weren’t sliced too thinly, yet they did not have a weird texture in the middle. They were cooked perfectly! So, if you love garlic and parmesan together, go for this!

Note: I did not like the dip that came with it though. I would have liked plain ketchup instead.

3. Buffalo Wings Lollipop

-4844908024803562769_img_2504Five chicken lollipops for HKD 68? Yes, please!

The outer layer of the chicken was crispy and the meat was juicy! The chicken pieces were well seasoned were not too salty that you’d be reaching out for your drink a lot to cleanse your palate. And how do I know a chicken is good? If I don’t use the dipping to enhance the flavor. These pieces were so good on their own!

We were already full from the tacos and the fries so we had some leftover chicken that we had to take out and bring to the hotel.

Made in HK (Langham Place)

Before leaving for Manila, we had lunch with Kristine at Made in HK in Langham Place. This restaurant opens at exactly 12nn, so do not be too early like we were. Haha.

Made in HK is a brand under the Cafe Deco Group. Its dishes are mainly Western with a touch of Hong Kong’s style. Aside from Langham Place, it has another branch in Millenium City in Kwun Tong.

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The restaurant staff was really nice, despite our inability to communicate well with one of them because neither Jana and I knew how to speak Cantonese. I guess, next time, I will rent one of those translator devices at the airport.

What we ordered:

We all ordered from their set lunch menu because it came with the starters (soup or salad), main course, sides (rice, pasta, or fries), drinks (coffee/tea with upgrade options) and desserts already. There’s no option for the dessert because what they serve varies daily.

Jana and I got slow-cooked pork ribs. She got the black pepper sauce while I got the red wine sauce. Kristine got a pork chop dish with black pepper sauce too. For drinks, we ordered iced lemon tea. Our meals were indulgent!

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My mushroom soup was on the runny side, unlike the thick and creamy version that I prefer. Seeing how big my meal was though, I was glad we soup was not thick and heavy. I needed all the room for that luscious and sinfully good pork ribs!

The red wine sauce paired really well with the ribs. I was worried it was going to taste weird, but I wanted to be adventurous on my last lunch in Hong Kong that day. Their tastes married well and neither overpowered the other. I also loved that the ribs were not tough to separate from the bones. The slow cooking worked its wonders well because I had juicy meat that I did not have to wrestle with before I could eat.

As for the dessert? Oh, wow! It was a refreshing contrast to the heavy lunch that we had! It was light and creamy, with matcha cutting through and really shining. And when we bit into the blueberry? Woah! There was a burst of tart freshness that I absolutely loved.

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Pacific Coffee

From its inception in 1992, Pacific Coffee has been providing great coffee experience to its customers. Forget Starbucks during your stay in Hong Kong and head over to Pacific Coffee to try their Espresso Chillino.

I personally loved their Rocky Road Rumba Chillino while Jana enjoyed her Iced Cafe Mocha. We could really taste the coffee in our drinks, unlike other coffee brands that serve drinks that tasted more of milk and sugar than the coffee.

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The company is also trying to be more eco-friendly by not offering plastic straws right away. You have to make a special request to get them. I hope they are also moving towards more eco-friendly cups for their drinks.

Whew! What a long post! I hope you try out the places I have listed for you. Make the best out of your HK experience!

For more posts about my adventures in Hong Kong, please click here.

Just Baked: Chocolate Swirl Buns

“When you select the right kind of chocolate it is like giving your insides a hug. Everyone needs a chocolate hug.” — Jean Kelsey 

After two weeks of feeling ill during the second half of February, I felt the need to make some bread. I wanted the therapy I get from working with dough and needed the comfort of a house that smelled heavenly from bread in the oven.

I wanted something easy like a cinnamon roll, but I did not want cinnamon this time. I was torn between wanting a sweet bread or savory bread. To be honest, I was leaning towards making a cheesy garlic bread. However, having no food processor in my kitchen and having an aversion to handling real garlic (I hate the smell it leaves on the hands), I decided to use my last Beryl’s Dark Compound Chocolate bar.

For the recipe, I was initially looking at recipes for babka. However, it involved too many steps and too much time to get the dough ready. I wanted something quick and easy for an impatient amateur like me. My search led me to Donal Skehan’s recipe.

52932105_828408607498314_5062651940920360960_nThe dough was easy to make and to handle. For the first time, I did not use my hand mixer and its dough hook attachments! Instead, I used my hands to knead for about ten minutes or more. It felt like a workout but it was so satisfying to knead the dough. It was like working with slime or clay.

The more tiring part of this bread making activity is chopping the dark compound chocolate bar. I need to invest in bigger and sharper knives. Anyway, I made sure to leave some big chunks of chocolate because I was worried they’d melt too quickly and burn of I chopped too finely.

IMG_0932Donal’s recipe was a pretty simple recipe that is easy to follow and difficult to mess up. Honestly, the only things that worried me in this recipe were the use of dark chocolate and my lack of ground cardamom.

You see, I like my chocolate more milky than dark. I like white chocolate best of all. Dark chocolate never appealed to me despite being closer to what real chocolate is.

I also do not like cardamom. However, Donal emphasized the difference it will make in the dough. Thankfully, I did not have ground cardamom on hand so I had valid excuse to skip it. I would like to try adding some in the future though. That is, if I can find ground cardamom in my country because even the ones not in powder form is already tough to find (hooray to another excuse for me to skip it!).

I badly need practice on twisting dough. No matter how hard I tried, I could not replicate Donal’s technique of twisting the dough. I did my best though. Holy cow, that rhymed!

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The breads puffed up more in the oven. The house smelled so good while the butter, sugar and chocolate flavors were marrying.

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Despite not looking perfect, I was so proud of myself! The buns were great when eaten a few minutes after being taken out of the oven. Surprisingly, the chocolate was not bitter. I was so afraid to try it and not like it because of the dark chocolate. I was wrong. I loved it so much!

I hope you give Donal’s recipe a try. Until then, I hope you stick around and support me as I try more recipes in the future.

 

 

 

Just Baked: Triple Chip Cookies

I may have hoarded a lot of baking ingredients in the last couple of months that I find myself wondering how I could use up all of them. Among the things I bought so much of are morsels in white chocolate, butterscotch and semi-sweet chocolate variants.

I was in the same situation last Christmas when I was thinking of what to gift to my colleagues. I was too lazy to look for three different recipes that will use up those morsels. I found my perfect solution when I found the Triple Chip Cookies recipe from Shugary Sweets. You may go to her website for the complete recipe. However, stay tuned here for the little tweaks that I made to her original recipe.

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The one thing I love about this recipe is that it calls for melted butter. That being said, I need not worry about getting my butter from the freezer (that’s how I like to keep my butter) very early for it to come to room temperature by the time I am ready to bake. It cuts my waiting time by 90% and that is a plus for me.

While hers called for only a cup and a quarter of melted butter, I opted to use a cup and a third. I figured that with four and a quarter cups of flour, a little extra butter will help keep the cookies from being crumbly. I also decided to brown the butter a bit for that extra nutty flavor that ups the cookie game by another level.

I also added a quarter teaspoon more salt making my salt a total of three quarters of a teaspoon. I always like a hint of saltiness in my cookies to cut through the sweetness of the sugars and the chocolate chips. I only had table salt available but I am sure using sea salt would have been even better.

I followed the rest of the ingredients as written in the Shugary Sweets site. My only problem was that my white chocolate and my butterscotch morsels were too tiny compared to my semi-sweet chocolate chips. Hence, a cup and a quarter of these morsels seemed too plenty because they took up very little space. Oh well, maybe I can try to find morsels sized evenly next time.

My common problem with any cookies that have chips or morsels in them is that the dough covers them a lot while baking and there’s not much trace of them on the top. That is why, unlike my attempt like Christmas season, I made it a point this time to save some chips/morsels to decorate the tops of my cookies. After scooping them on the tray lined with parchment paper, I stuck a few more chips on the cookie dough so they will show up after the cookies bake.

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Using a small scoop (4mm), I ended up with six dozens and three pieces of cookies! The did not spread so much and because of the baking powder, they rose up a little bit. I think the size of the morsels affected the yield of the cookies.

Anyway, I liked these cookies a lot. The nutty taste of the browned butter made the cookies even more yummy! Admittedly, they were a tiny bit too sweet for me though so, I think I’ll adjust the amount of chips/morsels next time. I might go for more semi-sweet chocolate chips and lessen the amount of the white chocolate and butterscotch versions.

I was able to fit a dozen cookies in a 5″ x 6¾” x 2″ box. It’s perfect for gifting for special occasions! All it needs is a ribbon (or two) and a tag!

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Just Tried: Ooma (Bold New Japanese)

Youthfulness is about how you live not when you were born.” ― Karl Lagerfeld

The celebration did not stop on my birthday! After my two-day leave from work, I went back on the exact day we were going to get our pay. We also scheduled on that day our monthly team dinner/bonding.

This month, we went to Ooma, a restaurant that offers bold takes on your favorite Japanese dishes. I was excited to try out their food because I have a fondness for Japanese food even though I am not yet bold enough to try those that involved raw fish. What made me even more excited was the colorful menu of the restaurant with pictures that tempts you to try everything listed in it. Just look at its menu from its Facebook page. It’s lit!!!

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A page from their menu in their Facebook page.

For starters, we got the Crowd Favorites plate that has a mix of their aburi options. I regret that I only tried the Steak Aburi Maki because I was trying to keep my carb intake low. I made a good choice because that Steak Aburi Maki was so delicious! The meat was flavorful and tender. The truffle oil probably masked the taste of the onions and leeks because I normally dislike food with strong onion flavor. That is why, despite my attempts at staying away from carbs, I ate four pieces of it. Technically, that’s one piece each from the three Crowd Favorites and one Aburi Mixer plates that we ordered!

We also ordered their Hanger Steak that features sous-vide hanging tender accompanied by sautéed mushrooms and crispy baby potato chips. You should have seen those little chips because they were so adorable! The steak, mushrooms and chips laid on a bed of smooth and creamy sweet potato mash that melts in your mouth! The dish had a combination of white truffle oil, herb oil, and Ponzu butter. The Ponzu butter must be the reason for the slight tang that cuts through the sweetness of the mash, giving you an assortment of flavors all in one dish.

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We Filipinos love our rice so we ordered a few bowls of their House Chanan. This is Japanese fried rice with egg and mixed vegetables. I didn’t try it anymore because I was telling myself that I already ate enough rice from the aburi maki pieces I ate. However, considering that we ordered five bowls and only one and a half bowl was left untouched at the end of our meal (we went crazy on the carbs that night), it must have been pretty good!

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Ooma’s Ebi Tempura. Photo obtained from their Facebook page.

It’s sad to eat rice and just steak so we also ordered two plates of their Ebi Tempura (7 pieces each). Normally, ebi tempura would be big because of the batter coating that expanded during frying. That was not the case with Ooma’s. Of course theirs had crispy breading too, but they used large pieces of shrimp that were cooked just right; not tough and gummy. The light sauce that came with it was good enough to add flavor to the shrimp but you simply must try that Aligue Mayo (crab fat mayo) dressing that came with it! It also had Wasabi Aioli dressing that I did not try because I am not fond of wasabi for some reason.

Craving for something warm, I also ordered their Miso Soup. I was not disappointed at all because it was perfectly warm and so comforting that I could not stop going at it! The soup was flavorful but light on the tongue at the same time. The tofu was not hard nor mushy. It was at the perfect texture that I loved so much. It was hard to explain the flavors of this soup but if it there was a serving size that’s good for sharing, I bet I will go fo seconds or thirds.IMG_0659

One way to know that a place is often frequented by diners is when they do not accept table bookings/reservations. With Ooma, the waiting lines can be long at times so it’s best to go early. We were lucky because it did not take long for us to be seated when we went there. A few minutes after we got seated though, a queue was already forming outside for dinner time.

The service in Ooma is excellent as well. We didn’t have to wait long for our food to be served. Despite the speed and the number of orders from an always-packed-restaurant, I can see that they don’t compromise the quality of the dishes and they take time making sure the food’s presentation is on point as well. The servers were quick on their feet to attend to our additional orders and requests.

Just when I thought that dinner was going to be over soon and billing out was the next thing to do, one of their staff suddenly cried out something to the likes of “You know what’s today?” I was surprised because it sounded like something was happening behind me. I thought they were about to break into a cheer or something as part of their usual routine. I was surprised when it was followed by, “It’s Mia’s birthday!” and their staff and my teammates started singing happy birthday to me (they call me Mia at work). On top of that, the restaurant allowed my team to sneak in a cake from Purple Oven for me. They also allowed us to eat the cake in their place, giving us fresh new plates and utensils.

You see, whenever I eat out and I hear people from other table request restaurant staff to sing happy birthday to one of their companions in the table, I normally cringe. For me, I would find it extremely awkward for friends or family to request strangers to sing for me the birthday song. No judgment. I just know I would feel awkward if it were me.

This time, I realized that when it’s a surprise, it can be quite touching. With Ooma, to join in on my team’s surprise for me made me feel like I was not only a paying customer, but someone worth the effort of planning a surprise for. One of my teammates, MC, picked up the cake on the way to the restaurant (he didn’t go with us because he was still in a call when we left) and gave it to the staff. However, none of them knew how the staff was going to pull off giving me the cake before we left. Technically, all of us were surprised as well!

To Roxan (our team leader), Karen, Cess, Mitzi, Ced, Gid, and MC, thank you so much for being awesome teammates! Cess, I hope you were with us to celebrate but I’ll be seeing you next week so I look forward to our own girly bonding. Thanks also to Stephen (newest member of the team) and Deanne (one our department’s team leaders) for joining us! It was indeed a happy birthday week.

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Just Baked: Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

“Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven is a friend for life.” ― Lemony Snicket, When Did You See Her Last?

I am forever in love with the smell of cinnamon and sugar whether they be on my pretzels or on my snickerdoodles. Still, nothing beats warm, fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls that fill the house with a heavenly scent.

With humidity at only 58%, I decided it was time to once again attempt making cinnamon rolls. I had all the ingredients at home to make this treat and it was my chance to use my pastry mat from Hong Kong.

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My first attempt a few months ago was a disaster because no matter how long I kneaded the dough and how much additional flour I put in, the dough was too bloody sticky and soft that I was not able to do anything about it except to just make a cinnamon loaf bread. Hey, it was still so yummy despite being in a different form! Too bad I forgot the recipe I used at that time.

For my second attempt, I followed the recipe of Anna Olson from her Oh Yum YouTube channel. Her recipe looked easy to make for an amateur like me. My only problem was I only had a hand mixer. I figured that if I was able to make Hokkaido milk bread using it, I should be able to make cinnamon rolls with it too.

Oh dear. The dough was still just as sticky as the last time I made it. I think I consumed 60 minutes kneading the dough, alternating between my hand mixer and my own hands.  I also added what seemed like 1/4 cup of flour because everything was freaking sticky! I do not know if it was my flour or if I was simply unlucky because I could not achieve the smooth, baby’s bum texture of dough like I see bakers on YouTube get.

68165312_unknownWhen I finally decided to give up with kneading because my arms were needing some rest already, I placed my dough in a lightly oiled bowl and covered it to let it rise. I left it alone for 90 minutes while I prepared the cinnamon sugar filling and the goo.

The goo! Oooh, it smelled wonderfully of butter, sugar and maple syrup! I added walnuts and raisins in the pan with my gooey syrup mixture because I am fond of cinnamon rolls with fruits and nuts. They give the buns some texture that I absolutely love. That being said, I do not get why A LOT of people hate raisins.

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I enjoyed beating this bad boy.

My favorite part about making bread is that I get to punch the dough as part of the degassing step. Boy, it’s therapeutic when I get to punch it and shout “Bam!” With this dough, I especially wanted to beat the gas out of it because it gave me a hell of a hard time kneading it. Thankfully, it was no longer too tacky after proofing.

Rolling out the dough into a rectangle shape so I can spread the filling was not as difficult as I was prepared for. The best part? I was able to roll the whole thing into a log! I was getting more and more excited because at this stage, I was far better from how it was during my first attempt. This looked promising!

Using a cooking twine, I sliced twelve pieces that were of uneven sizes. Yeah, I still have to improve a lot on that part. At least the twine made sure I didn’t squish my buns unlike if I used a knife. I have to thank Mom for the twine because there was no way I was using mint-flavored floss on my hard work.

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I let the buns proof for another hour before finally baking them for 45 minutes at 350ºF. Oh my gosh! They look adorable sitting on that puddle of goo!

Oh my gosh! Achievement unlocked! I did it! I made my very own cinnamon rolls and I did not use store-bought dough.

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Okay, happiness aside, I admit finding the amount of goo too much for the buns. I would probably use just half the recipe next time because I am not fond of overly sticky and soggy cinnamon rolls. After flipping the buns out, I poured around 3/4 cups of excess goo in a jar to keep and use for something else. I think it would be nice to pour on pancakes.

I also find that the buns browned a little darker than what I was aiming for. I was afraid the bottom half weren’t baked yet despite the tops already browning so, I held on to the last 5 minutes of the baking time. Perhaps lower temperature and longer baking time on my next attempt?

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I am so proud of myself today despite the uneven sizes of the buns and the excess goo. It’s okay to have a lot of room for improvement because it only means more adventures in my kitchen. On my next attempts, I want a tighter roll, more filling, less goo and finally, even slices.

For now, I shall be enjoying this gooey, sticky fruit of my hard work.

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Just Tried: Snails!

It’s been a while! My golly! I haven’t written anything for weeks. I feel so bad for neglecting this baby (my blog). I have so much catching up to do when it comes to writing.

The past few months have been like a rollercoaster, especially at work. Year-end is always crazy in any office, I think. November and December workload felt like giant waves slamming against the huge rocks of Laswitan in Surigao! I had to give up yoga because I needed all the extra time I could get to meet deadlines. We’re down to the last three weeks and everything shall be over after Q4 sign-off.

While I have mostly stayed at home these past few weeks, I still had some mini adventures from time to time. There was also a lot of eating (more like pigging) out lately that’s why I gained a few pounds lately. My clothes are now tighter than when I first bought them. Oh dear, I need to go back to yoga and lose weight!

Before my uncle, Greg, went to the US to be with his family for the holidays, he invited me and Mom to have dinner out. I initially suggested going for Italian food at Mamma Mia in Uptown Mall in Bonifacio Global City, but Uncle Greg went looking around while waiting for us. He then discovered El Corazon, the Spanish and Filipino fusion restaurant where I brought Mom to for Mother’s Day. So, back to El Corazon Mom and I went.

We ordered the same Paella Valenciana that we did last time. We highly recommended it to Uncle Greg because we really loved it back in May. With it, we ordered Seville (shrimp gambas sautéed in olive oil and garlic, served with a basket of Pan de Saland what my uncle went there for, Caracoles (escargot in coconut milk).

I have never tried snails my whole life so that night proved to be an adventure for my taste buds. Armed with a wooden skewer to poke and take out the flesh inside the shells, I started going through this appetizer with Uncle Greg while he shared stories of how his Japanese guests loved eating the snails from a different restaurant. Mom didn’t want to try and could not be coaxed to try them at all so uncle and I helped ourselves to the plate of kuhol. None for her meant more for us!

I honestly and truly loved them! The meat from these snails reminded me of the meat from tahong (Asian green mussels) because they somehow have similar texture in the mouth. They weren’t mushy nor were they gummy. They weren’t the melt-in-your-mouth type, but they had this perfect amount of chewiness. Paired with creamy coconut milk sauce, my taste buds were having a party eating the escargot! I wanted to get a second order!

And the gambas? So delicious! The shrimps were cook just right, not gummy at all. There was just the right amount of olive oil to spread on the bread that came with the appetizer so the shrimps were not swimming in oil. However, I still love the gambas from Lorenzo’s Way better. I can’t figure out why but it has something to do with the garlic. Nevertheless, the dish was enjoyable.

Meals are best eaten over awesome conversation. Uncle Greg never runs out of amazing topics to talk about. That night, he shared with us his experience reading the book, Ikigai, and how fascinated he was over this Japanese secret to a long, happy life. This led us to a discussion on the corporate culture in Japan to their education system to their values and discipline that I almost booked a trip to Japan right there.

For dessert, we went to the Hello Kitty Café where we ordered L’Opera cake, Kahlua Cream Cheese Torte, Strawberry Peanut Butter Frappe, and Cappuccino (dear Italians, please don’t get mad).

At the café, our uncle finally got to talk to my sister’s Korean boyfriend over video call. It was so funny because we were in one video call with my sister while the boyfriend was in a separate video call. So many gadgets were involved and thanks to technology, I think the boyfriend passed level one of my uncle’s “interrogation.” I wonder how many more levels there are to go.

Back to dessert, the L’Opera cake was great! It wasn’t too sweet, the cake was tender but not mushy, and the chocolate was rich but not too milky. The cream cheese torte, was also delicious but after a few bites, my taste buds did not want to have any more of it. That being said, I think four people can enjoy that small cake. The frappe was refreshing and did not taste of artificial flavoring. I sure hope I am right in assuming that they used fresh strawberries for it.

I cannot wait for my next food adventure with Uncle Greg. He’s currently enjoying being with his family in the US, especially his grandson, Ell. I hope to meet that kid one day because I live for his mom’s IG posts about him! He loves food like his grandpa and so I look forward to future food adventures they’ll have together.

Just Tried: i Darts DASH

“It’s a form of mental and verbal gymnastics, and one of the things that appeals to me most about commenting on darts is that no one knows exactly what I’m going to come out with next – and neither do I.” -Sid Waddell

Feels like I haven’t written for ages! I neglected my blog for a couple of weeks already and must get back on the habit of writing. Also, I can see that I have much catching up to do in terms of reading the posts of people I follow. I will try to go through their posts as soon as I get this post up. I am excited for what I will be reading about!

I have to admit that the last few weeks were tough on me. I was not sleeping very well. When I did find myself sleeping, I was plagued with dreams of people trying to kill me and, at one time, of a narcotics junkie I was trying to kill. I was going through my day feeling like a zombie, a tad irritable, and heavily demotivated. It was so bad that I even stopped going to my yoga classes.

The culprit? I think it was the birth control pills I was taking to regulate my period. My hormones went craaaaaazy! Damn you, PCOS, for having to put me through all of this!

Anyway, before I almost hit rock bottom, my very awesome friends came to the rescue (but, to be honest, they didn’t know what I was going through that time) by planning a night out at i Darts DASH in Bonifacio Global City (BGC). It’s the first electronic darts bar in the Philippines that is a franchise of the internationally known i Darts. Already present in different places like Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Mexico and Singapore, I am delighted that it’s already in my country too.

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For an easier time finding this place, just look for the Uniqlo store at 7th Ave. cor 30th Street. Yup, just go inside the Uniqlo store and use the escalator to go up to the top most level/floor.

IMG_9556Inside, it kinda felt like a fusion of a pub and an arcade, except that you can only play darts. I wasn’t able to count how many machines there were but they were enough for a lot of people to have a hell of a good time.

Each machine can allow four players and there are different types of games that you can play. Each game will cost one credit per player. Only one reloadable card is needed for all four players to play.

Ten credits cost Php 300 while 25 credits cost Php 600. That is quite a steal already because each game will usually be around 8 rounds per player, throwing 3 darts per round. Believe me, you will not want to use up all the 25 credits because you’ll be exhausted already midway.

We played three different games. The first one aimed to reach the highest score. The second one aimed to be the first to reach zero from 501. The third one, my favorite, was a group effort game where you have to kill zombies by scoring high.

I tremendously enjoyed the zombie game because there were side challenges apart from simply killing off the ugly zombies. When we managed finishing the entire game, one of the instructors told us that most groups only lasted midway. Our group even kept getting additional lives! Hurray!!!

So, what are my thoughts about darts? It was my first time to play and I only hit one bull’s eye the whole night. Also, I had no idea what exactly to do so I just kept throwing and throwing, hoping to hit spots that will give me high points. I think it’s more of a muscle memory thing where you know already which height, angle, and level of force will make you hit your target spots.

Did I have fun? Hell, yeah! Actually, I think not knowing where my darts will land was part of the fun. Plus, the zombie game got us cheering for one another and feeling proud when we gain yet another extra life. This will make a fun team building activity, to be honest.

Enough about the game. Let’s talk about the food!

Please don’t expect set meals here. The food are basically snack foods, most of which are awesome to have with alcoholic drinks. They’re kinda pricey, to be honest, but tasted really good.

img_9562Our first orders were the naked nachos (with chili beef) and the chicken karaage.

The chicken karaage’s serving was like, pfffft, but they were so yummy! The chicken was tender and the dips (barbeque and honey mustard) went really well with whatever breading/coating they put on the chicken. I just wish it came in a bigger serving size for its price.

The naked nachos, on the other hand, put my favorite Nacho King to shame. The chili beef was not that spicy (which I love!!!). I could taste a bit of cumin (which I hate!!!) but the amount they put in was not enough to offend my taste buds completely. I suggest digging for the nachos at the bottom first because they have no cheese or toppings, whatsoever.

We also ordered margherita pizza but we were not able to take a picture because we devoured it right away. Enough to serve three people, the pizza crust was not too thin, but not too thick either. I do not know what kind of magic they put on the tomato sauce, cheese and basil (the only ingredients of the pizza) but I loved the pizza very much.

To go with the tower of draft beer that we ordered, we chose to have the street food platter. We fondly called it the “high-street food platter” because of the price and because of the proximity of Bonifacio High Street to where we were.

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I loved everything except for squid balls. There was simply something off that night and it wasn’t sitting well with me. I went for the kikiam though because that’s my favorite street food. We had two orders of this platter.

My most favorite of all, however, was the lemon pepper chicken skin. We ordered 2 sets again because of the serving size. My golly, it was sooooooooooo good! The chicken skin was so crispy and the amount of pepper used was perfect. And the lemon taste? Heavenly!

Oh, diet, forgive me for forgetting about you again. I just hope my cholesterol levels won’t be shooting way beyond normal because of all the food we had.

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Thank God the food was awesome because the mild draft beer tower we ordered didn’t meet my expectations. It was so mild that it tasted like beer-flavored soda. We weren’t looking to get drunk that night but Php 1,600 felt too expensive for the kind of beer tower we got. I wish we spent on other drinks instead.

The staff at i Darts DASH were courteous and accommodating. We found it amusing that they were obsessing over making sure our draft beer tower had lights and even they even got fresh batteries to use. They were also patient when they taught us how to play darts and they were also cheering us on when we manage to score high.

The best part of this night was spending time with my friends and former colleagues. I miss them so much even though I do not miss my previous work. Two of us already left for new jobs. I just hope that no matter where life brings us, we will always manage to make time to have as much fun as we did on this day.

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