Archive for June, 2011

Red Velvet

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

I must have been away from the States for a long time. The first time I heard of red velvet cake was about a month ago during Mother’s Day when I saw it for the first time in Cheesecake Factory. Apparently, it has been around “for a while” now. Talk about being out-of-touch! So, of course, we decide to do research and find the recipe for it.

My mom needed to bring dessert for her office’s 4th of July party, so we offered to do it from scratch. I was surprised to learn that it is actually just simple chocolate cake with red food coloring. Interesting! It turned out just like regular cake, but with the icing on top, it was simply ‘delish’ (a term I learned recently — also being used “for a while” now, apparently).

icing topping

We made exactly 24 cupcakes for the party but had leftover batter for ourselves, so we made mini-cupcakes. I think the white toppings look so cute! These are, for lack of a better word, also very delish.

mini cupcakes

Aiden’s Birthday

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Another nephew, another birthday. This time, it’s Aiden’s turn! So, the night before, his mother took great pains to bake and decorate his cake. It’s a chocolate cake with “sturdy white frosting” that we made from scratch (courtesy of allrecipes). We were overjoyed to find that it tasted just right! She added blue food coloring to make it look festive.

cake icing

We took many pictures of the cake by itself — front, center, back — because we were so proud of this creation. In the end, it is really about the kid and his birthday. He woke up that morning telling everyone, “I’m Five!” He even whispered to me, “I’m getting close to Eight and catching up to Ahiya Nathan!”

more icing

Because she was going for the race car theme, she decorated the surface with these swirlies which, I assume, are like tire tracks. On top of the cake were four race cars (not just one – there are four boys, after all). The Veggie Tales candle shaped into number 5 is courtesy of Aiden’s Koko!

I'm Five!

I think it’s smart to divide up all the toys into three (or in this case, four) to train these boys not to think only of themselves, even on their birthday. They are learning to share and share alike. Of course, this also means that the parents have to be vigilant about being fair in all things as much as possible, which is not always easy (believe me!).

share the toy cars

As always, Algee came to the house and brought little Trinity. We were supposed to have chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream (made from scratch, of course), but there was a special request for crepe. So, we had that for dessert instead, along with the chocolate cake. Desserts galore, indeed!

Happy Birthday, Aiden!

Before the dessert, however, we went out for a family dinner. The reason I am putting this last is the significance of the event. We decided to try out a new restaurant which will most likely replace the family “favorite” — Tian Tian. It is a newer, more spacious restaurant called The Golden Soup. The owner is actually the same person who managed Tian Tian, so the food is basically the same. It looks like we’ve finally found a new “favorite.”

New Tian Tian

Pondahan

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Nancy and Marilen

It’s that time again when my ‘peeps’ and I get together for a time of ‘chikahan.’ We’ve been doing this since we were in high school. Whether it’s in someone’s home watching a Tagalog movie in the VHS or TFC, getting together at a nearby mall, celebrating each other’s birthday in a nice restaurant (like this time), we always manage to chatter away (meaning of ‘chikahan’) throughout the meal. We were talking about the wonders of technology and amazed at where our childhood has gone. Gone are the days of cassette tapes, letter-writing, and good old-fashioned family values that we grew up with in high school … this present fast-paced society of Twitter, FB, and Lady Gaga is the new reality of the next generation. I told them that our friendship is like an anchor of what it used to be like for us. We promised to meet again in another month before I leave for Oklahoma as I head into another transition period in my life. This is what friendship is all about …

Happy Father’s Day

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Wens and I stayed up until 2 a.m. the night before to do lunch and dinner preparations for Father’s Day. It was relaxing and enjoyable, mostly done for ourselves than for everyone else, I believe. On the menu were homemade hamburger buns, turkey burger, and french fries. For dinner, we marinated lamb chops, made fresh noodles from scratch, and prepared shrimp and Filipino-style bitter melon. We even had martinelli in plastic wine glasses for extra measure! What a special dinner!

homemade dinner

For me, the highlight was dessert — Angel Food Cake. It was amazing to watch egg whites and powdered sugar foam up in the mixer. It was a spongy, yummy delight! And of course, we had crepes for extra dessert. All homemade, what else?

heavenly angel food cake

Algee brought their little one to add to the brood. It was Alvin’s first Father’s Day, which made it extra special. My dad and I carried the two little ones and just happened to take this picture amidst all the others being taken — a good memento for this year’s Father’s Day for me!

me and my dad

Family Reunion

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

It always comes as a surprise, but yes, Ama is here! So, as we always do, we get together to welcome her back. This time, though, it felt sadly different. When she saw me, she did not have the usual glint in her eye and the follow-up question, “do you have a boyfriend yet?” Instead, she didn’t seem to recognize me. Moreover, I heard that she doesn’t wear her hearing aid anymore, so she could not hear very well. Nonetheless, we had our dinner in her honor and tried to include her in our conversations that evening.

Ama is here

Not everyone could make it that night, but it was really good to see John and Penny. They could not bring Justin and Kate along because they already had other plans. Always nice to see cousins I haven’t seen in a long time.

John and Penny

I think my Grandma is 95 years old this year. Would that I inherit her longevity and fighting spirit. What a woman (and still very elegant)!

me and Ama

It’s Summer Vacation!

Friday, June 17th, 2011

This is a get-together we’d been planning for many weeks. We’d just been waiting for the end of school and the beginning of summer vacation when Harry could watch the kids so Julie and I can go out. Since I saw them last summer, I was just delighted to see how the kids have grown! They are affectionate little ones and they are positively adorable.

happy family

There is no denying that these kids are spitting images of their parents. What a good-looking family! Beyond the good looks is the welcome I received the minute I walked into their home. I was immediately enfolded in the family’s warmth. That is always a special feeling!

girl power

Julie and I had lunch at CPK and shopped around the outdoor mall. It was fun to window shop, chatter on, try on dresses, and eventually purchase one that is just the right fit. Nothing like some girl time to make one feel more feminine. It did not hurt to feel pretty trying on nice dresses, either!

What is a Trowel?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

A trowel is what you use to thin out the crepe batter on the griddle. Ours was made of maple wood — really nice and delicate. It was what we were waiting for in the mail, and it finally arrived! That very night, we made the batter so we can have crepe. Yum! The tricky part is knowing how to actually use it. We did our best but I think we need practice. If it means eating more crepe, that’s no problem at all!

crepe batter trowel spreader

For dinner, we turned our pasta into an Asian creation and made chicken noodle with veggies for the more Asian palate. It did not disappoint. We put it in the same casserole dish as the Italian pasta. We’re getting really good at this, including aesthetic presentation! Well done, Wens!

chicken noodle with vegetables

Italian Pasta

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

pasta from scratch

I lost no time in getting this done after the experiment yesterday. Everything was from scratch, from the pasta to the sauce. The pasta was from dough that I rolled and shredded into linguini noodles. The sauce had red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and all kinds of yummy spices. I sprinkled the shredded sharp cheddar cheese on top for good measure before baking the casserole until the cheese melted. This is a recipe I’ve done for many years and it has never failed to please. Making it was so much fun because we had fresh ingredients, cool gadgets, and an aesthetically pleasing casserole dish as a container. In fact, the whole process only took me two hours … most enjoyable cooking experience to date!

Wahib’s

Monday, June 13th, 2011

The last time I had a kebab was in Greece. I ordered a lamb skewer tonight at this place called Wahib’s down the street, and it was just enough for me. It was nice to have mediterranean food again, though I must admit that I was more focused on my conversation with Myrna. We first met 15 years ago when she was my mentor teacher during my first year as a high school teacher and we’ve kept in touch since. We’d get together at least once a year. But tonight, neither of us remembers the last time we saw each other. It didn’t matter really … we picked up where we left off, just like good friends should. So refreshing to the soul.

She’s usually camera-shy, so I was lucky tonight that she allowed me to get this shot of her as long as I promised not to show her the picture. I don’t know why since I think she looked just fine!

Myrna

What would be a day like without trying out something new in the kitchen? Today, it was to make our own pasta. I was surprised to learn that pasta is basically flour and eggs mixed together. So, we put these two ingredients together in a ball, and after pressing them flat, we slid them through the pasta roller.

pasta roller

There were 8 different levels of thinness and we got to level 5 before we decided it was thin enough for our taste. It was fascinating (and exciting) to use our new kitchen gadget. It took a couple of tries, but when we finally got it right, we knew we had a winner.

finely pressed

By the time we took out the linguini maker, we were already hungry for pasta. The machine shredded the pasta into noodles. It was great! We were so excited that we took lots of pictures (not me, though, since I was the one shredding).

like a shredder

It looked and smelled fresh. After we boiled it, it definitely tasted like fresh pasta! Yum!

fresh pasta!

However, we thought it looked more like Chinese noodles than Italian pasta, so we decided to use it to make Chinese chicken noodle soup instead. Maybe next time, we can do Italian.

LA Livin’

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Today, I got together with my good friend Linda — another dear and enduring friendship I am thankful for. She and Carlos were passing through LA and paid me a visit. We wanted to meet up somewhere central, so she looked up a restaurant in Yelp and found “Four Sea Restaurant” (missing the s?). She thought it would be fun to try it out. The food was just okay (Taiwanese breakfast), but the time chatting and hanging out was priceless. It’s really hit-or-miss with these funky places, but what really matters is the fellowship. Hope to see them again soon!

Linda

One place I wouldn’t have minded hanging out longer is the Griffiths Observatory. It is newly renovated and looking really good!

Griffiths Observatory

The LA skyline was fairly clear on this day. I was expecting the smog to cover up the sight but it was pretty incredible to see the sprawling city. What a view from the observatory!

LA Skyline

Beautiful sunset over the mountains … could you see the Hollywood sign right next to it? Hint: It’s in the middle right corner of the picture nestled in the mountains and hidden in the dark.

Sunset in Hollywood

Aaaah … there it is.

Hollywood Sign

I wouldn’t go so far as to say “I love LA” but I’m quite fond of it.