Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nuvali: A Visit and A Trail Run

New Balance is organizing a trail run at Nuvali in celebration of Father’s Day.  I have never ran on a trail course and have been wanting to try it for the longest time.  They say that running a trail is more demanding than doing a road race.  It is to my advantage that New Balance opened a 5k/Pair Run category.  That would be the perfect distance for a first-timer.

I remember joining the Greenfield City Run last 2009.  The route covered the roads of Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay-Greenfield.   Nuvali was just in the early stages of its development.  We passed by the same road during our labor day weekend trip to Tagaytay, and saw a flourishing community in Nuvali.

That Nuvali share the same developer as Anvaya Cove is no wonder, given that the area shows some smart urban planning.  Nuvali is the first large-scale development in the country that proposes a mixed use eco-community committed to nurturing an environmentally and socially thriving locality. 
 Going on a tour around Nuvali by cruising the man made lake.
It encourages alternative means of transportation and has built the appropriate infrastructure conducive for it. In this community, bikes are given the same importance as cars.  Road structures in the developments are built in a way that would encourage residents to bike instead of drive, highlighted by its bike lanes to encourage human dwellers to leave their cars at home for short-distance travel.
Water taxis are provided as an alternate means of transport to move residents around, decreasing air pollution by saving on diesel fuel consumption.
Even the guards patrolling the area are on bikes.

Some of the inclined roofs are oriented to the south, opening up the possibility of using renewable energy sources in the future.
We enjoyed our brief stopover at Nuvali en route to Tagaytay with a hearty breakfast; through it all, B's new friend, Berry summarized what eco-living is all about as she hitches a ride in someone's back-pocket. :)

Click here if you want to know more about the New Balance Trail Adventure:  A Father's Day Run.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Alaska IronKids Aquathlon 2010 - 1st Leg

I edited this post May 25, 2010 to include the race results.

It’s eight o’clock on a Sunday morning and the house is devoid of any commotion and sound, save for the whirring sound of the fan blades meant to take away some of the intense summer heat and the clicking of the keyboard as I type away.  It would seem like any other lazy Sunday, except that today we have already come back from the Alaska IronKids Aquathlon. The Phillipine edition of the IronKids is a much awaited event, and here we are just done with it.  We have all gone back home to rest a bit before we catch the ten am service.  C and J have both gone back to sleep, and I do what I find most relaxing, writing...

We arrived at the Manila Polo Club at six o’clock, a good one hour before J’s age group gun start, to give ample time for any pre-race preparation.

Body marking with her race number

Timing chip and swim cap collection. 

Transition check-in

Her age group is to do a 200meter swim and a 1.5kilometer run.  Straightforwardly, it is easier that the Ateneo Aquathlon she participated in a few months back where she swam 400 meters and ran a 3k route. 

The participants start at lane 1 and flow to the next lane per age category.  

The 1.5k run course is a 2-lap run around the Enrique Zobel Polo Field.

Taking a sip and letting it all sink in after the race.

As with anything in life, there are mistakes made.   Allow me as I take time to congratulate J and discuss with her some of the things that she can improve on….

We are both so proud of the determination you showed in the race.  What comes next is by no means a lecture, but think of it instead as a one-sided conversation to address on how you can further improve your performance.

Always, always bear in mind that mistakes are opportunities to learn something new, something you did not know before.  All mistakes that are made have a lesson in them. It is up to us to find that lesson and apply it. Here are some tips to help you avoid making the same mistakes again.

1.  Always position yourself to swim on the left side of the lane.   

That is you at the end of the lane, clearly ahead of the others.  However, you were slowed down as you navigated to move to the next lane flow.
2.  This is a race, it is perfectly acceptable for bodies to get too close to each other as you all struggle to get ahead in the crowded pool.  Do not let yourself be distracted by a hand pulling on your leg, nor be hesitant to bump into other swimmers.  This IS a race - it WILL happen.

3.  One way you can improve your time in transition is to start taking off your goggles and swimming cap as you move to the transition area.  I have seen several participants with shoe laces already tied loosely allowing for their sockless feet to be slipped in without delay.
 4.  Just do your best!  You are already a WINNER just by finishing the race!
“Mommy and Daddy are so pleased on the event of your finishing the aquathlon.  We saw how you gave your best, and we are pleased with your finish.  While you were doing the race, we catch a glimpse of  your determination and we also witness the satisfaction in your lips as you run past the finish line.  
Her official race results:
Swim split:  4:37.5
Transition Split: 1:32.0
Run Split: 10:47.4
Total Race Time: 16:56.9

Friday, May 21, 2010

Amore Weekend

It seems to be an annual event going down south to Tagaytay to spend the long Labor Day weekend.  Just like last year, we had a double celebration of love in this windy municipality- my in-law's wedding anniversary and my niece's birthday.  
Although we often visit, what makes this trip stands out is that …

1.  This marks the first time that we got the kids a separate room in the hotel.  This is a milestone!  Imagine, after a decade or so, I can finally allow my grasping hands to loosen the rein over them even in an infinitesimal bit.  While C was thrilled with the prospect of uninterrupted solitude, the kids were rapturous and frenzied over the idea of having their own television in the room with no dad to wrestle the remote control with.  That is a strong indication of how starved they are for some television time.  We only have one TV in our house, and viewing is on a strict schedule that could rival Madonna's. :) 

2.  We did not act like crazed out-of-towners, wanting to visit every must-see destination.  We opted to lounge in our rooms for long periods at a time.   

We ventured out to a nearby flower farm just in time to watch as the clouds catch the sun’s fiery shade of tangerine, signaling its setting down below the horizon.
3.  Consuming heavenly fresh pasta and stone baked pizza from an authentic Italian restaurant by the roadside is one of the highlights of our trip.    

The pizza is baked in an artisan stone oven, which makes for a crisp, superior tasting crust.

Good fresh pasta is a taste treat second to none, a vastly superior cousin to the store-bought kind, and is much lighter in the palate and absorbs sauces, especially those made with butter or cream.  With that in mind, we ordered the Gnocchi in Alfredo sauce.  It was simply divine and was finished off by the three kids in a flash.

It was a good thing C had the hotel’s concierge place a seven p.m. reservation for us because the place was packed for dinner, with more people waiting in line.
The small kitchen seemed to be unequipped to handle the deluge of diners that night, similarly the servers were bowled over with the various request of the famished guests.  There are no other food pictures that night for the reason that everyone’s hands dug right in the moment the plates were put down - at nine pm.
Even the youngest one amongst us couldn’t wait for her yaya to feed her and put matters into her own hands.
The food is delicious and as authentic as they come and the staff is very accomodating, but they do have to prioritize on improving the kitchen.  The more than one hour wait for the food was just too much.  Still, we would go back the next time we are in Tagaytay, but we would probably drop by for a late and long lunch.

Amoroma Ristorante Italiano
Brgy. Tolentino
Tagaytay City, Cavite
(046) 696-3582

Monday, May 17, 2010

Avocado Ice Cream

With the abundance of avocados that we have at home, the kids and I quickly busied ourselves in the kitchen.  First we made the popsicles which were finished in a wink.

With the remaining half, we made ice cream.   This is our first attempt at ice cream making and we decided to use Alton Brown's Avocado Ice Cream recipe.

Here is a loose interpretation of his recipe:
  • 3 medium sized avocados
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream

If you feel like you want to stay with the original recipe then put the 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice right back in.  You might as well also take out the 1/4 cup of sugar I added.


First, we sliced the avocados in half, pit them and scoop out the flesh.

Put the avocado meat in a blender with the milk and sugar to puree.

Transfer the pureed mixture to a medium sized bowl and whisk in the heavy cream until fully mixed.  Place the mixture into the refrigerator and chill.
Process the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.  I used a DeLonghi ice cream maker.  The time it takes to process varies depending on the ice cream maker and how cold the mixture is.  (Mine took around 35 minutes, it could even be faster had I chilled the mixture for a longer time before churning it.  But, see, we are all excited first-time ice cream makers!

For soft ice cream, you may serve immediately. If so desired, you can also place in freezer for 3 to 4 hours for a firmer texture

Here are some things I made a mental note of:
  1. Ice cream depends on a high fat content for its creamy texture and flavor.  Having said that, avoid using skim milk when making ice cream because its low fat content will produce a light watery flavor that lacks any richness to it. 
  2. You can make your home-made ice cream stay softer by choosing a shallow container, rather than a deep tub.  It also helps to cover the surface of the ice cream with cling wrap to keep ice crystals from forming.
  3. To further avoid ice crystals from forming, add 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin per 6 cups of ice cream mixture. Let the gelatin soften in 1/4 cup cold milk, put in gentle heat to dissolve the gelatin granules the mixture, add to the remaining mixture and proceed churning.   
  4. Make sure that the pureed or custard mixture is chilled just right before starting the churning process to yield the smoothest ice cream.  Starting with a room temperature mixture might mean taking forever for the ice cream to freeze 

If you want the expert's advice on how to find the perfect ice cream maker, read this article by David Lebovitz.   He also dispenses advice on how to make ice cream right here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sun-Kissed Fruits In Parade

One of the veritable delights of a Philippine-summer is the endless abundance of the sweetest tropical fruits.   There are over a hundred varieties you can find in the country’s orchards that can satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.   Take advantage of these sun-kissed fruits as not only do they do a good job of hydrating our bodies, they also pack a lot of essential vitamins and minerals.  There are so many ways to enjoy them – you can sink your teeth into the raw and succulent flesh, mix it with some ice cubes for a thirst-quenching smoothie, or use it to bake a fruit dessert. 
My kitchen has been very busy this summer; a witness to the colorful parade of the country’s sweetest and colorful tropical fruits.  The heat this summer is unbearable as it is, and I hate to heat up the temperature in the kitchen even more by turning on the oven, but I love to take advantage of the fresh fruit in season.  So the kids and I have been busy making no-bake fruit pies, churning out ice cream and blending refreshing smoothies.

Taking inspiration from DulceLin’s much-loved Mango Torte, I tried to recreate my own version but the kids couldn’t resist sinking their teeth into these golden yellow mangoes as they scooped them into balls, resulting to a less-than-plump pie filling.

Philippine bananas come in a variety of sizes depending on the province where they are grown.  The pocket-sized senorita from Cavite to the big Cavendish bananas from the Dole and Del Monte planatation in Bukidnon and Cagayan, respectively.  To make banana bread, the best bananas to use are the over-ripe Cavendish,  the ones with the skin almost black all-over, as they pack the most flavor.
We had an excessive surplus of bananas, that aside from the banana bread we also made Banana Cream Pie.

Nothing could probably make summer more evident than having the juice of the watermelon running down my kids’ chin as they take a bite off the watermelon wedges.   

A watermelon smoothie has the perfect cooling effect for the summer heat. We flavored our smoothie with syrup (made with equal parts water and sugar) and a sprig of freshly-picked mint.  
If there’s a summer fruit that makes my family wish that summer is here to stay, it would be the avocado!  

We enjoy this in many ways - scooped out in a tall glass and sprinkled with sugar and powdered milk in a layer;  blended and frozen into a popsicle, made into a velvety ice cream, topped with chopped pistachio nuts.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tiny Hands Breakfast

Yesterday was Mother's Day, and like the mom in the vintage illustration above, I snuggled my pillow tight in my sleep when I was awakened by a li'l one who crept up my bed... and shouted, "It is eight o'clock already! Happy Mother's Day, Mom!" as she handed me a hand made card that kept her busy the last few days.

We made breakfast for you," she proudly declares. So that's why I thought I heard some kids shouting and pans dropping in the kitchen, as I drifted in and out of sleep, but I was so sleepy to really mind the noise. Then she ran out of my room and dashed right back in with yesterday's newspaper which she kept hidden since, so she can give it to me today, knowing that we don't get our newspaper till later in the day.

With the help of their dad, they made sunny side eggs and fried some tawilis, a freshwater sardine that can be found only in the waters of Taal Lake . I have a very simple preference for breakfast, and nothing can be simpler than a Filipino breakfast of eggs and fried salty fish.

They prepared cups of Tim Horton's hot cocoa. But since we are still in the middle of summer, they quickly added ice cubes to theirs to turn it into frappes. :)

They just made me wake up to one of my best days ever. They gave me such a priceless gift! The gift of themselves as they put in the effort to wake up early and their thoughtfulness to prepare breakfast... complete with yesterday's newspaper. :) No designer bag can beat that!