Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Holiday Cheers

Happy Holidays, everyone!  

Seems like it was just yesterday when we put up our tree and started to put trimmings

The busyness that comes with the season has me caught up in a whirlwind of activities.  Last you heard from me, I was caught up in the hustle of the kids' exam week.  Right after that ended, I found myself caught up in another frenzy as I prepared Christmas gifts... 
Like last year, a lot of my gifts are handmade - either made from my kitchen or designed from my workstation.  

My kitchen has been a battleground of spices and enticing aromas as I whip up batches of goodies that are delivered to friends.
I know buying things is the fastest and most practical way to deal with gift lists, but if you want to create a special experience for someone, then hand-made is the way to go!  Most everyone I know can buy anything that they want, so it brings me a wondrous sense of contentment when the recipients of my gifts call or send me messages of how much they appreciate the thought, time and care I have put into making the gifts.   
 
Then the headache-inducing task of packing for my family and planning the trip itinerary for a week-long sojourn to Singapore.
 
Will share with you the highlights of our Singapore trip in another post; in the meanwhile, I have to end this post as I prepare for our family's dinner for New Year's Eve. Let me leave you with one of my favorite verses from the Bible:  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

Happiest 2012... from my family to yours!








Thanks for reading "Our Phenomenal Life." If you subscribe to the blog via RSS feed or via email, you'll get new posts sent straight to you, for free!  Like this post? Subscribe here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

iPad Apps for the Tutor-Mom

When my family first got the Ipad Christmas 2010, we used it mostly for games; thus, it would only come out on weekends.  Starting some nine months ago, I have discovered quite a number of apps that have been very useful for me as I help my kids review their lessons.  

With a lot of educational and productivity apps installed on our Ipad, it is now a gadget that I cannot live without.  Most of the educational apps are those that help me review my kids for their Chinese lessons, given the fact that I practically do not know anything pinyin, pinyin tones, and stroke orders.  

One of the kids is currently in the middle of the 3rd quarter exam, and another one just wrapped up a three-day national finals swim competition.  As you can see our schedule is crazy hectic... While I have been busy cheering by the poolside for the last couple of days, I also tried to keep myself productive by utilizing the small pockets of time in between to review the other one for the exam.  We just carried the Ipad with us, and took to a secluded spot for a few minutes to squeeze in some study time.  Classic case of hitting two birds with one stone.... I feel so happy and productive. (gives self a pat on the back!:) )

Here are some of my recommended apps:
 
HippoDICT Plus is a Chinese-English dictionary that seamlessly integrates online and offline resources in a clean, elegant, and a super-fast lookup engine.HippoDICT also offers flaschcard decks, a simple but powerful organization and learning tool that helps my kids master their Chinese vocabulary lessons. It also uses intelligent flash cards which only drill the kids on the words and phrases that they have trouble with, cutting down our study time.
 
 Pinyin Chart is an interactive Chinese pronounciation chart. All possible combination of sounds and tones in the Chinese language included, with option of a male/female audio. This app has been instrumental in teaching my kids pinyin- most especially since I couldn't differentiate the Chinese tones... even if my life depended on it. :)

iFiles is a file manager, document viewer, text editor, voice recorder, wifi drive, and more.  I use iFiles to store the drillsheets and reviewers that I have in Word, Excel or PDF format.  This way, it is like carrying my entire reviewers folder all the time.   Transfering files from my desktop/laptop to the Ipad is effortless, too.  


How I wish the kids could study on their own desks at home, but conflicting schedules and after-school activities get in the way.  As a tutor-mom who reviews my kids in the car, or while walking, or in the school swing, or at the poolside... yes anywhere except a proper study table... the above-mentioned Ipad apps are truly a wonderful discovery that it could easily be the highlight of my year. hahaha!:)

Thanks for reading "Our Phenomenal Life." If you subscribe to the blog via RSS feed or via email, you'll get new posts sent straight to you, for free!   

Like this post? Subscribe here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

One Carnivorous Feast { A Porchetta and Lechon Picnic}

I edited this post on 12/26/2014 to embed a video I posted on Instagram.  Click on the video to hear proof of that crackling, crunchy, crispy skin! :)



A video posted by The Phenomenal Mama | Tina Ong (@thephenomenalmama) on




---------

Original post:

Today all the kids went back to school. The house is quiet again mid-morning, allowing me to take pleasure in all things good that the sound of silence brings. The melodious chirping of birds and the gentle swishing of tree branches are beautiful breaks from the stillness and quiet. I remember when my kids were younger and I would want to keep them peaceful and quiet for a few minutes, I would ask them to go with me for a listening walk. With their innocent and child-like sense of wonder, they would be amazed at the many unexpected sounds they hear when they choose to keep silent.

Anyhow, to celebrate the end of the school break, I threw a picnic for the kids on our rooftop. Their joy could not be contained, as even the weather cooperated... The high and feathery cirrus clouds covered the sun like a sheer curtain. The gentle breeze of the wind is enough to keep us cool; the occasional gusts blow our hair to our faces, gloriously reminding us that we are outdoors... that life is good, and there are many things to be thankful for.... Greasy smiles as wide as their bellies, oil-slicked hands busy with snatching each newly-sliced porchetta/lechon crust. I guess crispy, crackly, crunchy skin make table manners fly out the door!:)

The carnivorous feast of a picnic, in reality, was actually to kitchen-test several pork recipes I have accumulated in the past month. Porchetta, bagnet, lechon ... whatever you call it, they are all the same to me. Slabs of porcine heaven that tugs on the pit of my slightly bulging mummy-tummy. :)

To be able to make a comparison on which recipe is better, I decided to do a side by side comparison between the Italian porchetta and the Filipino lechon. The goal was to prepare and cook them in identical ways, seasoning with different herbs. Here is what I did:

First, I started with two identical slabs of porkloin with ribs removed and skin intact. Score the skin lightly, making sure to not cut through the meat. I find that this makes for easy and uniform slicing. But if you want a shiny and even skin on your pork, then skip scoring the skin. Makes no difference on the taste. Place them skin side down on a large baking pan and prepare the herbs.

For the porchetta, I placed onions and garlic, added a generous sprinkle of pan-roasted fennel seeds, added some dried bay-leaf, a couple of fresh sprigs of thyme. Throw in a liberal dash of salt and pepper and roll up the meat and secure it with kitchen twine.


For the lechon, I also started with the same amount of onions and garlic, and then added about 6 stalks of lemongrass with the bulb pounded, scattered 5 calamansi, sliced into two. The same liberal dash of salt and pepper. Roll the meat and secure with kitchen twine.


Put the pork slabs skin side up in the large baking pan rub with some salt and olive oil. Place in a preheated oven. Cook at 400 degrees F for the first 30 minutes and then lower oven temperature to 250 degrees F for about 3 more hours.


Get out of the kitchen. Now would be a very good time to do your nails, read a book, take a long nap. By the time you are done with all of those, you will come in to your kitchen, the heady smell of herbs and spices so fragrant and wonderfully comforting. You will open your oven door to find pork so tender that you can practically pull the meat off without cutting. And the skin? Hmmmm... a deep-golden caramel color that is crunchy, crackly, crispy, heavenly!

We ate them with pita bread and ciabatta. I placed sidings of with mustard greens, arugula, cheese slices and balsamic caramelized onions.

For the recipes:

Porchetta/Lechon (to make one)
whole slab of 1 to 1-1/2 kilo porkloin or pork belly, skin intact
1 onion, sliced
1/2 head of garlic, pounded, skin-on
salt and pepper

porchetta herbs:
1 tablespoon pan-roasted fennel seeds
2-3 dried bay-leaf
3-5 sprigs of thyme

lechon herbs:
4-6 stalks of lemon grass, bulb pounded
5 calamansi, sliced into 2

1. Score the skin lightly, making sure to not cut through the meat. I find that this makes for easy and uniform slicing. But if you want a shiny and even skin on your pork, then skip scoring the skin. Makes no difference on the taste. Place them skin side down on a large baking pan and prepare the herbs.
2. For the porchetta: place onions and garlic, fennel seeds, dried bay-leaf, thyme on the meat side of the meat. Throw in a liberal dash of salt and pepper and roll up the meat and secure it with kitchen twine.

For the lechon: place onions and garlic, lemon grass, calamansi on the meat side of the meat. Throw in a liberal dash of salt and pepper and roll up the meat and secure it with kitchen twine.

3. Put the pork slabs skin side up in the large baking pan rub with some salt and olive oil. Place in a preheated oven. Cook at 400 degrees F for the first 30 minutes and then lower oven temperature to 250 degrees F for about 3 more hours.

caramelized onion recipe:
2 onions, julienned
1/4 cup good quality baslamic vinegar
2 T brown sugar
1 T fresh thyme leaves, (removed from the sprig)
Extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper

1. Heat a pan with a bit of olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add the onions and saute until they just begin to color, tossing frequently. 10-15 minutes.
3. Add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Toss to combine. Cover, reduce the heat, and let cook for about 30-35 minutes, or until the onions have cooked down and caramelized deeply.
4. Take off heat. Add the thyme and toss to combine. Serve.



FOLLOW ME!   
        

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Fashion Week Date

 I took J to her first fashion show last weekend.  I usually decline invites for Philippine Fashion Week because of the location... in far-flung SMX... practically half a world away. :)  But since I know that J would be ever so interested to attend one, I confirmed my attendance and took her with me as my date.

Not counting 18th birthday parties, this is also her first grown-up outing.  As such, she took the task of dressing up for it rather seriously. hahaha! :)  Here she is in what I think is the perfect, age-appropriate outfit for the night! 

 A photo op with Daniel Matsunaga
While I gamely posed for photos, J politely declined when Daniel asked her if she wanted to have her photo taken with him.  She whispered to me, "it is too cheesy."  She opted to take paparazzi shots of model Sarah Meier and Preview's Pauline Juan, instead.


The show started on time and we both enjoyed the fashionable and resort-ready ensembles that the designers created, from our front-row seats.  The pieces from the 2012 Resort Collection are richly-hued and in sexy silhouettes, all complimenting the Ipanema brand.

To know more about Ipanema's latest collection, you may visit their website www.ipanemaphils.com or like them on Facebook and find out how to score a FREE trip for 2 to the Rio Carnival 2012.

Thanks for reading "Our Phenomenal Life." If you subscribe to the blog via RSS feed or via email, you'll get new posts sent straight to you, for free! 

Like this post? Subscribe here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

When Life Gives Us A Fairytale

C and I have been married for twelve years already, and yet... he can still make me laugh - a lot, he (and his wallet)  is still the best shopping partner, still the best person to share great late-night conversations with, still my favorite person to call to mix the meanest cup of hot double-choco.  

And so there are days when I wonder if maybe I look at our life with glasses that are just a tad too rosey. So I take the glasses off and stare at life right in its face-- and blink, once, twice, thrice.. yep, life is good!

It's not to say that we did not have our share of problems, for we have had a few. Yes, there were quite a few!  But somehow, we've always managed to overcome... we've always had hope... "May God, the source of hope, fill you with joy and peace through your faith in him. Then you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)
 
Here are some of my favorite photos of the both of us taken through the past years. We don't have a lot of the both of us together since I am mostly behind the camera, but here are a few that I treasure...
 "A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, 
and always with the same person." 
- Mignon McLaughlin 
~ * ~ 
"They say marriages are made in Heaven. But so is thunder and lightning."
- Clint Eastwood 
~ * ~ 
"For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it. 
For every truth there is an ear somewhere to hear it. 
For every love there is a heart somewhere to receive it. " 
- Ivan Panin   
~ * ~
"Chains do not hold a marriage together.
It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years."
~Simone Signoret
 
~ * ~   
"Never go to bed mad.  Stay up and fight."
~Phyllis Diller
~ * ~ 
"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; 
for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. 
It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame."
Song of Solomon 8:6 
 ~ * ~
"Once in awhile, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale." 
- anonymous quotation 
 ~ * ~ 
  "And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make." 
- John Lennon and Paul McCartney 
 ~ * ~  
 
Love bears all things, believes all things, 
hopes all things, endures all things. 
Love never ends. 
- I Corinthians 13:7-8
~ * ~   

Thanks for reading "Our Phenomenal Life." If you subscribe to the blog via RSS feed or via email, you'll get new posts sent straight to you, for free!  Like this post? Subscribe here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

{Wishful Thinking} Birthday Wish List


After days of tutoring for R's exam week, we both welcome the school break with a smile as wide as our lips can go!:) After days of whining that he "cannot take it anymore", I get a handwritten note from him expressing his BIG thanks for helping him review for his tests.

Not only that, R also grandly stated that for my birthday he is going to buy me a watch!!! O di ba? Hahahaha! As if he can afford one...

Well, since he asked... I have always wanted an all-gold men's Datejust Rolex ... and seeing pics of these fashionable celebrities have only added fuel to my fire...  
Realistically, these gold medals for the wrist cost too much to be worn everyday by an errand-running mom/driver/tutor/cook. If I would get one for myself it would have to be one of the ladies sized ones that I can wear to dinner parties.

For an everyday watch, I have been wanting an all-gold men-sized wristwatch for about a year already. Just patiently waiting for the right one to catch my eyes' (and more importantly, my wallet's) fancy. Something mid-priced would be more suitable for everyday wear; I need not worry (too much) about it getting scratched, or lost. So the Nixon 42-20 Gold Chrono Watch is a good deal...
Nixon 'The 42-20 Chrono' Watch | Nordstrom


Here is a closer look at the Nixon. What do you think?

Nixon watch


Still, another option is Michael Kors 5055 Chrono Watch, also in gold. This one is even cheaper than the Nixon, but looks just as delicious. Yes?

 



Still about birthday gifts...

B just came up to me, "Mom, I am so excited for the weekend. I can't wait," she dramatically clasped both her hands together and raised it to her chest dreamily. I raised one eyebrow, wondering where all this drama would lead to. She continued, "This weekend, I am going to Tiffany & Co. at Shangri-la Mall. I will ask Dad to go with me, I will buy you a necklace or a bracelet."

"And where exactly will you get the money?" I sweetly challenged her. "I will bring my wallet... it has one one-thousand bill and one one-hundred bill," she said with a smug look on her face, her head arched to one side, a self-satisfied smile curling on her lips.

Just too sweet and just so adorable! I will just leave it to her dad to explain the kind of money needed to go out of the store carrying that robin's egg blue bag. hahaha! :)

I don’t expect expensive gifts, or any gifts, for that matter on my birthday; however if it’s true, that it’s the thought that counts when making decisions about gifts, then I have just gotten the grandest gifts of all! Of course we all know I am not getting anything close to the watch and the necklace, but their simple gesture is more than enough. Now, if their dad is willing to shell out the money... I will not complain... I surely won't.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weekend In Instagram {October 21-23, 2011}

Last weekend started with a lunch date with B.  We haven't had one in a long while, so it was a date that is long overdue.  She had her favorite Macaroni and Cheese at Pancake House, followed by a quick trip to Starbucks for a Strawberry Milk Drink.  We regularly schedule one-on-one dates with all the kids, but I feel it is B who is really appreciative of it.  I regularly observe a significant improvement in her behavior after we take her on a day-out.  She is usually profuse with thanks, and it makes me feel like I am truly the greatest mom. :)

Dropped off J for another slumber party, this time at Discovery Suites in Ortigas.  The suite she stayed in had 2 bedrooms, a dining and living room, and a working kitchen.  The kitchen is really a winner for me - it is really ideal for hosting slumber parties for girls her age (as I think taking out a handful of pre-teens could potentially be a cause of head-ache) since you can just prepare meals in the kitchen or call for food delivery, and thus save you the travel time of taking them out for meals; yet your wallet also do not have to suffer from the exorbitant prices that hotels charge in their food outlets.  The girls are really just content with movie-marathons, lounging by the pool, and talking all night.
Saturday night, C took us out to eat at Cerchio Grill & Lounge.  I cannot particularly place what cuisine the restaurant specializes in, but most of the food on the menu would make it look like a very glamorous version of a Filipino grillery.  The place is very modern looking, with the hand-painted white loops on the charcoal-colored walls adding to the visual delight to the place; the presentation of the food was commendable, much more than what I can actually say about the food.  I found the food unexceptional.  For one, the boneless crispy pata did not get to our table "crispy" at all.  Nevertheless, the over-all experience in the restaurant is still positive as the service given to us was excellent. 

I always look forward to attending wedding parties.  The pink, blue and purple hydrangeas that filled up the ballroom reminded me of my own wedding.  I just love how any newly-wedded couple can radiate their love to fill up the entire ballroom.  I take joy in being able to bask in the sunshine of their happiness.  Weddings are also a good occasions to revel in the company of friends, good food and good wine. 






Thanks for reading "Our Phenomenal Life." If you subscribe to the blog via RSS feed or via email, you'll get new posts sent straight to you, for free! 
Like this post? Subscribe here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One tiny hand...

C and I stood as godparents to a happy and lovely baby girl last Sunday.  The only princess in a family of rambunctious brothers.
It is amazing how a baby's smile can unravel its magic on the people around.  It is such a delight to witness how being around a baby can transform people into mushy, sappy beings...
Speaking of babies, my first one hardly looks like one anymore...  She is starting to be more conscious about clothes and shoes, and is starting to pay more attention to what she wears.  I love what she wore that day.  It is something I would wear myself... I am looking forward to the day when I can share clothes with her.   How adorable she looks working gold, camel and white. 
ZARA kids white and gold striped cardi, Gingersnaps white knit vest, MNG white halter top, H&M gold braided belt, John Rocha trousers.
Some photos taken during the luncheon at Choi Garden.  The food was superb, as always!  Their "Lechon Macau"  is a consistent best-seller.  The skin ever so crispy with minimal layer of fat in between.  No food photos as everyone was too busy enjoying the food.

Thanks for reading "Our Phenomenal Life." If you subscribe to the blog via RSS feed or via email, you'll get new posts sent straight to you, for free!   

Like this post? Subscribe here.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...