Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kitchen Project: DIY Celery Salt

I am trying to lessen my family’s salt intake, and yet I wouldn’t want to
sacrifice the flavor of the dish that I am cooking.  I have read from culinary magazines that the
only way to intensify the taste is to add lots of herbs to the dish.   Hence, I possess an extensive assortment of
dried herbs in my pantry.  In addition, I
also have a few potted ones in my herb garden.  

Just a few days ago, my mother-in-law thoughtfully sent over a fine-looking
bunch of celery  – thick, green stalks
with substantial leaves.  I usually just
throw away the leaves, but they possess so much flavor so I thought of finding
good use for them.  I used the leaves to
make Celery Salt.  

Celery leaves have a strong aroma, and is a wonderful addition when making
soups.  I thought that making some Celery
Salt would be a nice way to always have celery on hand.  Here’s how you can make one for your own
kitchen pantry:

1.  Pick the leaves from each celery
stalk and rinse with cold water.  Shake
off excess water, pat with kitchen towels and lay out the leaves to dry

2.  Once completely dry, heat up a
skillet big enough to hold all the leaves in a single layer.  Toast the leaves over medium heat, careful
not to brown the leaves.

3.  Remove from heat and let
cool.  When cool, crumble the leaves to
form small pieces and dispense with leaves that did not crisp up.

4.  Combine equal parts celery and
salt.  I used fine-grain Himalayan pink
as I have them in my kitchen.  I
also added a few teaspoons of garlic powder and a big pinch of freshly ground black, green, white and pink peppercorns
Mix to distribute the celery leaves evenly.  Store in a sealed container.

I immediately put the home-made celery salt to good use by making my kids favorite, Minestrone.

I got a profusion of thanks, coupled with "Mom, you're the best!"  Of course, I got a little help... The celery salt, the freshly picked basil leaves, and a generous sprinkle of Pecorino Romano! 

I hope this post encourages you to make your own Celery Salt! 

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, August 26, 2011

Christ-Centered Family Devotions

Our family devotion time is a wonderful eye-opener for me as I learn so much about my kids as they open up and share during this time.  My heart is filled with comfort and gladness, and I give a quiet prayer of thanks knowing that my kids are aware that their God is living, loving and present in their daily lives.  

We are consistent with our daily night time prayers; however,
we struggle to maintain and set-aside Friday as our Family Devotion
Night.  It used to be that C would just pick a verse or chapter from the
Bible and talk about it with the kids.  Admittedly, we are guilty of sometimes tailoring the discussion to suit our needs.  We usually try to
limit it to 20-30 minutes, but more often than not, C finds himself
overwhelmed with so many questions and personal stories from the kids.  

Just recently, our pastor introduced the "Christ-Centered Family Devotions".  It is a a devotional guidebook for Christian families.  It contains a How-to-use guide for parents who are new at leading devotions and also features tips on how to make the devotion time exciting for the kids.  If used weekly, as recommend it should be, this devotional booklet has enough materials to last for a quarter of a year.

If you are interested to bond with your family and at the same time get closer to God, I am happy to share with you that the booklet is being sold at the CCF bookstore for only P20.00 or you can also download the PDF copy for FREE right here.

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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Prettifying A Party {DIY With Re-Purposed Materials}

Maybe it's just me, but I have always collected the pretty ribbons and the funky gift wrappers that come with all the gifts we get.  My whole family find it funny that I collect “trash,” and worse, file them away neatly in containers, too!  But to look at the bigger picture -  think of how during the holiday season our trash cans, and landfills are filled with tons of gift wrappers and boxes and ribbons.  And then think of how many trees are cut to make a single roll of gift wrap.  That is the kind of environmental damage discarded gift wrappers can cause.  Think of how big and deep our collective ecological footprints leave behind. (Shudder!)

I can't stand throwing away anything that I know I can otherwise keep for future use.  And it's not just gift wrappers and pretty ribbons - I've been known to keep re-usable take-out food containers, used school folders, etc.  For the most part, my family will agree that I successfully find good use for these things. Over the years, they have witnessed how I have managed to make good and creative use of these items by "up-cycling" them that they now view this "habit" of mine with new-found respect. :)
I will share how you can reuse and recycle gift wrappers and ribbons to make different, useful, and pretty objects.  For J’s recent spa party, I have turned the party décor into one DIY project using prints I made from Photoshop, a LOT of re-purposed materials, and a few new purchases.

  1.  Party Banner
 Just browsing through Pinterest, it seems that hanging colorful party banners are all the rage for kids’ parties.  DIY party banners can instantly cheer up and add a touch of chic to a simple celebration with friends.  Like glitter powder and sparkly lights, it adds a little charm and festive to any celebration, but this DIY feature won't waste too much energy and you'll be reusing something you would have thrown in the trash.

You can order a personalized one or make your own by using scrap booking paper for the background and printing the letters out of cardstock paper from your computer printer; but that would entail the use of more paper… and really, more manual work.  Imagine cut out the scrapbook paper to size, cut out the board paper, glue together…

Or you can go my way and create the digital layers in Photoshop. 
 After printing the out, I just cut them out to size using my cutter.  I then proceeded to cut some slats on both sides of the the wide base of the triangle.  Then, string in some re-purposed ribbons from last year's christmas gifts.

To all of you who do Photoshop, I am sure you will agree with me when I say it’s very simple.  To those who are not familiar with Photoshop, if you would like to do this project, simple shoot me an email and I will gladly share with you the JPEG file of this banner for FREE so you can do it by yourself – print out, cut out, string together, celebrate!

2.  Welcome Poster
 Without any party sign, our buffet table would have looked too plain. I wanted to add something that won't overwhelm the treats on the table, but will instead compliment the party theme. So I just printed out a self-designed 8 x 11 print on photographic paper, mounted it on a re-purposed wrapping paper from Christmas 2009.  Placed all that in a really large frame that was just lying around in my storage room.

The result?
 3.  Party Food Container.
Although I used NEW food containers for the party, they are still a better alternative to paper plates, since these can be re-used after washing.  I do not usually use them again as food containers, BUT they can still be useful to hold a multitude of household items and school supplies.  In addition to them being re-usable, I chose these plastic containers because they hold food better than the borderless paper plates... a slight tilt won't bring all the food crashing down on the floor.
4.  Party labels
I have seen these board papers lying around my kids' table for quite a few days already so instead of using new board paper to support the food party labels, I just simply asked J to make good use of it. The decorative pattern on the border served useful in adding more color to the buffet table. 
I hope I was able to inspire you to re-purpose, up-cycle, re-use… whatever name you call it. 
Let us all be more conscious to tread on earth more lightly… Let us not take more from Earth than we are giving back.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Johnson's Baby Milk Bath

When Johnson's and
Johnson invited me to be part of the media launch for introducing Judy
Ann Santos as the celebrity endorser for their milk bath line, I agreed
without hesitation.
  Being a mom to three kids who all suffer from eczema, I am very much particular with the skin care products that I use on them.  I always make sure to use hypo-allergenic products that are mild and won't irritate their sensitive skin. 

Inspite of being a famous actress, Judy Ann shows the same commitment to her family like any mother.  Judy Ann admits that ever since she became a mom, she became more discerning in making choices as she knows her decision can have a huge impact on her family.  These days, as she lays low on her career to focus on the more momentous role of being a family woman, she finds delight in making her family take centerstage in her life.  And for her, there is no other brand she trusts but Johnshon's.  And rightfully so, given that the brand has taken care of her skin while she was growing up.

Guests were also treated to the beautiful, beautiful music of Noelle Cassandra, who is responsible for moving the harp away from its traditional classical image into a more contemporary style by mixing it with jazz and rock tunes.... And who was also a Johnson's baby growing up.

Another celebrity Johnson's baby hosted the event, Angel Jacob.  I couldn't believe when she shared that she is already a mother to a teen.  She looks so stylish and pretty that I just couldn't resist a photo-op. 

Like all Johnsons baby bath product line, this one is as good as all the others.  Johnson's Baby Milk Bath gently cleanse baby's delicate skin and prevents dryness, which may lead to irritation.  You wll be pleased to know that it has 100% more milk proteins and vitamins A and E.  It is also clinically proven mild, and as an added bonus to moms of toddlers, it also has that NO MORE TEARS FORMULA which ensures a lot of gentle fun in the bath.


My kids each have a bottle of Johnson's Baby Milk Lotion in their swimming bag, they put it on right after taking a shower to immediately moisturize and protect them from the harsh chlorine from the pool water.  So far, we have managed to keep their eczema at bay, and no major flare-ups has cropped up.  Really gives credence to their slogan, "Alagang Johnson's!"

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, August 16, 2011

My Weekend in Instagram

I just discovered the beauty of Instagram.  How wonderful it makes the task of documenting and sharing the goings-on in the daily grind through photos.  Lemme tell you all about our busy, busy weekend via Instagram: 

We started Saturday with an early visit to the organic market for our weekly supply of veggies.  Along the way, we naturally had to stop at some stalls for sweets and savoury treats!

On the drive back home, we passed by Nic's Gourmet Desserts located along A. Mabini street in San Juan.  The bakeshop offers breads, cookies, cakes, and even some filling sandwiches.  Should you not be able to wait to eat there creations, there are also some bar stools available for you to enjoy the treats right away.

In the afternoon J's friend invited a handful of girls for THE spa party!  It was a FULL afternoon of of whole body massages, nail pedi and nail art and hair salon at the Little Lamb's Kiddie Spa.

We had about just 30 minutes to rush home AND get ready for a cousin's 18th birthday party!

Sunday is another busy day so we start it with a hearty breakfast and Sunday worship.  Then we take a balikbayan cousin to Nuat Thai in Libis for a pampering body massage, then a meet up with my side of the family for an early dinner at Romulo's.

That was my weekend!

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.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dressing A Tween For A Party

J attended her first 18th birthday party a few Sundays ago.  One of the girls from her swim team recently turned 18, and the all the girls on the team surprised the celebrant with a well-rehearsed dance number, choreographed by one of the swimmers.   J was excited, to say the least!  Imagine, going to an adult party with her friends - and doing a dance number pa.:)  

We both know that we wanted her to look nice; She wanted to NOT look like a little girl, but not too grown-up, either.  While I know I wanted to NOT buy her a new dress. Haha!  So in the end, we agreed she should just look sweet.:)

J's outfit for an 18th bday party

Vero Moda cotton dress, TopShop ballerina shoes, Dolce Gabbana shoulder strap handbag, Mango belt

After days of mixing and matching, we finally agreed on a hand-me down bubble dress (given to her when my younger sister cleaned out her closet just a few months earlier).  Hurray for fashionable Aunties!   

The pink wrap-around belt and the aqua blue bag are borrowed from my closetJust to disclose, I purchased the bag from a Mango sale about ten years ago, and I never got to use it because when I got home I found the aqua color too trendy and youthful.  It's just great that my daughters can now make good use of it.

Here is our photo booth pic:

I am sure this is just the first of numerous youth parties that she will be invited to, and I am even more sure that she will be asking me for help to choose her outfits.  I just hope that I can teach her that dressing well doesn't mean wearing the trendiest clothes.  The only requirements for dressing well (at any age) is first: to make sure your clothes fit; second, to be Neat and Clean.  Having said that, I can only pray that she learns to be content with choosing from her existing clothes, or learn to creatively shop from my closet. Because having a shopaholic daughter is the last thing I want!:)

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, August 11, 2011

Tips On How To Organize Your Kids Closet

In my previous post, I shared with you how ROUTINE and developing a TOLERANT ATTITUDE help me parent my kids with a SMILE on my face. Let me add that being ORGANIZED also counts a lot in developing a right balance.

In my family, one of the things that can keep our busy schedule flowing smoothly is having an organized wardrobe. We are five in the family so there are a LOT of clothes going around. And with three growing kids, putting up the clothes in the right closet is always one area where the kids and the househelp need some guidance. Each of the three kids have their own closet, with the fourth closet being shared by my two girls to keep their dresses and other fancier clothes.

Let me share with you some of the ways on how we keep our wardrobe organized:

Tips To Organize The Kids' Closet:

1. Organize the closet with your kids’ height in mind. 

Keeping in mind my kids’ height, I organized their clothes in a way that the most used clothes live on the lower shelves, in lower drawers, or on the wardrobe floor. Higher levels are designated for less-frequently used items and over-grown clothes.

This allows us to use the high space without interfering with the functional area of the closet. Take for instance R's closet (pictured below), his "pambahay" are on the lower shelves to allow for everyday, easy access. While the going-out clothes are located further up since he only uses these on weekends.

2. Place small plastic containers on the shelves for small accessories. 

A small set of plastic storage containers works well to organize smaller items, such as underwear, socks and other accessories.

3. Utilize a clothes bar

My girls share a double closet bar. Again, still using the principle of matching my kids’ height with the closet functionality, the younger one has the lower rod to allow her small arms to reach for dresses and skirts, while the older one owns the higher one

To achieve an neat appearance, I use a single color of inexpensive hangers.

4. Organize clothes by type of garment: 

My kids’ closets are organized in section - the t-shirts together, long- sleeve shirts together, jeans together, etc. The kids have similar arrangements in each of their closet so the kids and the help know exactly that the undergarments goes in on the first drawer, the swimsuits and jerseys on the second, the jackets and cardigans on the third and so on.

For my girls hanging wardrobe, the clothes are sorted by categories; dresses are grouped together, followed by skirts, then by jeans/pants, then the tops.

Since the hanging wardrobe is where the girls keep their “going-out clothes” the floor of this closet also serves as an organized fashion to keep their accessories/jewelry box. This helps give my girls more space in their wardrobe for their clothes and at the same time assures me the girly items they like to look at each day also gets used often since they are within easy reach when they get dressed for going out.

5. Label, label, label 

When I think of THE ONE organization solution that has kept my kids' closet organized for the long haul, I'd have to say labels saved my day! Mine are simply made from a computer printer; mass-printed and then handwritten as I go along. If you have younger children who cannot read that well yet, you can also label by making simple graphic labels for them. Pictures of socks, shirts, shorts can remind the child where these items belong.

6. Hook It!

Install a hook at an unobtrusive place like at the back of the closet door, or at one side of the bathroom wall to hang the school uniform for the following day. This routine keeps my mornings organized, simple and most important of all, quiet.

The hook system also works well for managing the kids’ swimming equipment. Right after training, they know that it is expected of them to pack away their own swimming bags. I have never had to remind them to do this, and they have never treated it like a chore because everything is within an arm's reach. It is a breeze because there is a right place for everything - and everything is always in its right place!

7. Manage the Mess 

Place a hamper on a very accessible area in the bathroom, if you have the extra space for it. My kids’ hamper is placed under their bathroom sink, so while it is very accessible to my kids, it also remains concealed. This encourages my kids to dump in their dirty clothes and not leave them lying around on the floor.

8. Sort through their clothes once a year

Go through your children's clothes and get rid of anything they haven’t worn in six months… it only means that it isn't likely to be used in the next six months. Save these items for a younger sibling or give these away to younger cousins, or better yet donate them.

9. Use "dots" for easy segregation of clothes
The beauty of the dot technique is that this is an organization solution that can grow with the family! Once a shirt no longer fits J, all I need to do is add another dot and they become B’s! This truly has already saved us time and anguish. There used to be arguments when my two girls would be fighting over the same shirt. The older one simply cannot let go of her favorite shirt - no matter if she has obviously outgrown it; and the younger one has ran out of patience waiting for her turn to finally fit into it. But with the dot system, it is plain for everyone to see who owns it.

I know a lot of moms simply label clothing with the kid's initial, but what do you do when you pass it on to a younger sibling who doesn't have the same initials? With the dot system, it simply means that I will just have to put in another dot, and it now says Personal Property of the "new owner".

This technique is also a life saver for organizing clothes in the closet. There are no mix-ups in this house because the kids and the house-help know exactly who owns what.

The same organization solution is also utilized to sort clothes of the same design but of different sizes. For instance, my kids' have similar club shirts that are worn during swim meets; to prevent confusion, each shirt is labeled with our family name and then the corresponding dots.

A closet with a strong organizational system, leaves me more time - it affords me to stay in bed a few minutes longer in the morning; it means that I can take my sweet time to "prettify" myself - even if it means just a dab of powder and a swipe of lip-gloss; it makes for peaceful Sunday mornings when we get to Church on time. Not only does is help me get the rest of the family out the door on time, it is also a very good exercise for my kids in the important trait of self-reliance.

Hope this helps you and your family, too!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wishful Thinking: { Wardrobe } Camel - Two Ways

Camel is a beautiful neutral shade that it has a dominant ownership of my closet.  And why wouldn’t it be? The color is sophisticated, and complements with almost any color in my existing closet; better still, it looks so sophisticated and polished when layered with different shades of neutral.  

Here I am, wishful thinking, that I could update my wardrobe with these stylish and timeless pieces. 

three ways on camel
1st outfit: Stella McCartney silk dress, Jimmy Choo high heel sandals, Alexander McQueen handbag, Oval ring, EliseDray snake ring
2nd outfit: Dorothy Perkins color block dress, Enzo Angiolini espadrilles wedge, Melie bianco handbag, MICHAEL Michael Kors chronograph watch, Coin bracelet, Snap belt

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cookie In A Jiffy

I don’t know if you are aware of it already, but you can freeze huge amounts of cookie dough in your freezer and cook them up whenever you want and in the quantity you want.  You can bake a dozen for your kids' after school snacks or just one as a treat to yourself!

I did just that for J’s recent birthday party.  You see, three consecutive days prior to her party date, I was at the poolside supporting her for qualifying and participating in her first ever National Long Course Finals, where all of the best swimmers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao came together to compete against each other in Rizal Memorial Sports Complex’s 50-meter pool.

In the days leading up to her birthday, I was wondering how to squeeze in time to bake up a batch of fresh cookies for her party… considering that I also had to prepare food on the table each night… and help the younger ones with their lesson and bring them to training, as well… and attend a friend’s party the night before. Whew!

So I decided to break up the baking process.  I made two batches, with two different techniques. 
Three nights prior to the party, I made the first batch of cookies and froze them individually as balls.  Two nights prior, I made another batch that I let rest in the mixing bowl.  On the eve of the party, I baked the gazillion of cookies… and devoured a few while doing so!

I should tell you that I make large cookies like the one you see at premium coffee shops.  Cookies that are this large are sturdy with a thick crunchy shell and tender, chewy centers that everyone loves.

Directions for freezing individual balls:
1.  Scoop out the dough using an ice-cream scooper to ensure even-sized cookies.  You can also just use your measuring cup, if you don’t have a scooper.
2.  Fill a baking tray with the scooped-out cookie dough balls, leaving just enough space between the cookie dough balls that they don't get stuck together.
3.  Stick the filled pan in the freezer for an hour or two until firm.  
4.  Meanwhile, take a large-sized freezer bag and label it with the recipe name, date, cooking temperature and time details.
5.  Remove the pan from the freezer. Take all of the cookie dough balls out of the pan and place them in the labeled bag.
6.  Store the cookies in the freezer for later use.

To bake from frozen:
1.  Remove as many balls as you want to bake and let them rest that at the kitchen counter while you are pre-heating your oven.
2.  You can bake these at the same temperature called for in the recipe; just give them a minute or two longer.

For the second method, I remember reading a New York Times article about choco chip cookies about two or three years ago, and in the article the experts have their own cookie-making theories on how letting the cookie dough rest a night or two inside the refrigerator resulted in superior tasting cookies.  So with that in mind, I decided to do that for the second batch I made 
Directions for letting the dough rest in the mixing bowl:
1.  Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
2.  When you are ready to bake, simply let the dough warm up to room temperature and scoop away. This will take several hours, so plan ahead.

Technically speaking, since both batches had to “rest”, they both came out tasting and looking the same.  It just all comes down to a matter of preference and how much time you have in your hands.  For those of you with no time to waste, I would personally recommend scooping the dough into individual balls as the dough can go straight from the freezer and into the oven.

Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Chip Cookies
New York Times

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
Sea salt.
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Click here for the printable recipe.

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.