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.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...