Kids Photo Shoot

mei

Green is her favorite color.  That’s the reason why I am using green fonts for this post.

In a few days, our younger daughter is turning 4.  I’ve been asking around OC Mom groups about finding a good photographer who can do a mini-session with my daughter so that I can have a photo memory of her turning 4 years old. Money is an important consideration so after contemplating on it, I realized that I was the one who took all the pictures of my eldest daughter years ago, so why not grab my cameras, bring some toys, extra cute clothes and put them in my mommy bag and start heading for the nearest park.

We spent almost 2 hours playing, running, talking, and laughing and I ended up taking 60+ shots of her and I will be keeping around 15 compositions that truly captured great memories of her.

Next plan… another photo shoot – this time with her big sister. 

kids photo shoot

SUPERMOON 2012 lighted Irvine’s night sky

At exactly 8:09PM, I finished putting our children to bed. I ran to my husband telling him I needed to go out and drive around to take a few shots of the Super Moon that’s expected to be at it’s brightest and biggest this year (2012) at exactly 8:34PM Pacific Standard Time.

I grabbed my Nikomat film camera and made sure I had all my accessories with me to help guarantee a good shot of the beautiful moon tonight. I also brought my DSLR camera to be certain that I can take a few digital shots and bring home proof to my husband of this gorgeous display of tonight’s clear skies.

To make a long story short (because I am posting this and writing this at exactly 9:29PM, I just got home and am too excited)… here’s a sample of my shot.

SUPER MOON

Lens: AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED

Date/Time: 5/5/2012 8:35:40PM PDT

Focal length (35mm): 232.0mm

ISO 160 f/11 1/100 155mm

I wish my family had gone with me. I would’ve taken a much beautiful view of the moon from where I drove around the dark corners of Irvine. Security was my priority and I didn’t want to be along a dark street by myself.

There’s always a next year 🙂

Hope you like my composition!

NIKOMAT FTn Film

Blogging with my iPhone, wow to technology and to my gadgets that make life easier. But life to me is not only about new things because treasure-keeping (a.k.a. “clutter collection) is my kind of thing.

Nostalgic photos of my childhood is what I love to tinker with when I am not busy.

But wait, this post is not about my old pictures… It’s about my new old toy gifted to me by my one and only big brother on his birthday. Yes!!! You read that right, on his birthday, I got this gift from him. Am I lucky or what?!

With my new toy (Japan’s NIKOMAT FTn 1965-1975) I am too excited to capture special memories and new photos of people, places, interesting things, and food – more to share here for everybody to enjoy.

So… Watch out! Do not forget, I am an amateur photographer, but I love what I do.

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Fresh Kale, Roasted Chickpea & Apple Avocado Salad

This fresh salad made of Tri-color Quinoa (from Trader Joes) is a very easy, healthy and filling recipe.  I learned about this recipe from an online nutrition educator.  I made changes to her recipe according to what ingredients I have at hand.  Here’s how to make this:

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of Tri-color Quinoa

2 cups Water

1 bundle of Kale, washed and removed tough parts of stalk

1/2 cup Sun-dried Tomatoes, sliced

1-2 Avocados, diced

1 small Fuji apple, diced (korean pear or plums could be used too)

1 medium Red Onions, diced

1 can Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans

4 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 large Lemon

Salt

Cook the quinoa according to package instructions.  Set aside and let it cool.

In a large bowl, mix the washed and cut Kale with some salt and balsamic vinegar.  Massage, squeeze and/or kneed for 2-3 minutes until the leaves are soft and had turn to dark green.

Heat a non-stick frying pan to medium, then add a little bit of olive oil.  Saute the red onions until half translucent, then add the chickpeas and sun-dried tomatoes.  Salt to taste.

Together with the Kale in a bowl, mix the sautéed ingredients with the quinoa plus add the diced apple, avocado and lemon juice then mix well.  Serve as is or top with some fried tofu, grilled fish or fried eggs.

Very easy and so refreshing to eat.

Chinese Tsa/Cha misua and Misua birthday noodles

Special thanks to Mommy Dylebing 🙂 for being my teacher

Marrying into a Filipino-Chinese family was a life-changer to me.  Since childhood, I enjoyed learning about different cultures in Asia and now that I am older, food culture really catches my interest.  One thing me and my husband promised to one another is that after getting married, we will continue one special Filipino-Chinese tradition he grew up with.  That is, having a yearly traditional chinese birthday noodles called “misua.”

From day one of marriage we have always made this soup to traditionally serve first thing in the morning for our birthday celebrant in the family.

What does having misua soup or cha misua mean to the Chinese?  From what I read and what I learned from my mother-in-law, having this soup symbolizes several things – The long noodles symbolizes longevity.  It is said that for a traditional Chinese birthday, serving long noodles represent many more years to live.  It is a Chinese superstition that breaking or cutting the noodle will bring bad luck so every time we make this soup, the utmost care is observed to make sure the noodles are cooked well without breaking them.

Chicken to Chinese represents happiness, prosperity and if served whole, it means family reunion or togetherness of the family.   Eggs symbolizes fertility or fruitfulness.  And so on and so forth…

Now, I want to teach my viewers how to make this traditional Chinese birthday noodles.  I made two types of birthday noodles.  First is the Misua birthday soup and the next is the Cha/Tsa Misua or the stir-fried noodles which my husband always calls “tuyong misua” (dry misua) in Filipino.

MISUA SOUP INGREDIENTS:

1 whole chicken, boiled for 30-45 minutes (no salt)

Misua noodles

Hard boiled eggs (one per person), peeled and served whole

Minced garlic, browned in oil with a little salt

Chopped Green onions, for garnishing

Shred shards of chicken (himay in Tagalog or pull by hand) then set aside.  Reboil the chicken stock used to boil the chicken making sure to skim off any foam.  Upon boiling, add the shredded chicken meat and misua.  No need to put salt as the misua noodles are already salted.  Cook for 3-5 minutes depending on how you want your noodles done.  Serve in a bowl and top with one whole hard-boiled egg, sautéed brown garlic and chopped green onions.

INGREDIENTS FOR TSA/CHA MISUA

1 whole Chicken Breast, sliced thinly

5-10 pieces of medium-sized Shrimp, deveined and sliced in half

1/2 cup of good quality fish balls or scallops, sliced

Small piece of Pork, tenderloin or any tender part (boiled and sliced thinly)

Chinese long-life birthday noodles

4 large Eggs

1 bunch of sliced green onions, for garnishing

5-10 pieces dried Shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated with warm water for 1-2 hours

1/2 cup shredded Cabbage

1/2 cup sliced Crimini mushrooms

1/2 cup julliened Carrots

1/2 cup threaded and sliced Sugar snap peas

3/4 cup raw Peanuts with skin

1 bunch of fresh Cilantro, washed and roughly chopped for garnishing

Lots of Shallots, for garnishing

Oyster Sauce

Rice cooking wine

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

First thing I do is I always roast the peanuts on a hot frying pan.  It is done when the aroma of freshly roasted nuts, about 3-5 minutes of medium heat is fragrant in the kitchen.  With the same pan, using 2 beaten eggs, make a very thin omelet for garnishing later.  The other two eggs needs to be cooked in boiling water until hard-boiled, about 12 minutes.

In another shallow cooking pan, boil water and cook the long life noodles according to package instructions.  This will always depend on the kind of noodles you have available in your area.  Mine took 2-4 minutes to cook in boiling water.  After boiling, strain the noodles and quickly wash with cold water.  Before setting aside, put a little bit of sesame oil and mix the noodles well to prevent it from sticking.

In a large wok, heat olive oil to medium heat.  Cook the shallots until translucent then season with salt to taste.  Set this aside for garnishing.  I make lots of shallots because this makes the misua taste so good.

In the same wok, heat more olive oil to medium high heat.  Cook the drained shiitake mushroom until brown and fragrant.  Add the garlic, chicken, shrimp, pork and fish balls.  Cook until everything is more than half done.  Season with a little salt and pepper then stir fry with some rice cooking wine.  Next, add the rest of the ingredients – carrots, cabbage, sugar snap peas and crimini mushrooms.  Mix in 1 tbps of oyster sauce then cook and mix everything well.

To serve, put the noodles on a serving platter/bowl.  Top with the meat and vegetable mixture.  Garnish with sliced omelet, sliced hard-boiled eggs, roasted peanuts, chopped cilantro leaves and green onions.  Each person who eats will mix in their own fried shallots according to their preference.

VOILA!!!!  All done!

I love cooking this for my family.   Even our children had their first misua soup on their first birthdays and still does every year as their birthdays are celebrated.  As for me, my family makes it for me when it’s my birthday and that what makes our celebration very special.  It’s not the gifts, the cakes, balloons or ice cream – it’s our birthday misua soup that we enjoy as a family together first thing in the morning on our special days.

Enjoy!!!

Homemade sugar-free Almond Shortbread cookies


 

I am an amateur when it comes to baking but I always want to try new things.  Today, my eldest daughter home and is still on spring break.  I thought it would be fun to make cookies with her so we can spend time together in my kitchen while creating fun time memories teaching her how to bake this very easy sugar-free recipe I learned from looking up different recipes online.  Here’s how I made my own version:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups sifted All-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Splenda (for baking)
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 2 sticks of unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup raw whole Almonds
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract

First, sift the flour and salt into a bowl.  Then, using a coffee grinder (I use mine to grind rice for porridge for my baby) on percolator settings, grind the toasted almonds.  In a big mixing bowl, start creaming the butter, sugar substitute and vanilla until creamy and fluffy.

Slowly add the sifted dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture.  Towards the end, add the ground almonds.  The dough will be  ready after everything is mixed well.  Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

When dough is firm, roll it out about 1/4 inches thick onto a floured surface.  You may create any shape that you like using a cookie cutter.  Half of my dough, I made round drops of cookies then we put some sugar-free jam into the center of the cookie.  My daughter made her own cookie shapes (hearts, stars and weird shapes I can’t even explain).

Before baking, place the shaped cookie dough in the freezer for another 5 minutes to make sure it retains its shape while baking.

Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until light brown.  Mine took about 18-20 minutes because I used a Silpat mat on my cookie sheet.  You may use parchment paper to line your cookie sheet as well.

Cool in wire rack.

TOASTING RAW ALMONDS:  Place the raw nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes under 350 degrees fahrenheit.

It’s crumbly and creamy and not too sweet.  We love it!

Farmer’s Market Day – Historic Park @ the Irvine Ranch

We are very lucky to have a number of local farmer’s market around where we live.  Going to a farmer’s market makes me remember memories of going to the wet/dry markets of Manila with my parents when I was young.  The picture below was taken during our last vacation in 2009 at a wet market in Pasay City, Manila.

This place is called “Dampa Seafood Market.”  It is located alongside rows of restaurants that cooks the freshest seafoods (according to how one wants it cooked) purchased at stalls like the one in the photo below.  This is another story I will explore on our next visit to Manila (this year) and will definitely share to all my readers 🙂


It was a beautiful morning today so I decided to bring my daughters to the Farmer’s Market located behind the Katie Wheeler Library in Irvine.  This particular farmer’s market is open on Tuesdays only from 9AM to 1PM.  I’ve been going to this place for many years now.  It’s only a small group of local sellers but every time I go there, I get to buy everything that I need.

The best inspiration to a good meal are fresh organic ingredients readily available and affordable.

Fond memories are created each time I bring my children to this place.  When they grow up, they will always remember the happy times we shared going to farmer’s markets and the library 🙂

Related Articles:

Orange County Farmer’s Markets Information

Katie Wheeler Library – Great library for the family!  I’ve been bringing my children here since it opened in 2008.  This library shows a great history of the Irvine family.  I specially love the Children’s department at the library where I can relax and read books with my daughters.

Amaryllis tie-dye

My tie-die patterns and first ever brush tool “serious” project on CS4.  Yes, I am serious so please don’t make fun of this art work.  I dedicated my complete attention and artistic skills (which I don’t have quite a lot) to create this masterpiece.

By the way, the seed of this flower came directly from my Mom’s garden in Katipunan to my patio planter in Irvine.  I had to take a picture of this year’s blossom because I want to be reminded of the good memories I shared with my Mom.

Dusk at Laguna

 

My husband and I first saw Laguna Beach in 2001, thanks to our long time friend, Ken 🙂  I still remember walking along the beach that night, enjoyed the nice dinner at a restaurant along the Pacific Coast highway, looking at all the local art stores and gift shops, and finally ended the night with ice cream (as always when with Ken!).

I also remember driving down the very steep road at downtown Laguna Beach. That was such a thrill!!! Specially on Ken’s stick-shift driven sedan… Oh! It was like a rollercoaster ride!

What best reminds me of this beach are the good old days when my big brother was living with me and Bok. It was just a 10-minute drive from our home to the beach. My Kuya loves this place and he bikes along Highway 1. Brings back the memories when we enjoyed each other’s company.

Enjoy the photo and I hope it makes you feel the beauty of this place as well.