Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jayan --- Warholized

I came across a photo editing site that turns a photo into a print, in the style of Andy Warhol's pop art. I tinkered with Jayan's birth announcement picture and the following is the resulting output:

jayan warholized

Barcelona, Here I Come

I am in Stuttgart this week for work, assessing four schools for force protection and security. It is still cold similar to Wiesbaden weather, but it is slowly warming up. The temperature reached above freezing during the day today for the first time in almost two weeks. I am headed to Barcelona for the coming weekend for a short vacation, Saturday to Tuesday, since it is a 3-day holiday weekend. When planning for this trip a little more than a month ago, I thought it would be a location to visit with a significantly warmer weather. Unless the weather changes drastically, Barcelona may not be that much warmer than Wiesbaden. Europe for the past week and half has been experiencing a cold spell, including much of Spain. This is not really discouraging, as long as it is not raining --- there are a lot to places to visit in Barcelona. I am looking forward to visiting Barcelona again.

I visited Barcelona during the summer of 2002, leading a group of six other backpackers on a whirlwind, 20 day tour of Western Europe. The following are a few pictures from that visit.

No one seems to know the direction to the New World as well as Columbus, as shown on the background monument of Columbus pointing westward.

Relaxing by Barcelona’s waterfront.

In front of the Sagrada Familia basilica.

Outside the gates of a Barcelona Museum, near the Barcelona University.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

While Away the Hours...

It’s too damn cold outside, so I am stuck inside to while away the hours. I ran across a few pictures in my computer that I would like to share. Ron and Grace are good about digitizing old family pictures. Here are a few I got from Ron a couple of years ago.

Inna with CJ, James, and Michael. CJ seems content with his corn on the cob, while James and Michael enviously eye the corn.

Inna with Mia. Mia’s Christmas wish for that year was her two front teeth.

Here are a few pictures at the bubble tea place from my visit last summer in Seattle.

One of the reasons James visited Kenya is to fix get his habit of “voodoo” staring fixed by a local shaman. Those are some serious evil eyes.

Maybe James can also have the problems fixed for Mia, Janice, and Joseph.

Just kidding James – I hope you’re having a good time. Let us know how your trip went.

I was never a pet person. I don’t think I will ever be because I would hate cleaning after them and I could never be as mobile with one. Anyway, after I moved overseas, quite a few family members acquired pet dogs. I enjoy playing with the dogs when I am there. Diego still remembers me from the time we played chase around their house in Gulfport. Mya has my sympathy always because of her amputated leg. Pugly shows me who is the boss every time I visit their house. Riley always seems to want to get my face sloppily wet. Here are a few pictures of some of these dogs sent to me via e-mail from their owners.

Pugly shows his mean face, but he is really a sweetheart.

Coco when she was small and cute. Now this dog is a ferocious giant.

Looks like a downer day for Riley.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Comfort Food

It has been quite cold here in Wiesbaden. I don’t think it has gone above the freezing point since I got back from my holiday trip to Seattle. I’m still somewhat recovering from jetlag; I woke up late this morning with achy joints and muscles (ok, I’m stretching it a bit – it may not be muscles, but body aches). It was the perfect condition for comfort food. So I prepared sopas, a Filipino hearty chicken macaroni soup. The hearty meal of sopas did wonders for me. I was able to have a productive Saturday buying groceries, getting my haircut, and working 3 hours overtime.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to provide my favorite recipes and the story behind them. I provided recipes for my favorite comfort food ---arroz caldo and sopas. The following was my submission:

Arroz Caldo and Sopas

I have always heard the term “comfort food,” but did not really know the meaning of the expression. My enjoyment of the food that my mother had always prepared has given me a better understanding of the phrase. When someone is a bit under the weather, what food does one crave? During cold and rainy days, what meals do you yearn for? When you want a hearty meal but not too filling, what dish do you long for to satisfy your hunger?

I consider comfort food as the “feel good” food. It is the food that I pine for when recovering from an illness. During unpleasant weather, it is the dish that warms me all over. It is a fulfilling fare after a late wake-up on a weekend. After a hearty day of consumption, it is the antidote for a day of heavy eating. It is the light snack that I seek after a full day in school or work.

My mother, Inna, has just the right meal for these conditions. It is truly made from love and she appreciated the enjoyment that each and everyone receive from eating her special creations. The two dishes that I consider to be the ultimate comfort food are ‘arroz caldo” and “sopas.” For anyone who has not tasted these dishes prepared by Inna, you have missed the enjoyment and satisfaction of eating true comfort food.

Inna had a keen sense of when to prepare these dishes. It seemed like it was always the opportune condition when these dishes were prepared. Adding the right amount of patis, lemon, and black pepper on a deep bowl of arroz caldo, made for a heavenly meal. Ample amount of thinly sliced cabbage and carrots made the sopas hearty, while the proper cooking of the macaroni and precise amount of evaporated milk produced a creamy concoction. I would savor every spoonful and always come back for second helpings.

I would know right away when arroz caldo was being prepared because the distinct and scrumptious aroma of the garlic, ginger, chicken, and patis would permeate throughout the house. In the case of sopas, the mélange of chicken, pasta, and bits of vegetables steaming in a milky blend would promptly beckon me to the kitchen. Eating sopas or arroz caldo brings back special memories for me: The days I would arrive home after school and Inna would have a bowl of arroz caldo waiting for me; during the bitterly cold days of winter when the whole family would enjoy a serving of sopas while watching TV together; the days when you can hardly get up because of muscle aches, stuffy nose, and persistent cough, but at the waiting is a nourishing bowl of either dishes; or when served as brunch in the late mornings of a lazy weekend.

Comfort food is truly food which soothes the heart and soul.

The recipes below, in no way, come close to Inna’s. I have tried to provide my version of both dishes.

Arroz Caldo

Half chicken, cut into small serving pieces
3 cups uncooked rice
8 cups water
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon of thinly sliced strips of ginger
4 tablespoons patis (or 2 tablespoons salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (or whole peppercorns)
Hard boiled eggs, peeled (optional)

In a large covered pot, heat oil, sprinkle a little bit of salt on the heated oil, and sauté garlic. Wait for the garlic to turn brown (do not burn garlic). Add onion, ginger, and ground pepper to sauté. Add the chicken and patis/salt. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes – stir chicken a few times during simmering. Add water and rice. Stir often to prevent sticking of rice and chicken in the bottom of pan. Let simmer for 20 minutes over low heat or until chicken and rice are tender. Add hard boiled eggs at anytime during the simmering process.

Once served on individual portions, add lemon, patis, and ground pepper to taste.


Half chicken, boiled and flaked
8 cups of chicken broth
1/2 medium size onion, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups of macaroni
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced in strips
¼ cabbage, thin shreds
½ can of evaporated milk
Ground pepper

Boil chicken until tender. Save broth and set aside. Flake chicken into smaller pieces. In a large covered pot, heat oil and sauté onion until the onion becomes transparent in color. Add chicken flakes. Add ground pepper. Sauté for about one minute. Add macaroni and sauté for a short time (just enough to get a coating of oil on the pasta). Add broth. Cook until macaroni is tender. Stir often to prevent pasta from sticking to pot. Add milk. Just before the pot comes to a boil again, add celery, carrot, and cabbage. Do not overcook the vegetables. Add salt to taste.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone! Wishing all the the best for 2009.

I am back in Wiesbaden. I got back Monday – the flight was delayed and the luggage retrieval took a bit longer than normal. I am not sure when the snow hit the Frankfurt area, but when my flight arrived at 1100 in the morning the area was already covered in snow. Wiesbaden does not have as much snow but it is bitterly cold. The temperature has been hovering in the mid-teens to low twenty’s.

I had a good Seattle visit during the holidays. It was the worst December weather Seattle experienced in a long time. Due to the weather and my car being down, I was not able to do everything that I wanted to do while in Seattle. I thank Mia and Joyce for the use of their cars. This year’s Christmas day party was probably one of the better ones. The party was almost postponed to a later date because of weather. It was great to see in person for the first time the new additions to the family, Siena and Jayan. My apologies to a few friends that I was not able to visit while I was in Seattle.

I will post pictures from the Christmas party at a later date. The following picture is from New Year’s Day after a late lunch at Sea Garden Restaurant. It has become tradition that I take my younger nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews for lunch or dinner at the Sea Garden Restaurant in Seattle. As always, the food was great and the company was precious.

1 Jan 09, After Sea Garden Lunch