Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Hobby: Flower Arranging

I loved gardening and that is one of the things I greatly miss in apartment living. But God knew this and He sure made a way for me to still be involved with plants and flowers, somehow!
There is a small church about 3 minutes from where we live. One day, the pastor spoke to invite the parishioners to help in whatever way possible. After mass, I asked how I could help and he asked me if I could help with providing flower arrangement for the altar area. It's been 3 years ago since I started my flower ministry. This was something new to me. I now make arrangements for the different seasons.
To get started I looked for flower shops...those were too expensive. Soon, I found a wholesaler at the market and a flower outlet store. With these 2 suppliers, the costs became a bit more reasonable.
My flower ministry begins in the fall when the church calendar is still in Ordinary Time. I try to design my creations symbolically, through the choice of colors and in the materials I use.
When Advent comes around, the first thing to prepare is the Advent wreath.
For the rest of the season, I use lilies and mums, with eucalyptus and some berries in anticipation of the forthcoming season...
and add some evergreens and the color gold for the festive Christmas season's celebration.
In the early spring, more colorful flowers are in bloom. I used to help out in this church, too, taking turns with another lady doing the flower arrangements.
In the season of Lent, when the church is preparing for the Passion of our Lord...roses with their thorny stems remind us of Christ's suffering.
For the Triduum, a side Altar of Repose is prepared. The red tulips are a reminder of the blood our Lord shed for us.
During the Easter mass celebration, all white flowers adorn the altar...a symbol of the resurrection...a sign of God's pure love for us.
And in the weeks after - back in ordinary time, before summer, the flowers and the colors can be as colorful as they can be until the church closes its doors for the summer.

My flower ministry takes a half-day each week, whenever I am in town. It is a blessing in disguise for me, as I have learned more about flowers and how to arrange them, and be in my own paradise! The latest thing I had figured out on my own, is to put a little bleach in the water in the vase. This makes the flowers last a little bit longer and the vases stay gunk free after a week, and so much easier to clean.

Uh oh...I have just less than 24 hours to prepare the flowers for the New Year's vigil mass...then, we will attend the vigil mass and be on our way after to celebrate ringing in 2010. Happy new year!!!

How I Developed my Hobbies

Much of what I do creatively had their beginnings when I was still very young. I used to hang around my mother a lot as I had very few playmates in our neighborhood. My brother, who used to be my playmate when I was little, now, had his own group of friends. I ended up spending a lot of time at home when I was not in school.

My mother was quite creative with her hands and she used to design her own clothes, Christmas lanterns, very unique custom curtains, her landscape design, as well as other things. She was going to be a teacher, but after she and my father got married, the two of them made a decision that my mother was going to be a-stay-at-home wife and mother. As my father used to say, being a wife and mother was more than a full time job.

The choice of grade school for me to attend was based on it's proximity to our home. This turned out to be the school that was within walking distance from where we lived, almost quite literally behind our house. The school was JASMS in Philam Life, Ouezon City, and it was a very progressive and experiential grade school. Our classes were held outside of the classroom whenever it was appropriate, and a lot of the subject matter we had were built in mini proportions inside our classrooms, detailed in molded clay then paper mached, acted on stage, or observed in the environment. I only realized later on, that what we were learning in my grade school was not the typical curriculum in other schools. Aside from the academic subjects, we also had sewing, arts and crafts, electronics, farming and carpentry.

Between what I learned from my mother and from my grade school, at the age of 8, I was starting to be productive: sewing my pairs of pants, cooking simple recipes, doing arts and crafts projects with my mother around the Christmas season, and had taken an interest in gardening, as I shadowed my mom all around the house. She took the time to teach me how to do things in the house, the kitchen, and in the garden by showing me and by explaining step-by-step. By the time I got to school, I knew a little bit more than my classmates when it came to our cooking, farming, and arts and crafts classes. As I grew older, in the intermediate grades, I learned how to put together a radio and fashioned out a wooden tray.

As with most Filipino parents, my mother wanted me to learn how to play the piano, just like my older sister whose ambition was to be a concert pianist. After a classical music teacher told my mother that I was not cut out to learn the classical way, but had a good ear for music, my mother got me a teacher to teach me to play by ear. So when I hear something, I can go home and play it in my own version.

At my age now, I have developed some hobbies because I have more time on my hands. I am not professionally trained, except in sewing and dressmaking, but a course or two here and there, reading about it, watching a demonstration, or simply daring to experiment or try something new have gotten me to doing a number of things which I find enjoyable and worth my time. I count among them experimental cooking, sight seeing, ceramics, flower arranging, photography, and the most recent one is painting.

Just like in my piano playing, when I taste something, I can pretty much duplicate it in my kitchen. When I see something I like, I get inspired to create my own design whether that be a ceramic piece, a fashion item, or something. When I need to come up with a design, I can picture it in my head - as it is in flower arranging. When I take pictures, there's some kind of a story that I follow and then it gets its structure once the pictures are organized into an album. As for my painting, that is a most fun activity for me as I just start to put my feelings, thoughts and ideas onto a canvass, where the words are the colors I use in the strokes I make.

Christmas Market: At the Trocadero, Paris, France

Christmas markets are about to close...the holiday season is almost over.

For a last visit, I went to the one at the Trocadero.

The bonus to this location is having a good view of the Eiffel Tower, up on the Trocadero courtyard.

As I mingled with the crowd, I was attracted to check out the aroma leading me to the food stalls...a glass of vin chaud (hot wine) was just perfect for this very cold evening.

Families were having fun at the skating rink. How I wished I had my kids with me...
except, they are all grown up now.

There was a big to do by the staircase...a man on his bike was entertaining us with his stunt - to bike/jump down from the top of the banister to the ground without falling...and he succeeded!

Briefly, I paused to watch the Eiffel Tower light show, changing hues and color patterns.

An hour at the market was getting to me. I was freezing. 
By the time I took one last look, the half moon was out.

The Trocadero will be the place to be this New Year's watch the light show and a fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower, and to view the blue moon that will happen because of a partial lunar eclipse from December 31 to January 1.

Well, I need to prepare for this celebration, pack my pic-nic bag with some glasses, a bottle of champagne, some toast and foie gras, nuts, cheese and fruits, to ring in the new year!

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2010 be a year of many blessings for you and your family!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

In the Kitchen: Twice-Cooked Adobo style & Taquitos

After a day or two of eating the holiday foods, I begin to look at ways to recycle the leftovers, so they can get eaten right away. For left over meats or poultry, I recook them into Twice-Cooked Adobo style or make Taquitos out of them.

1. Shred the left over meat or poultry (in this case, its turkey) and set aside.
2. Chop some garlic cloves - this is what gives the adobo flavor.

In a warmed skillet or low-deep frying pan, put in a Tbsp. of cooking oil (not Olive oil) and brown the garlic in medium-low heat, until it turns light brown, while stirring constantly.

Then, add the shredded meat, a little bit at a time so it is spread out evenly on the bottom of the pan and will get crispy. You may need to add a little bit more of cooking oil from time to time.

Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until the shredded bits turn into crispy flakes. Toss around, every now and then, for even pan-frying.

Repeat the pan-frying step for the remaining shredded meats until your supply is all recooked into crispy flakes.

Serve with a sunny-side up or scrambled egg, with garlic fried rice. This can be your breakfast or luncheon meal.

Procedure: TAQUITOS
1. Shred the left over meaty parts and set aside.
2. Place a number of corn tortillas on a plate, and drape over a wet paper towel that has been wrung out a little beat. Cover with a bowl and microwave for about 20 seconds. This will make the tortillas more pliable when you start assembling the taquitos.

Warm up your skillet at medium heat, then drizzle some cooking oil on the pan.

On a tortilla, place a row of shredded meat, off centered, and roll it to form a taquito and pan fry in your skillet, turning it around to get it browned on 4 sides.

Continue the process, until you have the desired number of taquitos done. Calculate at serving 2 to 3 pieces per person.

Serve with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, with a touch of lemon juice. Then, prepare a side salad of mixed greens as accompaniment.

* Note that my taquitos are a bit darker as I used whole-wheat tortillas. It actually taste better when you use corn tortillas.

These are really simple recycling recipes that will be well liked by whoever you are cooking for. Get started and finish up your leftovers!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

On Tour: Christmas Market - Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy

The Christmas markets are all over Europe during the holiday season. In Rome, I had a chance to go to the one in Piazza Navona.

This piazza is long, as the buildings around it are built upon the ruins of the Circus Domitianus (Domitian's Stadium). The piazza used to be the area for the races in the stadium. In ancient times, the stadium was the site of the Agonal games. The name has changed from "in agone" to "n'agone" to "navone" and now "navona".

Today, it is surrounded by beautiful old buildings, a church, and adorned with three fountains.
At the northern part of the piazza is the "Fontana di Nettuno" (Poseidon Neptune - god of water in Greek mythology). The basin design was by Giacomo della Porta (1576) and the statues of Neptune and the Nereids (sea nymphs) were just added in the last century.

To the western side of the piazza stands the church of Sant'Angese in Agone (St. Agnes in Agony).

The story goes that in this arena a twelve-year-old Christian, Agnes, refused to marry a pagan. On the spot, she was exposed naked, but miraculously covered by the unusual, instant growth of her hair, then martyred.

The building of the church was commissioned by Pope Innocent X in 1652. Not long after, Francesco Borromini took control of the project and was responsible for the completion of the dome, 
the concave facade, and the twin bell towers.

Across from the church, in the center of the piazza is Bernini's most spectacular fountain, "La Fontana Dei Fiumi" (rivers) which was erected in 1651, featuring a central rocky structure 
that supports an obelisk, an ancient Roman imitation of the original Egyptian form.

Around the obelisk structure are four giant statues, which were executed by Bernini's pupils according to his designs, representing the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges, and the Rio della Plata, 
as a representation of the four corners of the world.

At Christmas time, the piazza is filled with stalls selling toys and other items 
for the Christmas gift giving...
with attractions to make it a family affair, where the children can have a balloon, a sweet treat, 
or take a ride and have a fun time...
and pose for a picture and talk with Santa about the gifts they want him to bring.
As I walked around, I came upon some Italian assortment of caramelized nuts and "turrones" (nougats)...
stockings filled with candies and an array of other sweet confections to eat 
or for you to use to design your own gifts...
and giant donuts!...that were, likewise, being packaged for gift giving...
plus Chupa Chups and candied apples.

Of all the Christmas markets I have gone to, this one at Piazza Navona seems to be the most dedicated to the season of Christmas.
Figurines of all sizes, stables, forms, and cribs are prominently displayed and sold so you can make your own manger scene.

There were ornaments galore...snowballs, candle holders for Kris Kringle presents...
or unique ornaments for an ornament exchange...
wreaths and other decorations to make the house look festive...
and colorful metallic, wooden, and glass ornaments for trimming the Christmas tree.

After an hour's walk around the market, it was time to go and have dinner.

Piazza Navona is an extremely lively place, with side-walk cafes around it. During the summer, there are numerous artists who offer to draw or paint passers-by, for a fee, of course. The place is crowded each day with a variety of entertainers, including mime artists.

Perhaps, my next visit to Italy should be in the summertime, next year!?!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

In Concert: Becca Godinez's Christmas Concert 12/12/09

My friendship with Becca goes back to my "Ms.Ellaneous" days. So when I found out she had a concert coming up in Los Angeles, I made sure to reschedule my departure to catch her show.

This was a night to remember...Becca Godinez in concert at the Heritage Forum, Anaheim, California...a dynamic performer whose style is so versatile, captivating, and entertaining. For those who watched her for the first time, they were so pleasantly wowed by her.

Becca's opening number was a medley of Christmas songs.

As she talked to her audience, she noticed her former singing group members from Calvary Chapel, and invited them to perform with her.

"Prime Note Ensemble", composed of Filipino men who came all the way from Saudi Arabia, entertained us with their acapela songs - such talented singers who don't even read a note of music...

and soon, Becca joined them for a number...what a beautiful blending of voices.

Tasha Kaiserman, Becca's beautiful and talented daughter, gave us a jazzy rendition of ”O Holy Night.“

Then, out came Ner de Leon, a Filipino saxophone his rendition of Chuck Mangione's “Feels so Good.” He thrilled us.

Ner is such a dynamic performer...

who captivated the audience with another 2 songs.

I'm sure he will make it to the top...someday soon!

Becca shared his story with us...his conversion from his Las Vegas life style to who he is today.

Becca, along with her long-time back-up singers who were entertaining, as well, with their Christmas hats and their singing and dancing, sang “Shining” which has earned her one of two gold records.

In her rendition of “Drummer Boy” 4 drummers came to accompany her. That was a very nice touch that added to the theme of the song.

In Her finale number, all her guest performers joined her - her back up singers, Ner de Leon on the sax, and Prime Note Ensemble.

Becca thanked her guest performers as she clutched her bouquet of flowers.

An encore number...and the people were clamoring for me.

If you missed this concert, be sure to catch her next time. Our grateful thanks to Katz Entertainment for producing this show. We are looking forward to another one in the Spring or summer, or year!


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