Well, hello, it seems I’m back at this whole blogging thing, at least for now. It’s been awhile, and in the middle of all the writing I’ve been doing, I realized I need to pen something for myself for a change. Hopefully shake off all the cobwebs and keep at this going forward.
Anyway, a lot has happened. We moved to the U.S. for good, and I’ve been blessed to be able to still work freelance for a number of folks while staying with the kids at home. Speaking of kids, Amy is no longer swinging solo — her sister Clara was born last year and has recently turned one year old. I feel especially older realizing, once again, how fast they grow up.
One of the new things I’ve picked up is cooking, which I’ve been fairly successful at so far, if I do say so myself. One of the more elusive dishes I’ve tried to make — with hits and misses — is Korean braised beef stew. It’s also something my mom made for us growing up. I’ve had varied levels of success in the several times I’ve tried to make this, until now. Before, I included red apples and bosc pears in the puree, which wasn’t only more labor intensive, it also made the sauce pulpy. Not to mention it’s hard to approximate taste with fresh fruit.
Good thing I came across Chef Roi Choi’s recipe while I was watching the Chef Show on Netflix. He also blended and pureed his braising liquid, but used apple juice and orange juice instead of fresh fruit. Genius! I also modified his recipe a bit, searing and salting the meat first on both sides before I cooked everything in a slow cooker. The result was pretty good, if I do say so myself — and with the much simpler recipe, I feel relatively confident I can replicate this in the future.
Korean-style braised beef short ribs (Galbijim)
Create a puree with the garlic, ginger, onions, sugar, scallions (be sure to set aside some for garnish later), apple juice, orange juice, mirin and soy sauce. I used equal parts soy sauce, and orange and apple juice, around a cup each (but it depends on how much meat you have), then half a cup of mirin and a quarter cup of brown sugar.
It’s ideal that you soak the meat in cool water inside a sealed container in the refrigerator overnight. This sucks out the impurities. If you can’t for some reason, I think that’s alright. Once you’re ready to cook, throw out the water, then score the meat on both sides, season with salt and pepper, and then sear on a hot pan with a little olive oil.
Set the beef inside the slow-cooker, including the oil. Pour the puree in and set the slow-cooker on high for around 4 hours or on low for 6 hours. You can add the mushrooms, potatoes, butternut squash and carrots around 1-2 hours before the cooking timer ends.
Once done, top the dish with some chopped scallions (the more the better, in my opinion), and sesame seeds (which you can opt to toast a little beforehand). Best eaten with rice. Enjoy!
Amy turned six months recently, and while I particularly don’t like — entirely for personal and illogical reasons — the number six, I recognize how big a milestone this is for my daughter, my wife and myself. There are bound to be other, more significant milestones ahead, I know, but one at a time, if you please, thank you.
So indulge me, if you will, my least avid fan, as I list down the six things my daughter taught me, in no particular order:
I’m sure there are a myriad of ways people develop and learn patience, but there are few things that put patience to a test that are like trying to calm a fussy baby. You can’t talk to her, reason with her, plead with her, or even coerce her to stop. You wait, find — more like stumble upon — a solution, and when she acts up again, discover that your earlier method does not work anymore, and you go through the cycle all over again. Rinse, repeat.
Related, but not exactly the same. But you will discover what you truly are capable of, physically, emotionally and mentally, when you go to work with hardly a wink because baby was up all night. You have to carry her, and while babies don’t weigh very much at first, your muscles will be screaming thirty, forty minutes later or later, however long it takes to be able to put that little bundle of joy down without her waking up and having you carry her for another thirty, forty minutes. You change diapers, clean up messes, wash clothes, and do other chores, especially if you haven’t managed to get a yaya yet, which we also experienced first-hand. Kung nabibili lang talaga ang tulog.
Like I said, babies cannot be reasoned or pleaded with nor coerced — what exactly do you do with that? More often than not I realize that I’ve been expecting my child to act like an older kid, at least, when really, crying and smiling are basically the only ways she knows how to express herself. Right now we’ve gotten to laughing, but the jist of it is that her needs are still the same basic, primal needs she had when she was born.
Especially before your child is born, before you even know if it’s a he or a she — a lot of things go through your mind. Normal? Healthy? Boy? Girl? So many variables up in the air, so many possibilities, and so many things could go wrong. There was no choice but for me to come to grips with the fact that while there were a lot of things I could do help my wife take care of our unborn child, there were a lot more things that were out of my/our hands.
Even after Amy was born healthy, and while my wife’s delivery, while naturally stressful with a few kinks and scares in-between, was largely uneventful, I still realized that so much was still unknown, so much was still out of my hands.
I think there is nothing in the world like the love a parent feels for his or her child. Sure, the world romanticizes it all the same, but it’s a kind of feeling no one but parents can relate to, I think, a profound and deep love no words can properly or fully describe.
But not only did having my daughter teach me to love her, but it taught me to love her mother more as well. To see the sacrifice (and pain!) mothers have to go through to bring a child into the world, and the herculean effort they put into child rearing, how can I not love my wife more?
Faith and Grace
Technically these are two things, but I’ll weasel my way out of this by simply saying that they are two peas in a pod, so to speak.
We didn’t really enjoy the New Year’s holiday very much. Amy caught a really bad cold, and one night she just wouldn’t stop crying. We tried EVERYTHING. Two hours she cried incessantly, vomiting several times. We decided to rush her to the hospital. All the while, we were silently praying that everything would be OK. A few minutes into the car ride, Amy quieted down and finally agreed to be fed. When we got to the ER, she woke up, and seemed fine. The pediatrician took a look at her and said that we had nothing to worry about – Amy was just severely congested and we could go home. No medicine needed.
Faith isn’t about instant gratification. It’s not even trusting that everything will be okay. It’s simply the knowledge that a greater power holds everything in His hands, and allowing yourself to be led to wherever you’re meant to go. And grace is when everything works out, when the peace settles into you and you realize that things could just as well have gotten worse for whatever reason — but they didn’t.
It’s not that I didn’t know how to do or feel all these things before Amy came along — it’s just that having a child puts things into perspective and introduces an entirely new dimension to these things. Children are life-changing, but you only realize the enormity of it once it happens. And while other people may have different feelings on having children, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I’m still in the process of repopulating the blog and putting back as much of the old posts as I can salvage, but I hope to get into the regular swing of things as far as this blog is concerned, sometime in the next couple of weeks. I’ve a lot of new stuff to put up including travelogues from Singapore, Baguio and Coron.
In the meantime, here’s something from the 2011 Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival.
I realize that I haven’t posted anything new for some time now – since the holidays are coming up, things have gotten a bit hectic. I was initially planning to post some pictures from a wedding I covered this month, but the post processing is taking too long, so here are instead some images from the recent Darren Criss – from the second season of Glee, to those who don’t know him – visit to Manila. Hope this can tide things over for awhile.