Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I am Cooking Today

Nine-year-old MC continues her role at home as a cook.

Since last week, she's been declaring that she would be cooking for us. She has selected the menu (Colorful Noodle Salad and Happy Face Bread). She has listed down all the needed ingredients. Then a few days ago, she joined us in the grocery store, picking out the items from her list.

And then yesterday, she was the man in the kitchen. She instructed me to cook the noodles earlier so that it would be cold enough for her salad when she starts manning the kitchen for dinner.

Then she tied her own apron, washed her hands according to the kitchen manual; removed her wristwatch (remember, no jewelries when cooking); had a kitchen towel nearby; prepared all the needed ingredients.

Colorful Noodle Salad Recipe

500 g cooked pasta noodles
4 pcs. grated carrots
12 pcs. cocktail tomatoes
1/2 pc. chopped cucumber
100 g. cheese in cubes (we used Gouda)
5 tbsp. wine vinegar
3 tbsp. cooking oil ( we used olive oil)
For the salad dressing:
1 tsp. mustard
salt and pepper to taste
a half bunch of chives

1. Prepare all the ingredients. Place the pasta noodle in a salad bowl. Set aside five pieces of tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half and add to the noodles. Put the carrots, cheese, cucumber in the mixture.
2. In a screw-top glass, mix together wine vinegar, cooking oil, mustard, salt and pepper. Screw it close and shake well.
3. Mix the noodle mixture with the salad dressing. Relish with chopped chives and the rest of the tomatoes.
Tips: You can add other favorite vegetables.
After a few minutes of just being an observer, she finally asked for my help. I was tasked to chop the cucumber and the carrots (which I did and after awhile she stopped me as the carrots were supposed to be grated!!). Seven-year-old IC joined us by helping in washing the veggies; then she settled down near the salad bowl where she ended up picking out noodles and tomatoes 'to taste' while her big sister mixed the salad sauce.

After the salad had been tossed, MC had a spoonful to taste -- then another, then another and declared. 'Mama, my salad is so delicious, I could eat the whole bowl.' Happy with her success, she proceeded to clean-up. Afterwards, she decided right there and then that we wont need a Happy Face Sandwich after all.

That disappointed IC who suggested that the best thing to accompany the salad would be hotdogs. Good thing we just brought a fresh wieneler from the meat shop and we still have a pack of bacon. IC helped me wrap the bacon around the wieneler, and then we baked them for a few minutes.

Voila! A meal prepared by the girls. There were no untoward incident -- with the girls -- it was the only adult in the kitchen (me) who got nicked by the knife :-D Be careful, Mama!!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mama, Please Don't Scold!

Sometimes, our words could bounce back to us.

And for me, more words are bouncing back especially since I notice that my girls are growing and are becoming more aware of their environment and of who they are.

The most glaring thing happened a few days ago.

It was already close to dinner time and I have yet to finish the laundry and I need to start cooking which was just a little overwhelming considering the fact that both girls are begging to have snacks, again! 'Mama, we are hungry, could we have something to eat?'

Well, since I am supposed to be getting dinner ready, I raised my voice and said, 'Will you please stop those snacks? Dinner would be ready in a few minutes and I need to finish folding the laundry, too.'

My 7-year-old IC didnt take that lightly and reprimanded me, 'Mama, you always tell us that it is better to speak up than scold someone; but you are doing that to us right now. I dont think that is good at all.'

Oopps! I admitted that raising up my voice was not good; that it is indeed better to speak up than to scold. And I thanked her for reminding me.

I had to hide my smile because she got me there!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Berries are Good Enough!

The girls discovered savory surprises in the wild part of our backyard after two weeks of missing the outdoor, partly because of the rain and because we were away for a short time.

They came rushing back to the kitchen shouting for a basket. Indeed, we have a strawberry patch and the veggie area and the spice and herbs corner. We have cleared out those particular areas, planting seeds and preparing for harvest. We have enjoyed the harvest as we have nurtured them, too.

But what completely gave us excitement are the bushes and the trees in some parts of the backyard that we didnt touch at all -- the wild areas. In fact, we have completely neglected them -- as we have decided to tackle the whole garden, slowly, in the next months that would come.

What happened? Those ignored parts are now showing off, giving out gifts.

There's red and black currants, raspberries, and gooseberries. The trees are bearing different sorts of cherries, plums and apples. And we cant get enough!

We pluck them for breakfast, to add in our cornflakes and muesli. We pick them for snacks and eat them fresh while strolling in the garden. We bake with them -- cakes, muffins and cookies. We use them as relishes for all our salad recipes. We make our dishes appetizing by using them as decors. We share them as gifts to friends and neighbors. We wash them, dry them and freeze them. I might even try creating jams, jellies or marmalades out of them (wish me luck!).

The girls love them. Their friends eagerly come to visit because they wanted to enjoy the fruit-bearing trees right there in our backyard. They are allowed to climb them and play up there, too. Not to mention, they would have instant picnic up there, too. Of course, most of them go home with 'fruits loots.'

And to think that we had wanted to cut down those 'strange looking old' trees. And to think that we had wanted to make way for a wadding area where those berries are.

Nature showed us what to do. We were only away for two weeks and the wild garden became a lush fruit-bearing yard! I guess, the decision's been made -- the wild garden would definitely remain and would not be neglected anymore.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

One Stormy Weather

After weeks of an early summer feeling which brought the temperature as high as 30 degrees and brought us out of the house and into the garden and the backyard -- we are back to wet and cold! It was stormy.

But that didnt stop the girls from enjoying the outdoors! I gave them permission to run outside and play in the rain. Since it is only 11 degrees and they dont want to wear any raincoats at all, I let them go out for a few minutes (they came in wet and muddy) and shooed them into a hot shower.

Afterwhich they watched some TV but got bored after a few minutes. They wanted some action! What to do? Since it was time to prepare for a meal -- we got them busy. Armed with an umbrella and a basket, we went to the garden where they helped me gather spinach for our new spinach dish and plucked some spices, too.

MC, who is already comfortable with handling knives, helped her Papa slice the mushrooms. IC sorted out and washed our basket of spinach and spices. MC helped in cooking the sauce and pasta, pouring the cream and adding spices. IC lend me a hand in preparing our table -- carrying the plates, utensils and placing the 'table napkins in the right position please, Mama!'

The meal preparation took longer and there were small accidents (spills, a harmless arm burn, a fight on who should do what, etc). The stormy weather continued outside, in fact, watching and commenting about the rain and the wind and 'is that hailstorm?' also took some of our concentration from cooking.

Finally, very hungry, we sat down together to enjoy our meal. We forgot how long it took us to have everything done. Instead, we wondered how delicious everything turned out. Even IC, who is not a real fan of spinach -- had a full plate. MC had her usual appetite, at least three plates!

Well, we have a stormy weather and a perfect team work in the kitchen to thank for!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It is not the cucumber...

Been reading about it, been following the news about it, been hearing about it, been watchful about everything we eat because of it.

Since late May 2011, an outbreak of food-borne infections with a rare strain of the E. coli bacteria in Germany killed more than 20 people, sickened more than 2,300 and set off alarms that reverberated across Europe.

Although mostly those infected were those who traveled to northern Germany; the outbreak might have spread to every corner of the country (we live in the southern area) though, other regions have reported deaths due to E.coli. Those infected suffered from a potentially lethal complication attacking the kidneys, which can provoke comas, seizures and stroke.

When suspicion fell on cucumbers, tomatoes and various lettuce as possible sources of the bacteria (they have added bean sprouts a little later); I was one of those who veered away from those items, I also became suspicious of other veggies and fruits, in the supermarket especially those coming from a particular country. It was a little disappointing because the girls have just started experimenting with veggies and have accepted cucumbers, tomatoes and salad as part of our daily meals. We started harvesting from our backyard mini farm with rucola, spinach, etc. But our supply would not be enough so we got some from friends with backyard gardens, and visited our friendly country farmyards.

Last June 10, they finally lifted the ban on cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuces. Instead, officials confirmed that it was the bean sprouts that are the source of the germs. I am sure there would be more coming from this story but we simply needed the fresh veggies and fruits in our diet. What is the best thing to do but be informed, which would lead us to intelligent choices.

Since small kids are considered high-risk, I explained to the girls that there is a bacteria that is making people sick.  They must always wash their hands before eating anything especially if they are outdoors in farms and petting zoos; and even in paddling pools or sandboxes.

Plus, we follow closely the recommendations of the health authorities:

- Cook meat sufficiently prior to consumption (at least 70°C)
- Boil raw milk prior to consumption
- Wash hands thoroughly with water and soap and dry carefully (at least before the preparation of food, after contact with animals or raw meat and before eating)
- Store and prepare raw meat separately from other foodstuffs, including the use of different chopping boards, plates, knives and tongs
- Clean thoroughly and dry surfaces and utensils immediately after contact with raw meat, its packaging or condensation water
- Replace as far as possible washcloths and towels after the preparation of raw meat and wash at a temperature of at least 60°C
- Peel or at least thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruit before consumption.

The German leaflet "Schutz vor EHEC-Infektionen" is free-of-charge and can be ordered in writing from BfR.The symptoms of the bacteria includes diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and stomachache.

And to be frank, we have also been very careful in washing all the veggies and fruits coming from our backyard garden (and those from the farm)  if we are eating them raw. As for hygiene, the girls already practice very good hygiene when it comes to meals and handling food. But learning more about it would be more fun.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Yesterday, I turned a year older. I am 42!

Well, I dont feel 42. Although I notice that I have more white hair, but who's counting? (My girls count them, unfortunately :-D)

Around 2 am on my birth day, I woke up to sounds of partying. At first I thought it was just the cargo train; my husband saw me peering out of the window and he said he doesnt know what's happening although it sounds like there's an outdoor party going on. Well, since we are both awake -- he gave me a huge hug and a loud smack, the first one to greet me a happy birthday -- which blocked the noise outside effectively.

When the alarm clock sounded early morning, I was instructed to stay in bed and to keep my eyes closed. My husband left our bedroom then I heard him waking up the girls. I must have fallen asleep because I woke up with the girls in front of me with a plate of sliced banana topped with honey, a biscuit and a glass of orange juice. After sharing my breakfast to everyone, I received my gifts.

I opened IC's first and she gave me a necklace with beads of white and pink, from my husband I got a pair of crystal earrings while my firstborn MC gave me a gift certificate stating that she would be a good girl today and would do every chore that I would ask of her.

Afterwards, I changed into my jogging outfit and brought the girls to school. I jogged then and passed by the cemetery. Since a special friend cannot greet me anymore, I wanted to greet her instead. What happened was I was searching for more than 20 minutes and couldnt find her grave! Is she playing with me or  is this the sign of old age? Because when I arrived home, my husband told me that my friend's husband took over her role  (he has never done that before) and called up to send greetings -- that was while I was crazily looking for her grave. Hmmm.

Then it became hectic. I baked a cake for an aunt who is coming. And because our dishwasher is kaputt, we  waited for the repairman. Then my husband watched the cake while I picked up the girls and passed by the grocery for last minute goods; then the cake's dough leaked into the oven and my husband panicked but he said the dishwasher is working so that's good news. Then we cannot bake our chicken wings lunch in the oven because my husband isnt finished cleaning it yet. Of course, our aunt came a little early while we are getting ready for our late lunch so she joined us in the table with a piece of cake.

Then the door bell rang and there stood our neighbor with her little girl with a gift for me; and the little wanted to stay to play with MC but MC needs to finish her homework first (we told her she could come after an hour). The door bell rings again and IC's playmate joined us, too. With the girls busy, the adults got to chat a bit, before our aunt decided she wanted to make cherry marmalade.

Since we have five cherry trees bulging with the fruit in our backyard, we got busy. Our aunt wanted to climb the trees to better reach the cherries (she's in her late 70s); so feeling challenged, I gave up the chair I was standing on and was up the tree in no second at all. We collected enough for a basketful of dark red cherries; and I managed the tree without cracking any bones, and that at 42!

After our aunt left and the girls' playmates were fetched; my husband and I retreated in our small office and worked a bit before a simple dinner of bread and the rest of the chicken wings. I received some calls, got a text message but most of my birthday greeters came from facebook! I appreciate everyone who remembered, and those who would be late in remembering, too :-D

What happened to the old birthday cards? I miss receiving those, and yes, I still send them myself.

Anyway, 42 is the same as 25. Although...might have more white hair, might have more problems zones, might have less tolerant for noise, might have not the strenght to stay up til 3 am, might have needed eyeglasses, might have talked more about the past, might have been more forgetful... but hey, it is all in the mind! After all, I did climb the cherry trees and I still jog weekdays and I still love the hullahoop and I can still eat my favorites not all of them healthy and more importantly, I still have dreams that I look forward to fulfilling.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

House and Lot for Sale (Haus gesucht?)

Located in Hemsbach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Near the center of the city, 6 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 488 sqm, double garage. The balcony offers a space for expansion. Constructed in 1900, renovated in 1972 and 1994. Double glazing, heat-insulated roof. Partially renovated, available immediately. Price: 220,000 Euro

PLEASE CALL: +49 - 1577- 3941206 or email:

Hemsbach-Ortsrandlage, jedoch zentral: 6 Zi., 1-FH, Wfl. 140 qm, Nfl. 50 qm, Grdst. 488 qm, Doppelgarage, Blk., G-WC, Garten, TGL-Bad, Balkon mit Vergrößerungs-Potential zur Terrasse. Umbaumaßnahmen 1972 und 1994. Isolierverglasung, wärmegedämmtes Dach. Teilweise renovierungsbedürftig., frei ab sofort. Preis: 220,000 Euro

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Creative Meals with Spinach

Our spinach corner is still thriving so fast. I have been harvesting spinach almost everyday. And since the leaves are growing faster than I could use them, the family have become creative in making meals with spinach.

I have some in the freezer after washing them, letting them dry and packing them in ziploc bags.

I have mixed chopped spinach with a simple fried rice.

Fried Rice with Spinach:
Heat the pan and add oil. Sprinkle water over left-over rice, mash them a bit then add to the pan. Mix the spinach. Season with pepper, salt and garlic powder. Mix. Serve with green salad.

My husband have grounded spinach mixed in his spätzle (homemade German pasta); the spinach turned it into a wonderful green color that the girls cant get enough of it!

Our hamburger relishes now include freshly picked spinach leaves, instead of lettuce.

Our green salad bowls are flavored with spinach leaves, too.

We use chopped spinach leaves in our egg sandwiches.

There's always spinach spread in our potato gratin.

Our lasagna's been turning green with spinach.

All our pasta recipes are laced with spinach.

I have plans to make spinach tempura in the near future.

And we cannot wait to start making different spins of spinach soup!

We love our spinach! Dont ask if we suddenly turn green!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

She's Gone

And I was just thinking of sending her an e-mail a day after she left.
I wanted to ask her how she's doing.

I wanted to know if we could finally visit her.
If she's finally well enough to accept visitors.

I wanted to feel again her special kind of friendship, our special kind of friendship.
After all, we havent seen her for more than two years.

Though we have closely communicated per email, that's not enough, of course.
I wanted to see her again. I wanted to give her a hug. I wanted to hear her.

I wanted to show off the girls.
How grown up they are.

I wanted to thank her for her help.
How her words and her recommendations were followed.

That last email that I wanted to send her?
It was supposed to comfort her, to tell her we are continuously praying for her.

I wanted to show her that she is not alone. That even though she is too sick, too weak, too weary; people who love her wouldnt want to miss being with her. Just being there.

And now, I could only write this blog post. In the hope that she would be able to read it.

Dear Renate, it was a shock to read your obituary in the newspaper yesterday. But it is good to know that your pain is gone. We are happy that we have shared special memories with you. I am sure, wherever you are, love sorrounds you. You might want to keep your eyes on us, once in a while; to keep us from being naughty. Or else we wont receive that special homemade Christmas card tucked with special Christmas stories created by you year after year. I know, I know, you see, I am hoping I would look up in the sky and find your signature there, too! We wont forget!