Thursday, May 29, 2008


To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.
~ Chinese proverb

"Conversations" is the theme of the workshop I will be attending this weekend. But since this is the first time I'll be with this particular group, I expect to be listening more than talking.

We're leaving Friday afternoon and will be coming back Sunday afternoon, so I won't be online at all during this time. I found this photo of a view of Manila from the place where we're staying in Antipolo, taken by maryan54 at webshots outdoors. Knowing myself, I will not be able to see dawn breaking—I am not a morning person—but I hope I find this spot because I will enjoy seeing the city lights at night.

So, until Sunday (or Monday), be good, boys and girls. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not quite from scratch

I think I'm a little slow here, but I've just discovered how to make quick, chunky soup using canned condensed soup. My only excuse is that Campbell's soup is imported here and I don't pay it much attention when I do my grocery. There's not much variety either—we only seem to have a few of the cream-based soups plus the chicken noodle soup, and only the regular kind too—none of the chunky or low-sodium varieties. But I wanted to make a shrimp-based chunky soup last weekend—it's rainy season here already and nothing beats hot soup when it's raining—and I didn't have much time to make one from scratch because I woke up late Sunday morning. So I grabbed two cans of Campbell's New England Clam Chowder and a brick of low-fat milk and that's what I based my chunky soup on. I don't think I'll be doing this often though. I checked the nutrition information and the sodium content is high!

2 cans condensed clam chowder cream soup
1 brick (250ml) low-fat milk
1/8 cup butter or margarine
2 small onions, minced
1 kilo peeled shrimp, sliced into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
2 small carrots, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped

Place the condensed soup and milk in a stockpot and use a whisk to mix the two until smooth. Set aside.

In a wok or large skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the shrimp, salt, black pepper and marjoram and sauté until the shrimp turns pink. Add the carrots and zucchini and sauté for about two more minutes. Set aside.

Heat the soup. Add the sautéed shrimp and vegetables, including the liquid, and mix well. Simmer for three minutes.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

When bookworms wed

…they put their books together, separate all the duplicates, and give them away as souvenirs during their wedding, which they hold in a library.

That's what two friends did when they got married last week. And the wedding really was in a library, though a specialized and, therefore, very pretty library. They let their guests choose which titles to bring home, so for half an hour, their bookworm friends were too busy browsing to talk or eat. And since they had more books than guests, everyone got to bring home more than one (I saw several with five books each!).

I got two books: Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses," which I didn't read when it was the talk of the town so many years back, and Margaret Atwood's "Oryx and Crake," which my husband assures me I am going to like. I haven't read anything by Atwood yet, so I hope he's right. He just handed me another Atwood book last night, in fact—yet another to add to my tottering towers.

Each book had a special bookmark—a more personalized souvenir of the occasion—with their names and the date of the wedding. The monogram that you see in the picture is a combination of their initials, P and S.

Here's to a beautiful life of loving and reading together, you two! Congratulations!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sucking on sugar-free

I don't usually choose sugar-free products over their regular variants. The main reason is because my husband and I don't really consume products with loads of sugar—like softdrinks, powdered juice drinks, cookies, candies, chocolates, and such. Another reason is because of all those horror stories I've heard about aspartame. And the third reason is because I haven't eaten or drunk anything sugar-free that tasted better than its original variant. (If I'm going to have something that's not good for me, I might as well enjoy it to the fullest, right?)

These past two weeks, though, I've discovered that there is one product that I like the sugar-free variant more than the original: Strepsils. For some reason, it's much smoother than the regular kind. It also isn't as sweet, which is great. Here in Manila, we don't get the sugar-free kind in different flavors—there's only one and the package, which is lime green so it's probably lemon, doesn't say what flavor it is. I don't mind at all. I like it.

And yes, our Strepsils come in foil packs—not tamper-proof bubbles (or whatever they're called) in boxes.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I am happy to report…

This is really just an update to two old posts, to let you know that they actually work. Just click on the links to read the original posts.

1. My girlfriend finally tried that recipe she found for removing tarnish and texted me to say that it really works. However, if the silver is heavily tarnished or if the object is large, you have to dip it twice.

2. After taking my own moisturizing advice for half a year, I am happy to report that… Oh forget it—it's too embarrassing to say. Let's just say it that it works.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Endangered Species Day

I'm a day late for this because it's already Saturday here—that's what happens when you don't check your email everyday.

Three years ago, the U.S. Senate declared the third Friday of May as Endangered Species Day. It is meant to promote the conservation of all plants and animals threatened with extinction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources maintains a Red List of Threatened Species, if you are interested. I've signed up at the Center for Biological Diversity to get news and to be able to sign petitions.

If it's still Friday in your part of the world, or even if it isn't, you might want to send these e-postcards to your friends and family to help spread the word. Click on the image and it will bring you to the web form for sending them.

Happy Endangered Species Day, everyone!
Although, honestly, I don't see how it can be happy.

Friday, May 16, 2008


I finally fought off that bug I caught last week, but I still have a bad cough and the sniffles. Since Wednesday, the day I felt well enough to go back to work, this has been my best friend at night:

Vicks VapoRubVicks VapoRub. A small dab outside my nose, and a large dollop rubbed on my chest. The dab on the nose definitely eases my breathing, and I like the warm-then-cool sensation of it on my skin.

This thing's been around for ages, and I can understand why—it really works!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A gift of games

Thank you, Joel, for introducing me to Ferry Halim's beautiful games in Orisinal.

Just a word of warning: Right click on the link and open it in another window rather than in a tab. The Flash games resize the window, which is bothersome when you're browsing other sites.

Orisinal screen shot

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Skins of art

What do I do when I really, really want to buy something that I do not need? Buy it as a present!

That's what happened when my girlfriend at GlamExchange discovered GelaSkins and wrote about them. Right after reading her article, I spent the next hour or so just browsing the site and looking at all the beautiful artwork—because that's what GelaSkins' pride is: artist-designed skins for your laptop, iPod and gaming devices.

I don't have a laptop, iPod or gaming device—no excuse to buy myself a Gelaskin. But my husband does have a MacBook, so there's my excuse!

The two skins I chose (yes, I consulted my husband and he'll say he chose them too, but I had already decided on them before we went through the website together, hee hee) are by the same artist: Colin Thompson from Bellingen, Australia. I immediately fell in love with his colorful, whimsical art, and what he had to say in the website made him even more endearing to me: I have always believed in the magic of childhood and think that if you get your life right that magic should never end. I feel that if a children's book cannot be enjoyed properly by adults there is something wrong with either the book or the adult reading it. This of course, is just a smart way of saying I don't want to grow up.

Here are the two art skins. Click on the image to see a slightly bigger one, or just visit the GelaSkins website. Guess which one my husband's currently using.

Colin Thompson's Bookshelf
Music Castle
Colin Thompson's Music Castle

Saturday, May 10, 2008

8 of my favorite things

Linda, Laryh and Peanut tagged me ages ago to write eight random facts about myself. But I didn't want to make it the usual text-only laundry list and I also wanted to put my own twist into the game. So here it is finally, girls. I had fun doing it!

I heart smart boys
potato chips
The Lord of the Rings
white lily
George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale and Johnny Depp

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I love this widget

The National Geographic Photo of the Day widget is one of my favorite widgets. I love National Geographic's photos! Click on INFO, and it tells you what the image is and who the photographer is. From the info panel, you can get to the Photo of the Day archive and even download a wallpaper of the image. Click on ENLARGE, and it brings you to the National Geographic website where a large image is displayed and the explanation is a bit longer.

This widget is available for web pages and the Mac Dashboard.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


After finding this article, my husband said, "I wonder what our cellphone keypads are like." Double Eeeeew!

Keyboards 'dirtier than a toilet'
Some computer keyboards harbour more harmful bacteria than a toilet seat, research has suggested.

Consumer group Which? said tests at its London offices found equipment carrying bugs that could cause food poisoning.

Out of 33 keyboards swabbed, four were regarded as a potential health hazard and one harboured five times more germs than one of the office's toilet seats.

Microbiologist Dr Peter Wilson said a keyboard was often "a reflection of what is in your nose and in your gut".

During the Which? tests in January this year, a microbiologist deemed one of the office's keyboards to be so dirty he ordered it to be removed, quarantined and cleaned.

It had 150 times the recommended limit for bacteria - five times as filthy as a lavatory seat tested at the same time, the research found.

The equipment was swabbed for bugs, such as those that can cause food poisoning like E.coli and staphylococcus aureus.

Dr Wilson, a consultant microbiologist at University College London Hospital, told BBC Radio 5 Live sharing a keyboard could be passing on illnesses among office workers.

"If you look at what grows on computer keyboards, and hospitals are worse, believe it or not, it's more or less a reflection of what's in your nose and in your gut," he said.

"Should somebody have a cold in your office, or even have gastroenteritis, you're very likely to pick it up from a keyboard."

Which? said one of the causes of dirty keyboards was users eating lunch at their desk, with crumbs encouraging the growth of bacteria.

Poor personal hygiene, such as not washing hands after going to the toilet, could also be to blame, it said.

Cleaning techniques

Which? computing editor Sarah Kidner advised users to give their computer "a spring clean".

"It's quite simple to do and could prevent your computer from becoming a health hazard," she said.

She said dust and food crumbs should be shaken out of keyboards and they should be wiped with a soft, lightly dampened, lint-free cloth. They should also be disinfected with alcohol wipes.

Research by the University of Arizona last year found the average office desktop harboured 400 times more bacteria than the average office toilet seat.

They also found that, compared to men, on average women have three to four times the amount of germs in, on and around their work area.

Monday, May 5, 2008

April 2008: Happy elsewhere

No plays. Only one theater group staged a play and I missed it. No bands. I'm not young anymore and I promised myself to cut down on weeknights out because a full day's work after not having enough sleep is just a bit too much for me now. Just two really fun movies!

And… I spent three days in Tagaytay City for a retreat. My husband and I spent a weekend at a hotel. And my office spent a day in a farm resort for our annual R&R.

And… Let's not forget the eating out! My college girlfriends and I ate at a Thai seafood restaurant. Had pizza and pasta (and more) at a little Italian trattoria with some English Department faculty. And the entire family of my husband—parents, children and spouses, grandchildren—had lunch one Sunday at an Asian curry restaurant.

Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!
Directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino

The Forbidden Kingdom
Directed by Rob Minkoff

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A million blogs

Blooks LLC started an experiment on April 10, 2008 to find out how long it would take to get a million blogs listed on the Million Blog List. It's a DIY and Scout's Honor kind of thing because you have to list your own blog/s. Just for the heck of it, I listed mine.

Happy at Home is # 1017

My Manila is # 1018

1,254 blogs have been listed as of May 4, 12:21 a.m. (though the last five got their numbers mixed up and the web administrator will have to correct them). If you want to join in this silliness, head on over to the Million Blog List website.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Wasabi fish stir-fry

That blog I wrote about wasabi-flavored snacks got me to thinking about using wasabi in a recipe. I remember printing out a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens for wasabi-glazed white fish so I read it again. I couldn't use the recipe, unfortunately, because it called for wasabi powder and all I had at home was wasabi paste in a tube. So I ended up experimenting again, and we liked the result. Obviously, this is another un-recipe—measurements are not exact and the main ingredients are fish and vegetables which are readily available here and which we like so feel free to change them.

Just a few notes about this dish (as much for myself as for anyone who encounters this recipe):

    • Wasabi's flavor dissipates when cooked. I used quite a lot yet both my husband and I could hardly taste it and I ended up serving more wasabi paste at the table. Maybe I should add more wasabi to the dish just before serving.

    • I used dory, a very white fish, tender and flaky when cooked. When you first cook it in the sesame oil, make sure it's only half-cooked. I didn't and it almost fell apart when the dish was done—I practically overcooked it.

    • I really wanted to use fresh mushrooms but our small neighborhood grocery didn't have any available the weekend I decided to do this. I tried looking for canned straw or oyster mushrooms but they were out of stock too and I was forced to use canned button mushrooms. Didn't quite have the flavor or texture I was imagining for the dish. I really need to find myself a mushroom supplier here since we love them so much.

wasabi fish stir-fry
2 tbsp soy sauce
6 inches of wasabi paste, as squeezed from the tube
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 kilo fish fillet, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup fresh Chinese / snow pea pods, tops removed
1 can button mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green onions

1. Place the soy sauce, wasabi paste and minced ginger in a small bowl and mix well. (This looked more like ginger soaked in soy sauce than soy sauce with ginger.)

2. Heat the sesame oil in a wok. Add the fish and half of the soy sauce mixture. Toss until the fish is half-cooked. Set aside.

3. In the same wok, place the snow peas, mushrooms, green onions and the rest of the soy sauce mixture. Toss until the peas turn bright green. Add the fish. Continue tossing until cooked.