Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summer Treats

Santa Rosa plums.

I have been canning different kinds of fruits from our backyard lately. Plums were made into  plum sauce which we like to put on pancakes.  The grapes (Pinot Noir) that were planted by the patio for shade also give enough fruits to make into jelly.  I can' remember the last time we bought jelly from the store - it has been a long time. 

'Bartlett' Pears were made into pear butter.

Our Bartlett pear was full of fruits this year.  Miriam and I are the only ones eating the fresh fruits.  The rest of the family complains about the texture of the fruit. I discovered later on that they all like pear butter - especially when used as topping for Buttermilk waffles.  Shannon and Miriam also like to eat it alone for dessert or snack.  I know for sure that pear butter is nutritious.  So far I have made two batches of this 'pear delight' but this is probably not the end because there are still a lot of fruits on the tree. 

The kids harvesting grapes.

Grapes are cleaned and washed before they are crushed.

At the Farmers' Market, our friends (Gavy and Bellie Dhillon) gave me a special deal on apricots hence I bought half a box (approximately twenty five pounds).  I made a pie and then the rest were made into delicious jam.  Tim always appreciates good apricot jam or preserves, and now he has enough supply for a year.  In fact we have enough to share.  We like our jam to be on the tangy side of the spectrum - and this is exactly how these apricots are made.  I can just imagine crepes and apricot preserves in our future.

Thank goodness our peaches did not do well this year...we have enough canned fruits already.

Washing grapes - a family activity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Alone Now

Auntie Alie  (Santa Ana - 2010)
Today is a sad day.  My aunt Arcelie (Alie) lost her dearest husband; and my cousins Joan, Arnel, Maylene and Wilson lost their father. Uncle Roman passed away after a long time of suffering from cancer.  The last time I saw him was when my family went to the Philippines last November.

Uncle Roman and Auntie Alie were teenagers when they got married.  They used to bring me with them when they visited his family in Makirit.  There I I enjoyed playing with one of Uncle Roman's nieces - Linda.  All of his siblings were engaged in commercial squash growing.  It was very fascinating to see tons of squash harvested and piled up on their yards. 

My uncle and aunt on the other hand, decided to focus on rice farming.  They started their family in Santa Filomena.  There they bought a house that was made of all wood.  I was a little girl when they moved the house through bayanihan.  Bayanihan is a process when all the men in the community gather together to move a house - literally.  In its original original location, the house was surrounded with coconut trees.  Several trees had to be chopped down to make way for the house.  I also got to watch a water well dug and built in their backyard.  I had so many fond memories at their house as a kid.

Uncle Roman (2008)

They used to own a big hectarage of rice fields.  They also owned a lot of land, carabaos and horses.  I still remember their kalesa which was painted with a greenish color.  The picture registers in my head in an impressionist style now - I can't see the details anymore.  I think uncle Ninoy Pacis painted it for them since he was the only painter/artist in town. 

Then later when uncle got a job at the saw mill in Lallo the family moved.  He stopped farming and they sold all their carabaos and horses.  Years later, they also sold their house in Santa Filomena which signified their intention to live in Lallo permanently.  At this point, my cousins who used to live a few yards away are now several bus rides away.  The good thing is that they lived near the Cagayan River - they would always bring some ginukan along when they came to visit us.  My aunt loved my mother (her sisiter) that she visited her often.

Almost-complete Galvan Family (2008)

Many years later, I left the Philippines and did not see all the things that happened since then.  However, every time I went back to the Philippines, Uncle Roman and Auntie Alie always made sure to bring my cousins to come see me.  Eventually, it was not only my cousins that they brought but also my cousins' children.  I have a picture of Shannon as a baby with Maylene.  Last year when Tim and I brought our kids to Cagayan, Uncle Roman was already very sick to come and see us at our house in Abulug.  Instead we went to see him in their house in Catayauan, Lallo.  I was very sad to see him so thin.

Now he is gone.  My aunt will be all alone.  The good thing is that her house is surrounded by her children that they share the same yard.  This proximity with her children and grandchildren will, hopefully, ease the transition.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Colombia Part 2: Bogota

The Cathedral at the Plaza de Bolivar

After Medellin, we went to Bogota and did a little bit of sightseeing.  We were so spoiled in Medellin - the Actises were always there making sure that we were safe.   However, Bogota provided us the freedom to go around even to the point of getting lost in the city and making our way back by asking, using the little Spanish that we know.  We took taxis where ever we went.  Most of the time, we would not understand how much we were supposed to pay.  Fortunately, Shannon was there to translate for us. 

Posing on the misty Mount Monserrate.

When we arrived in Bogota, I had the impression that the city looks desolate and frightening.  Buildings that line the streets were closed.  They have the rolled-down doors which made the place appear unfriendly.  Tim and I walked around the hotel which is located in the heart of business area signs of life were missing. The sidewalks were without people.  We could take a taxi but places that we wanted to go see were closed including the Museo Nacional de Colombia (which we visited later in the week).  Well, to explain this phenomenon, we arrived there on a Sunday.  Firstly, Colombia being a Catholic country closes on Sundays as a general rule.  Secondly, Monday (June 27) was a holiday - I think it was Corpus Christi.  Everything was still closed but we got to go eat at one of the two restaurants that were open near the hotel.  We opted to try the Italian Restaurant instead of the Barbeque place.  We must have been the only customers that night.  Tuesday came and the city suddenly looked inhabited as if the people got up from a slumber and began to mill around the city once more.  Suddenly the city exuded with life.  Bogota is alive after all.  Next time that we head to a new city, I would do my research and check the city calendar ahead of time.  This reminds me of a different experience we had as a family.  A few years ago, while traveling in Britain, we decided to take a quick train ride to Wales from Hereford.  As soon as we got into the train, we knew something we didn't know was going on.  There was a huge rugby game at the Millennium Stadium.  It was quite an interesting experience.  We were lucky that none of us was wearing the color of either team (use your imagination). Had we known, we would have chosen a different destination that day. 

View od Bogota from the tramway.

Candellaria - Central District of Bogota.

At the time we were in Colombia, Bogota was under renovation.  Most of the major streets were partly closed due to the construction of the new Bogota Metro.   The people we talked to Bogota were apologetic of the current dust and construction mess all over the city.  The condition did not bother us at all nor did it hinder our tour of the city and our search of unusual Colombian souvenir (i.e. Greca coffee maker).

Casa Santa Clara Restaurant

Station of the Cross at the Montserrate

 As a Spanish colony in its early days, Colombia is a Catholic country.  In Bogota, we visited an old church located on the top of Mount Montserrate (named after the Montserrat Mountain in Spain).  The mountain is so high that when you are up there, you get a panoramic view of the city.  There are two ways to go to the top of this pilgrimage/tourist destination:  Aerial tramway (cable car); or Funicular.  Going up, we opted to take the latter and came down by cable car.  

Bogota rests on an altitude of about 10,300 ft.   In spite of the fact that it rests along the equator, its temperature remains pleasantly cool or cold throughout the year.  The fluctuation in the temperature and daylength in Colombia is negligible.  This is the reason why Colombia is the place to grow flowers.  Eighty percent of the cut flowers sold in the US are grown in Colombia near Bogota.  Flower growers do not have to work around the changing seasons.  If weather conditions were the only consideration for choosing a place to live, Bogota would be on the top of my list of choice cities.  Unfortunately, there are more things to be accounted for before weather conditions.


Colombian food is mild.  We expected something like Mexican or Belizean food, but we were wrong.  On the plane I got the chance to sit with a Colombian girl who was going home to visit her folks in Bogota.  She told me to make sure that I'd try Ajiaco, a Bogotano signature dish. Basically, Ajiaco is a soup that is made of five varieties of potatoes. Each variety is supposed to add something different to the taste or texture of the soup.  Chicken cubes are added to the soup and it is served with corn on cobb, cream, capers, salsa, avocado, and rice.   I had Ajiaco Santa Fereno at the Embassy Suites and it was great.   I can understand how it earned its status as a Colombian comfort food.  On a side note, however, Californians might fail to appreciate the soup because they are no potato connoisseurs. 

Feeding the doves can be very entertaining.

Juan Valdez - the Colombian counterpart of Starbucks.

My experience in Colombia defied all my expectations.   I knew that the country is in the tropics  where coffee (Coffea spp.), coca plants (Erythroxylum coca), roses, and other flowers.  And that's about it; everything else came as a pleasant surprise for me. 

Souvenir picture taken from Mount Montserrate.

Next time, I'll write about my observations and interactions with the people of Colombia. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Miriam's Eleventh Birthday

Miriam on her eleventh birthday.

This is the girl I call my surprise baby - smart, beautiful and in some ways exotic.   She's growing up and trying to catch up with her siblings whom she loves so much.   It is hard to believe that the baby I gave birth to shortly after we moved to El Dorado Hills is now in middle school. 

Mriam and Will Leszinske

On her eleventh birthday she chose to invite some friends to come over.  First we had pizza, went to the Ridgeview Park to play "Capture the Flag", and then played with water balloons.  When they got tired and after the faucet was broken, we came back to the house to have some apple pie and to open presents.   After all the basic birthday activities, they did other things such as look at Will's YouTube channel,  laughed at them a lot, jump up-and-down on the beds in Miriam's room and breaking one of them. 

Miriam, Becky and Will

Miriam and Erich Lippuner

Miriam with Janae Bonnel, Emily Kennedy, Becky Carmichael, Erich Lippuner, and Will Leszinske

Her new cajon (a percussion instrument) - a birthday present.

One of her current interests is band.  She loves being in band and enjoys learning to play all sorts of percussion instruments at school.  One of the presents we got her is an instrument called  cajon.  Basically it is a box which combines bass and a snare drum. She can sit on it while she plays it.  Recently she has been asked to train to replace the drummer (who will soon graduate) for Youth Band.  Also she continues to take drum lessons under Cameron Carbrey.