Showing posts with label 2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge. Show all posts

Friday, May 8, 2015

About the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge


Congratulations to all who participated in this annual April blogging challenge!

This was my third year of participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge for this blog, The View from the Top of the Ladder, and the second year for Take 25 to Hollister.  I'm writing this reflection post for both blogs.

Because I have a masochistic goal of blogging 365 days in 2015 for both my blogs, I entered the two of them in the challenge. I made it easy for myself by focusing on a theme—food for the Ladder and just  Hollister for Take 25.  Every now and then, I managed to write posts beforehand and be ahead by two or three days, which meant I could visit more blogs. Wednesday and Thursday were tough days because I also wrote on my themes for ABC Wednesday and Alphabe Thursday.  I said I was masochistic. 

At first, I visited blogs in the A to Z April Challenge under either the Ladder or Take 25, following the suggestion of visiting the blog after me and five more blogs. Probably after the third or fourth time my numbers changed on the list, I stopped finding where my blogs were and randomly plowed through the list, leaving signatures for both my blogs when I commented. There were a few days where I didn't have the time and/or energy to visit blogs. But, I felt I made up for those days, as I usually visited 10 to 20 or more blogs on the days I did visit.

There were some bloggers I visited every day. A few were bloggers I visit regularly anyway or reconnected from last year's challenge. When I liked a blog, I signed up for its RSS feed, so I could check out the blog later or after the challenge.  If I could not come up with something positive to say about what I read, I didn't comment. For once in my life, I'm following that saying—if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

I had fewer new visitors this year to both blogs. At least, if I base it on comments. It's possible I may have had more who just didn't leave comments. The Ladder had several visitors every day, while Take 25 had a visitor now and then. Maybe people skipped Take 25 because they thought it would be about that silly store that I shall not name.

One of the things I like about this challenge is the ability to go to a source where I can find a variety of blogs to check out. I've made a few blogging friends through past challenges and have even met a couple in person. That, I think is awesomely cool.

Would I do the challenge next year? If I'm still blogging, I might.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for a Zip! Zing! Zee! Party


Congratulations to all of us bloggers of the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge! We did it. Zzzzzzzooo-hoooooo!

So, for you, today, I'm cooking up a virtual feast as my final entry for my food theme. Enjoy!

Appetizers
• Lumpia (Filipino eggrolls. Of course! I can't throw a party without lumpia)
• Potstickers
• Inari Sushi (Deep-fried bean curd skins stuffed with rice, peas, and salmon
• Assorted fresh vegetables with onion dip


Main and Side Dishes
Kalua pork
• Grilled salmon
Pancit  (Filipino noodle dish)
• Stir-fry vegetable medley (onions, garlic, mushrooms, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, tiny corn, and water chestnuts)
• Kim chee
• Bamboo relish (The Mama's awesome, delicious, pickled spicy bamboo. Double yum!)
• Brown rice


Desserts
• Apple Pie, Ollalieberry Pie, and Cherry Pie
• Suman (Coconut glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves)
• Fresh watermelon and pineapple

Drinks
• Local handcrafted beer
• Local wines
• Apple juice (locally produced, of course)
• Water

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for the Yummy Song

When the Eldest Niece was a baby sitting in her high chair, eating time was show time. I believe she had me pegged for a softie and could have me perform with a shake of her head  as I brought a spoonful of food to her tightly closed mouth.

And, I did. I sang a made-up song with great relish. I don't recall the exact words anymore, or even the tune. It went something like this:
Yummy, yummy. Here comes some lovely yummy to your tummy. Open wide. Here comes yummy.
That was over 35 years ago. I do remember that she opened her mouth to eat a few bites when I sang it.  Those were great times with the Eldest Niece.

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Head Pollinator

My ABC Wednesday theme: The Mama and Her Authentic
Green Thumbs. . .and Fingers
For nearly 27 years, the Mama worked in applied seed research. She had a hand in getting the stink out of broccoli and creating an oblong tomato that would be easier for machines to pluck without bruising, among other horticultural feats. This was many years before genetic engineering in agriculture came to be. Back then, seed research involved people cross pollinating generations of cabbage, tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, squash, peppers, broccoli, melons, and other vegetables and fruits.

It's not as easy as you think. It takes steady hands and a focused mind. And, if you're working with the Mama, you definitely cannot be a slacker, at least on the job. I ought to know. I worked for her for two summers when I was a teenager. One of the best paying jobs to have back then. The Mama was the supervisor of the crew of seed technicians. Summer being the busy season, she hired two or more teenagers to help out. She wouldn't hire me until the summer after I graduated from high school.

There were many aspects to the Mama's job.  I only learned how to be a human bee. Even more than 40 years later, I still recall the basic things to know, which applied to any plant. You carefully strip a female's dress (petals), making sure you don't touch any part of her reproductive organs with your fingers or your tools. You harvest male flowers from the correct rows. And, you have to make sure that neither the female or male has already opened and, thus, possibly been compromised by bees, butterflies, or other pollinating insects. You also have to remember to cover the pollinated female with the proper covering and tag her with the male's ID number before you move on to the next one.

It was very fascinating work. Looking back, I would've loved to have gone through at least one full cycle of the process of planting seeds to threshing the seeds and bagging them.

San Jose Mercury News, 1968

Today is ABC Wednesday, a meme began by Mrs. Denise Nesbitt and now headed by Roger Green and his helpers. Click here to read posts around today's letter P. 

If you've come from the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, my Y post is over here.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for Xmas Cookies


I bake cookies at least once a year. And, that's at Xmas. What's Xmas without the yummy smell of cookies baking in the oven, right?

Those first few years of baking Xmas cookies, I'd go through cookbooks, looking for interesting cookie recipes to try. But, always, I'd end up following certain recipes in a Women's Day cookie recipe booklet. That may be how I got hooked reading cookbooks.

I used to bake a bunch of different cookies. Not anymore. Now, I bake three kinds of cookies. Persimmon biscotti, the Mama's favorite; Russian tea cakes, the Husband's favorite: and a persimmon, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, or gingersnap cookie.

Do you bake Xmas cookies? What cookies do you like to bake?


Click here to find other A to Z challenge participants.

Monday, April 27, 2015

W is for What's Wrong with Your Cake?

Once-upon-a-time, a long time ago, when I was still a young thing. . . .
 
After the Birthday Gal happily blew our her candles on the carrot cake that I baked, the other student assistant and I cut the cake and served the slices to the Birthday Gal and everyone else in the Department of Secondary Education office. The cake looked yummy. Everyone took a bite. Several people looked puzzled as they chewed.

The gruff teddy bear of a department chair said, "Sue, did you forget to turn on the oven?"

"Huh?"

The Teddy Bear Chair examined his cake. "It's flat."

"That's the way it's supposed to be." I said.

"I love it," said the Birthday Gal. "It's just like the cake from home. All full of nuts and carrots. Thank you, Sue."

The Birthday Gal was from Central America. She gave me a hug and took another slice.

The Teddy Bear Chair continued eating his cake. "Have you made this cake before?" he asked.

"First time," I said.

"So, we're your guinea pigs," he said.

"All my cakes are first times," I said. "They're never the same. I don't measure things."

"Ah ha! That's why. Measure next time, Sue." He said, then turned, walking into his cavern of an office with his nearly eaten piece of cake.

Much later, as I sat at my desk, typing paperwork, my supervisor Dr. Who-Writes-Romances-During-Her-Breaks came out from her office behind me. "Sue," she said, her voice full of excitement. "I know what's wrong with your cake."

"Yes," I said, thinking there was nothing wrong with my cake.

"You forgot the flour!" she said. She went back into office with a satisfied look on her face as if she had solved a mystery. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I did use flour.


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Saturday, April 25, 2015

V is for Vegetable Garden


My earliest memory of the Daddy's vegetable garden was floating a pea pod in the water rushing down one of the narrow vegetable ditches. I was about four years old. I remember the garden being tall, green, and wild-like.

Every year, the Daddy put up a vegetable garden for the family, growing many Filipino vegetables that we couldn't buy in the grocery store. We ate a lot of long beans, bitter melon, Japanese eggplants, tabongaw (a type of gourd), Kabocha squash, saloyat (okra leaves), parda (a hairy, bigger, and thicker pea), and kabatiti (a kind of squash with ridges) during the summers. Also into the winters, after the parents bought a big freezer.

When the Daddy came home from a long day of irrigating vegetable fields, he went straight to the garden to see what needed tending. The Mama went into the garden to harvest vegetables for the evening's meal.  The Daddy was always getting after the Mama for picking the bitter melon leaves from the top rather than the bottom. Guess who tells me not to pick the bitter melon leaves from the top?

The Mama continued growing vegetables after the Daddy died. It was tough, as she was still working. I suppose being in the garden helped her deal with being a widow.

Today, as some of you know, the Mama works a few hours hours nearly every day in her vegetable garden. Along with the Filipino vegetables, the Mama plants green beans, peppers, tomatoes, chives, and Filipino green onions.  Her garden doesn't yield as much as it used to, which is fine with me. There's only so much bitter melon I can eat. The Husband won't eat it and the Mama eats only a bit of it.

Growing vegetables is a fun challenge for the Mama. Her satisfaction comes from seeing other people eat the fruits of her labor.



Click here to find other A to Z challenge participants.

Friday, April 24, 2015

U is for the Utensil Choir


Earlier this month, the Husband and I entertained ourselves while he washed dishes and I dried them. The result was a rundown of the utensil choir. This is the make up of the choir, according to the Husband, a musician at heart.
The soup spoon sings bass.  
The special spoon, which is a Korean soup spoon, sings baritone. 
Teaspoons sing soprano, while tablespoons sing alto or tenor. 
Forks sing four-part harmony, of course.
Salad forks? Three-part harmony!
Knives are tone deaf. When they sing, the sound cuts to the heart.
I didn't want the knives to feel left out, so I let them hold the music sheet for everyone.


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Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for 60 Pounds of Tripe

"How come you have so much tripe?" I asked the Mama, as I stared at a large clear plastic bag full of white, honey-combed cow stomach lining.

"Your godfather gave it to me," she said.

"That's a lot of tripe. How many pounds is that?

"Twenty."

"What are you going to do with all that tripe?"

"Put it in the freezer."

I lugged the heavy bag to the big freezer in the garage. What the heck? On top of other more frozen items was another large clear plastic bag of tripe.

Just as I closed the freezer, Frances, one of the Mama's friends walked up the driveway. The garage door was open. "Hello. Is your mom home?"

"She's in the house. Come inside," I said.

"I need to get something out of the car first," Frances said. "I have something for your mom."

She ran out of the garage. I opened the door and yelled into the house, "Mama! You have a visitor." Then I went to see if Frances needed help.

As I neared her car, I saw Frances pull out a large white item from her trunk. A blanket? No. Oh no!

Frances handed me a large clear plastic bag full of white, honey-combed cow stomach lining. Another twenty pounds!

"Your mama told me that she was hungry for tripe. She wanted me to buy her some, if I saw any. I was lucky. The butcher had tripe today."

"Thank you," I said. "She's going to be very happy to see the tripe."

That happened a few months after the Daddy died, more than 30 years ago. I have no idea what the Mama did with the 60 pounds of tripe.


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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for the Mama's Spoon

This is the Mama's spoon, the one with which she cooked for as long as I can remember. And, for those who are new to the blog, I'm in my early 60s and the Mama is 30-some years older than me.

I like cooking with the Mama's spoon. It's smooth, fits in my hand, and has the perfect heft to it. I also like the way the metal spoon sounds against a pot or pan. Most of all, I like cooking with it because it's the Mama's spoon.

When I pick up the Mama's spoon, I think of her using it to stir her bittermelon chicken soup, eggplant-bittermelon stew, tabongow chicken soup, pork adobo, ginger beef, fried rice, scrambled eggs, pancit, and diningding (a soup of all the Filipino vegetables in her garden).

In my mind, I see her making Thanksgiving dinner with that spoon. She sauteed the ingredients for the dressing. She basted the turkey. She mashed the potatoes with the back of the spoon. And, she stirred and stirred the gravy.

She cooked a lot of meals with that one spoon.  Nearly all of which were delicious.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for Rice

We usually have cooked rice in the refrigerator, ready to be heated as is or made into a fast and easy fried rice dish.

Rice is the one dish that the Mama usually makes. I'd rather cook it because hers comes out too dry. But, I let her prepare the rice because I think it makes her feel that she's contributing to cooking the meals. When I warm up the rice in the microwave, I just add a bit of water. So no big deal.

Twice a year, the Mama sees her eye doctor who always asks,"What's your secret for long life?"

"I eat rice," she tells him. "Eat rice for a long life. You don't get so many wrinkles."

I don't know about that.  But, hey, she is 93 years old.


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Monday, April 20, 2015

Q is for Quick and Easy


Yesterday the Husband and I got together with friends and hiked in the Pinnacles National Park, one of the newest parks in the National Park Service system. It had been planned for awhile, but as usual, I didn't think about what to bring for trail snacks until Saturday. We had no idea how far or how long we would hike.

"What do you think about getting energy bars for the hike?" I asked the Husband.

"Great idea," he said. "We can bring apples."

"Okay. How about some nuts?"

"Yeah."

"We have carrots."

"That'll be good, too."

Done. Quick and easy meal planning. I always like that.


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Saturday, April 18, 2015

P is for Sunday Picnics at the Beach


Going to the beach was always an all-of-a-sudden decision that the Mama and the Daddy made at some point between the moment they woke up and finished breakfast on a Sunday morning. Then, they would wake up the Older Brother and me.

The Mama and Daddy got everything together. The Mama cooked a pot of rice and gathered plates, napkins, utensils, cups, cutting board, knives, blankets, towels, and so forth. The Daddy collected firewood (and later charcoal), grills, and buckets. The older I got, the more tasks I did, from gathering my own change of clothes to getting the picnic basket together and helping haul everything out to the car.

We usually made two stops before we got to our favorite picnic spot on the rocky shoreline in Monterey. The first was at a mom-and-pop store on the way out of town to buy the Daddy's bottle of whiskey, Seven-Up, soda, and hot dogs. The second was at the Fisherman's Wharf where the parents bought American mackerel, squid, and other fish for lunch.


The Daddy always drove the long scenic route along the coast to our picnic spot, which was over a short dune and down a slope full of boulders and rocks. It was tough going for a kid, but I managed to make it down by myself. The Daddy and the Older Brother were whirlwinds as they took several trips back and forth to the car.

Once the blanket was laid out, everyone, but the Daddy, changed into shorts. The Mama picked up a bucket and headed for the rocks to pick seaweed. At that time, people could gather seaweed freely for food. The water was still pristine, so we thought. The Older Brother went in another direction on his own adventure. The Daddy made a makeshift barbecue pit on the rocks, and once the fire was going, he mixed a drink of whiskey and Seven-Up. The Daddy was very happy to grill the fish and sip his drink, while the rest of was did our thing.


I stayed within sight of the Daddy, going farther and farther away as I grew older, climbing the rocks and splashing in the tide pools. Sometimes, I had my own bucket to gather snails, which we ate for supper when we got home. I always kept an eye out for the waves. The Mama told me to make a sign of the cross in the sand as a worrisome wave approached and that would keep me safe. It worked every time.

The Daddy called us in when the fish was cooked. The Mama took a long time coming back because she kept stopping to pick up more seaweed. But, finally she was back with a bucket full of red, pink, green, brown, and black seaweed. The Older Brother appeared from who knows where, a few times with an abalone or two.

Our lunch was a feast. Grilled fish. Hot dogs. Rice, Tomatoes and onions. And, whatever else the Mama packed in the basket. Yummm. The Mama often said at our picnics that eating at the beach made the food taste better.

After we ate, the Daddy washed the grills, then took a nap. The Mama fussed about, putting everything back in order, after which she sat back and enjoyed the moment, or went out for more seaweed. The Older Brother and I explored.  Sometimes I followed him, but could never keep up. Then before I knew it, it was time to change into our dry clothes and haul everything back up the hill to the car.


Last year, the Husband and I went by our family's favorite picnic spot. The sand dunes and rocky slope are no more. Rocks now litter the spot where we used to have our picnics. Doesn't matter, I can still see us there.

Click here to find other A to Z challenge participants.

Friday, April 17, 2015

O is for Overindulging


I must face it. I've gotten my body out of sorts. Again. I've gained back nearly all the weight I lost last year.  It took one year for me to lose 13 pounds and four months to gain 11 pounds. Sigh and Grrr. I'm not going to cry about it. Nor whine. Nor make excuses for myself. I know what I did. Since Christmas, I've been eating desserts nearly every day, drinking beer about once a week, and not pedaling Tilda-Hilda up a hill six days a week. Pure and simple. I admit it. I overindulged and got lazy. I did it to myself. Again.

This morning, I started paying attention to the wise woman inside me when we dropped the Husband's computer at the repair shop. The first thing I saw when I got out of the car was the doughnut shop two doors away. Just like Homer Simpson, my first reaction was to drool and say "Doughnuts, me want."

I did not go over to the doughnut shop.

As we were leaving the computer repair shop, about 20 minutes later, I thought, "Doughnuts, me want."

I got into the car without making a suggestion to the Husband.

So, good for me.

I'll be facing this decision-making process again at lunchtime when the Mama opens the bag of chocolate cookies for dessert.

One moment at a time. Last year, I went a full year. This time, I'm aiming for a lifetime. I know I can do it.

Click here to find other A to Z challenge participants.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for Nighttime Snack


"Let's have a snack," said the Daddy. He sat in his Lazy-boy recliner, while my teenage self stretched out on the couch beside him. It was a summer night, with the doors and windows still wide open for the breeze. A rerun show played on the TV, at which I looked up now and then from the book I read.

Without doubt, that scene took place around nine o'clock, the usual time the Daddy called for a snack when he was in the mood. The Daddy's favorite nighttime snack were the doughnuts without the hole that I made from canned biscuits. They were quick and easy to make, about 10 minutes, if I recall correctly.

As the oil heated in the iron skillet, I opened the cardboard can of biscuits, the best part of making the doughnuts. Pow! A satisfying blow against the edge of the corner. Pop! The eight (or was it 10) small, soft, slices of dough smiled between the cardboard.

Carefully, I dropped the round slices into the heated oil in the skillet. Sizzle. Sizzle. Sizzle. I quickly stirred cinnamon and sugar on a plate.  When the doughnuts were a golden brown, I transferred them to the plate and tossed them in the sweet topping. Voila! Cinnamon doughnuts.

The Daddy already sat at the table, ready to dig into his nighttime snack.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M is for Magical Meringue


Clang, clang, clang with my right hand.

Clang, clang, clang with my left hand.

Repeat and repeat. Then repeat again. And, again.
 
It always amazes me how I can get soft peaks of meringue just by beating egg whites. I'm sure there's a simple, straightforward explanation for the transformation, and maybe one day I will really want to know. Until then, I'm perfectly happy, making clang, clang noises with the egg beater against the stainless steel pan as the clear egg whites change to foam, to thicker, clingy foam, and finally to meringue. It's magic. Olé!


Click here to find other A to Z challenge participants.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Sending Her Love Home with Me


Whenever I visited the parents, and then later only the Mama, I was sent home with a care package. Lots of fresh vegetables and fruit from the garden, as well as freezer bags full of cooked rice, lumpia, pork adobo, fried chicken, and bibingka.

Whether I was single or married, living alone or with roommates, food always came home with me. Much of the vegetables and fruits were given away to neighbors and friends. The cooked food went into the freezer and eventually most were eaten by friends, spouse, and myself.

In my 20s, I said to the Mama, "No, no, that's too much." 

In my 30s, I sighed and just accepted the food.

In my 40s, I appreciated everything that she picked in her garden and cooked in her kitchen.

In my 50s, the Husband and I were living with the Mama. If we had not, I'm very sure that when we visited the Mama, she would've given us lots of food to take home.

And, now that I'm in my 60s, I realize that the Mama was sending her love home with me through her food.


Click here to find other A to Z challenge participants.

Monday, April 13, 2015

K is for Kitty Won't Eat


"Maybe Molly needs a table," said the Mama, eying the barely touched breakfast plate of food on the floor.

"She wouldn't be able to reach her food," I said, envisioning Molly the Cat sitting at a little kid's table.

"She has too bend so low to eat," Mama said. Molly the Cat circled her plate, sniffed it, and walked away.

Molly had to have been hungry. She tried to climb on my calves (yeah, I have big calves) while I was spooning her food onto her plate, which was her sign of saying "Hurry up, Human!" I set the plate down. She took a few bites and walked away. She'd been doing that for a couple of days.

Maybe the Mama was onto something. I went into the hallway where a whole bunch of nothing rested and found a cardboard carton to hold take-out coffee. It was the perfect size for the plate to rest on. So, I tried it.

"Come here, Molly."

Molly approached her breakfast. She sniffed her makeshift table. She sat down and ate.

Hurrah!

Life was good with Molly the Cat and her table for about 10 days. Then she started her I-don't-want-to-eat routine again. On her second night, I picked up her nearly full plate from her table to toss away. Molly followed me. I put the plate down on the floor. "Last chance, Molly. You snooze, you loose."

Molly sniffed the plate and ate it all up.

I went over to get her table. A small piece of dried food was stuck on it. Ah ha! Her majesty would rather go hungry than eat off a dirty table. But, then, who would?


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Saturday, April 11, 2015

J is for Just for Me


Knock, knock.

Someone was at the kitchen door, which was the back door at our house on 44 Shore Road.  The Mama opened the door. I was sitting at the kitchen table, keeping her company as she prepared dinner.

It was Uncle Frank, the Daddy's younger brother. He carried a tree stump in his arms. 

"I cut down a tree in my back yard," said Uncle Frank, putting it down on the floor, next to the kitchen counter. "I thought it was the right size for Susie."

I was four. I don't recall much of what happened other than being helped up on the stump and being able to see over the kitchen sink.

I don't remember much of those very early years. But, I must've been in the kitchen a lot with the Mama. Enough so that Uncle Frank thought I should have something just for me to stand on when I was there.

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Friday, April 10, 2015

I is for Ice Cream


Ice cream is one of my comfort foods. I'm tired, I want ice cream. I'm depressed, ice cream. Happy, ice cream!

I eat ice cream on a very hot summer day as well as on a freezing cold winter night. I've even eaten ice cream for breakfast. That was after I walked more than five miles pushing Tilda-Hilda (my pink bike cruiser, for those who don't know) with a flat tire home. Well, four miles. The Husband walked up to meet me and pushed Tilda-Hilda the last mile. He's such a sweetheart.

Lemon chiffon, chocolate, coffee, French vanilla, and pineapple-coconut are my top five ice creams. What are yours?

Click here to find other A to Z challenge participants.