Monday, March 26, 2007

Spice it up

Whenever I’m not pleased with something I just cooked, I make it spicy hot. Not too much, but just enough to draw my family’s attention away from an otherwise blah taste. Usually, this trick works.

Growing up, I did not like spicy hot foods. I was always very cautious about what we called siling labuyo, the small but terrible chili pepper that burns your mouth. The only pepper that I could tolerate was the bell pepper and the mild light green long pepper that we put in sinigang.

In recent years, I have become braver with peppers and chili sauces, thanks to the influence of some of my friends and homestay students from Korea. Gino and Mickey have acquired the taste for spicy hot foods too through their own gastronomic adventures outside our dining room. The younger boys love the Kimchi bowl noodle I buy by the box. We have all developed the taste for the spicy hot, which by the way, is not really a form of taste.

“It’s pain!” a friend once told me. I never knew that until then, and it did not register in my brain until I heard it explained on TV and after further readings on the Internet.

Question: So why are spicy hot foods addicting once you start to like them?
Answer: The nerve endings in your mouth feel the pain and send a signal to the brain which then releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller, which then create a temporary feeling of euphoria. Who doesn’t want euphoria?

There. That’s my simple re-statement of what I have read and heard from different sources.

Euphoria aside, I find that hot chili is a very convenient ingredient whenever I could not quite figure out what’s lacking in the dish I’m cooking. As they say, “Tabasco covers a multitude of culinary sins.” The heat of chili is overpowering.

Last night, I tried a new recipe I found in a flyer and made Spicy Beef Thai Stir-Fry. I substituted a few ingredients with what I had available. I wasn’t happy with the end result. Time to throw in a pinch or two of dried chili peppers.

“This is good!” Bud eclaimed at dinnertime.

Hah! Euphoriaahh!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What's showing?

Markus and I sat together on the sofa while watching a cartoon after dinner last night. He was being his sweet and clingy self again, making sure I remained seated beside him.

As we snuggled close together, he started feeling my stomach. Markus asked, “Mom, how many tummies do you have?”

“That's just one, divided in the middle,” I answered. The “division” was created by the way I was seated, legs up on the couch. Yeah, right.

“Mom, what do you do in the gym?” Markus asked.

“I walk, I do the elliptical trainer, do weights, stretch…”

“All you need to do are sit-ups,” he interrupted.

“I do that too.” So, you want to be my personal fitness trainer now?

He moved his hand to my side. “Mom, what are these?” He was obviously getting a kick out of squeezing the flab on my mid parts.

Not wanting to prolong the course of conversation, I decided to ignore the question. Besides, he wouldn’t understand love handles. I don't have a lot of those, just for the record.

“Watch TV now,” I changed the topic. Concentrate on what's showing, not on what's hiding.

Ahh, that boy.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bhangra - feel the burn!

I was doing my usual exercise routine at Fitness World when a different kind of music started blaring from the speakers. It was distinctly Indian. On the exercise floor, a small group of ladies began an aerobics program I had not seen before. This must the new class called bhangra, I thought to myself.

I was fascinated by the music. Very rhythmic, just like the ones you hear in Bollywood movies. Is it open to all? Is it free to members? I later asked the FW receptionist. After making sure anyone could join the class, I started attending it every Thursday night.

Bhangra is an intense dance and music mix. Kinda hip hop. There's a lot of arm and hip movements. I'm glad my boys aren't here to see me jiggle and wiggle...

Our female instructor is probably in her early twenties. She is full of energy and she barks instructions like a prison guard, which is her other job, by the way. "FEEL THE BURN!" "FASTER!" "CLEAN THE WINDOWS!"

Clean the windows? Strangely, she names most of the moves after a house chore. Is it a coincidence that all of the participants are women, some middle-aged like me?

"Bhangra is all about house cleaning!" the instructor shouts. "Clean the windows!"... " "Wipe the table!"... "Open the door!"... "Flush the toilet!"... "Kill the mosquito!"... "Feed the dog!"... I think that is very funny. "Knead the dough...put it in the oven..." Okay, gym time is ME time, and here I am reminded of things I'd rather leave at home.

We have other moves called "Smack the boy"... "Under arrest",(these two should probably go together), "Pick the apples", "Put them in the basket", "Drive, drive... step on the brake" (this one really burns the abs and thighs).

During the cool down, we are told to lie on our mats and close our eyes. "Forget your anxieties. Forget the bills you have to pay..." Oh thanks for mentioning it, that will really relax me...

An hour of bhangra and I have had a good cardio exercise. Intense! I'm all sweaty, hot and spicy. The next day, I am very sore. I rest from gym. Saturday, I'm still slightly sore, but able to resume my workouts.

Here's a clip on bhangra workout and an interview with its creator, Sarina Jain. Our class is not exactly like it--I believe we do more house cleaning--but you will get the idea. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Last year, I wrote about my desire to do some girlie stuff, you know, creative things ladies do with their hands, like sewing, knitting, jewelry making, etc. I know this has not been one of my talents nor interests, but I have been increasingly having a desire to do something different, a new hobby. I tried sewing last summer and recycling old T-shirts using techniques I saw on Martha Stewart's website. Last month, I joined a papercraft workshop at our church.

My first workshop session was called Watercolour Wonders handled by two ladies from the Stampin' Up company. Early on, I could feel my hands and fingers struggle with working with little materials and cutting and glueing. I was reminded of my art classes in grade school that I did not really excel in. But this time, I was determined to keep at it. I was able to do two cards including the one below during the first workshop:

Not bad for a novice

I liked the watercolouring part, which is something I might do more of when my work table is set up in the basement. Bud thinks I should have my own table for my sewing and craftmaking in the den. Good idea! That would give me something to do while waiting for the laundry in the adjacent room.

My other workshop was on stamping techniques, and these were my creations:

I'm beginning to enjoy this!

A third workshop was on journalling techniques, which did not interest me that much because I don't journal with photos except here in my blog. I don't even want to think about putting or organizing our hundreds of photos into albums. Too overwhelming. How much less do I want to write about them? I will need months or years to get our photos organized in albums. Add that to my list of Things To Do When I Retire. For now, photos will remain in boxes.

My last workshop was on Basic Cardmaking. By this time, I could already feel the stress on my stiffening hands. I was beginning to feel really out of my comfort zone, not to say incompetent. I was not learning and working as fast as I could in the the 1-hr-30-min sessions for each workshop. I wished I was painting walls instead, or using the screwdriver. No, you gotta learn some girlie projects! I encouraged myself.

Finally, I was able to finish more cards. Nice! Gave me a sense of accomplishment. I can do this!!

I learned how to do dry embossing and colouring with chalk.

At the end of the 1.5 day workshop, I finished 6 cards using different techniques. It helped to have sample cards to imitate and instructors to learn from. I think I will start doing more cards.

Now that I have ideas on cardmaking, I just need to learn cardgiving. Real ones, not ecards.