Saturday, July 28, 2007

Herbilicious



My vegetable garden is teeming with life these days. As some of you might remember, I started gardening last year. I didn't know much about it--I still don't--so it's hit or miss. When anything grows and bears fruit, for me that's a big achievement. A literal fruit of my labour.

In spring of 2006, I planted mostly herbs and vegetables. They lasted till the middle of autumn and totally disappeared in the winter. I never bothered to check my garden again till mid-spring of 2007.

What a big surprise to see my old parsley and broccoli plants growing with the weeds. They looked even healthier and sturdier than last year. I didn't know they were perennials. I was elated. I couldn't believe my plants survived the winter!


They're back!!

When the weather improved, I worked the soil again. I used two bags of mushroom manure on the garden plots. I got potting soil for the pots and planters. I planted different seeds and seedlings. Green beans, thyme, sage, cinnamon basil, fennel, dill, tomatoes, cilantro, spinach, pepper... When I realized I had parsley, sage and thyme, I went back to the garden centre to look for rosemary. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.... Now it feels complete.


No, I'm not going to Scarborough Fair...


Not everything sprouted, but the herbs and green beans are growing well. I have harvested a good amount of parsley, a few beans and broccoli flowerets, and used up the cilantro.


So this is how broccoli grows!



These green beans don't grow too tall.

Showing no signs of life for many weeks, one of my planters started to come alive. I assumed the new sprouts were the pepper seeds I planted a long time ago. So I transferred some to separate pots and to vacant spaces between herbs and vegetables. Now about two weeks later, I'm beginning to get suspicious. They don't look like pepper. Maybe I planted something else? Or could they be weeds? I have no idea.


Unidentified growing objects

In any case, I will keep watering these unidentified plants until I know for sure. If they turn out to be edible, I have a lot to harvest. If they turn out to be weeds, I have a lot to laugh about. It's win-win!

What seems tough to win is my battle against pests that eat young shoots and leaves. I don't use pesticide and I can't spend too much time killing these critters. I just hope my plants grow faster than the pests could kill them. Fortunately, the pests don't seem to like herbs. Only the beans and broccoli leaves.

Back to my unidentified plants, if you know what they are, please let me know and spare me the suspense.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Come Saturday morning

Last Saturday, I woke up late, had my devotions, then lingered in bed. It was almost 10 am when I went down to the dining room. My boys were already up and Bud had gone to downtown Vancouver. I prepared breakfast, or rather, brunch.

I decided to eat on the patio. The weather was nice and cool. The view outside was refreshing. I loved looking at the tall trees in our backyard with my planter of blooming marigolds at the foreground.

“I’m going outside with my plate and my cup of tea and my recipe book that I want to read in PEACE," I told Markus who was already there. "Bring your plate out here, too,” I told him. I forgot that Markus and peace don’t often go together.

Markus, acting threatened by a spider, started shaking it off a plastic chair and making a lot of noise in the process.

“That's eentsy weentsy. Just grab it,” I said.

As I put down my plate on the patio table, I casually said grace. “God, thank you for this beautiful morning and for my wonderful breakfast and for my nice cup of tea..." and teasing Markus, I added, "and for Markus bugging me.”

As I took my first bite, something landed on the floor with a thump.

“AAAAck!” I screamed. Looking up, I quickly realized that Gabriel had thrown my stuffed toy dog from my bedroom window. He and Markus started laughing.

“Mom, that's an ugly face. AAAAck!” Markus imitated my knee-jerk reaction.

“Ahhh, you two!!” I said, half-amused. You are lucky I'm in a good mood or it would have been uglier.

Occasionally glancing around me just in case one of these boys was creeping up from behind me or from under the table, I cautiously continued with my breakfast. True enough, someone had crawled under the deck floor to scare me a second time. Naah, I wasn’t to be fooled this time.

After Markus and Gabriel had left me alone, I finally enjoyed some peace and quiet. I savoured the moment. Except for the sound of vehicles on the street not too far away and the occasional noise coming from the auto shop at Canadian Tire, the surrounding was very calming. I loved it.

Come Saturday morning... We’ll Saturday spend till the end of the day… Thus goes a song. I was totally in a Saturday mood. How wonderful!

Yay!!! Just five more days to Saturday!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

BUTT of course!

“Mom, I have NEVER eaten a chicken butt! Why do you always get to eat it?” Markus complained after seeing the butt-less roast chicken I bought from the Superstore.

He shouldn’t be surprised. He knows I love chicken butts. Everyone in the family knows I’m a keen chicken-butt eater. In fact, at home they hardly see, much less eat, the butt of a chicken. I eat it from the pot or before bringing a cooked chicken dish to the dining table.

Occasionally, my boys beat me to it. Perhaps they get envious or simply curious to try this juicy, tasty, fatty, crunchy triangular chicken part that Mom's so greedy about. I think this happened twice--yes, only two times that I can remember--and on both occasions, I hollered, “WHO ATE THE BUTT?”

I don’t know when it started but I believe my chicken butt fondness began when my mother cooked more chicken at home. You see, in the early days, we could hardly afford this meat. It was more expensive than fish or pork, hence, considered a special food item.

There was a time too when I used to have nasty eczema breakouts and our family doctor told me to avoid chicken, among a long list of good foods like shrimps, crabs, pork, etc. Many years later, a dermatologist declared that my “eczema” had nothing to do with my diet.

With that doctor's declaration and my parents' improving budget, I found myself eating more and more chicken and loving it. Why not, after years of self-control and deptrivation?! I ate chicken to the bone. I ate tendons and ligaments (I still do at home). I chewed the bones to a pulp (this I don’t do anymore). I was making up for all the scrumptious chicken that left me salivating at the dining table.

Somewhere along the way, I developed a chicken butt delectation.

Here in Canada, chicken is cheap it’s my first meat of choice. Besides, it's healthier than other meats. I buy it regularly and learn new ways of cooking it because my kids are already getting tired of the same things.

Regardless of how chicken is cooked, one thing remains. Mom gets the butt, of course!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Once again - part 3

(This is the last in a series of stories on our church camp.)

After an aborted trek to the waterfall, we gathered under our big tent for a worship service. I sang with the praise team. Then I also sang a solo number, a Tagalog rendition of the song Once Again by Matt Redman. I just tweaked the lyrics I wrote last year.



This being my third time to be asked to sing before this group, I was less nervous. Besides, people there had been very supportive in the past. Last December at our Christmas party, I blundered through the song, Kumukutikutitap, bumubusibusilak... I never once got that line right! But the audience was forgiving.

This time, I did not feel as nervous. Besides, I found courage in the thought that my voice is something that God gave to me. Can't take the credit for it. Must not apologize for it. All I can do is to develop and use whatever I was given. So I stood there, mic in hand, and gave it all I got. Bud said, Good job!

The service went well. A brother gave his testimony of how he came to Christ from a Muslim background. It is always encouraging to hear people's faith journey. One day I will share mine...



Lunch was potluck BBQ and then some. I forgot to thaw my bags of marinated chicken so I kept them for dinner. Anyway, there was always was enough food for everybody.

There was a break after lunch. I slept. Bud, still bothered by abdominal pain, fell asleep, too. When I woke up, the games had started. I wasn't really planning to join the games because my right arm had been bothering me for the last few weeks. But I had fun cheering for the Green Team.


Go green team!! They won a prize!

We had another BBQ dinner later. However, we were not able to stay for the worship service and bonfire because we wanted to go home before dark. We left camp at past 7pm. Some campers were leaving that night too. The rest were leaving the next day.

It was a fun weekend, except for Bud's tummy ache, which by the way, has been treated. My boys wanted to stay until Monday, but I registered for one night only, the reason being when I was planning for camp, they did not even want to go. So I settled for a compromise. And now they felt bad about leaving early?

"Mom, can you buy me a bass guitar?" Gabriel asked as we were leaving. "I want to join the worship team next year. Next time choose faster songs."

I don't know about the bass guitar, but I think having young people in the worship team is a good suggestion. Or they can form their own band and lead the singing at certain times. I would imagine a lot of rocking. This shouldn't be as difficult for us adults as following them up a rocky mountain trail.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Once again -- part 2

After breakfast on Sunday morning, some of us decided to hike to the waterfall. I was determined to see it this time. Last year, my family tried to go on our own but we but took the wrong trail and reached a dead end. So this time, we went with a big group.


You can't miss the sign. But where is the trail?

Not far from our campsite, we saw bear poo on the trail. Uh-oh! Somebody just emptied its stomach. Is it looking to eat again? I wondered.

Bud and the boys also saw a snake sunbathing on a rock. Concerned, I asked, "How big is it?" "Just a small one," they answered. "About the width of a finger." "That's not small," I said. "That's medium!" When I saw the snake still lying there in the sun, it was medium all right. Small for me would be worm-sized. "Don't go near it!" I warned the boys.

After hiking for about 20 minutes, we reached what seemed to be another dead end. Disappointed, we returned to our camp for lack of time and decided we'd try again later.

After the worship service, we went looking for the path to the waterfalls again. Bud decided to stay in the cabin because he was not feeling well. Gabriel and Markus were very excited to go on an adventure. Me, too! I want to hike. I want to see more of the forest.

We let the teenagers lead the way because they had been to the falls earlier. "You're sure you've seen the falls, huh?" I ascertained.

The hike up to the waterfall was more challenging than I expected. The path was rocky and narrow and very irregular. It appeared to me that this was not a trail at all. We were walking on rocks on both sides of the stream. We had to cross back and forth to find the path of least resistance.


No trail. Just rocks.

The young people, my sons included, were very quick to go up the mountain. We adults lagged behind. After a while, I lost sight of the children and teens. I looked back and the adults were gone too. I felt a tinge of panic. I remembered overhearing that a baby bear was sighted in the area earlier. Oh God, please don't let me come across one. I prayed over and over.Thank goodness, cougars didn't even cross my mind. You know me, the only thing I don't like about the wild outdoors is the wild part. Ohh, pleeeeease!!!

Thankfully, I caught up with two young girls, about 11 and 10. One of them was having a hard time crossing the current less than 3 feet wide. How can I cross this without getting my shoes wet? I thought to myself. I held onto a tiny branch and, attempting a Tarzan stunt, jumped over the water. Okay, it was more like a Jane. Then I helped the girl to cross.


Crossing this narrow part of the stream was tricky.

Markus, who had reached the top and was already taking pictures, saw me as I climbed a rock. "Mom, pretend you are rock climbing," he said holding the camera towards me. "What are you talking about? I AM rock climbing," I retorted.


This rock is hard to climb.
But I managed to smile for the camera.

Finally, we reached the top of the waterfall. It was only a small one but the water was lovely.


Markus took nice pix.

We rested for a while and enjoyed the view. I realized that some of our adult companions had remained behind. In fact, I was the only female adult who continued on the non-existent trail. I felt a sense of accomplishment. Now, the problem was going back down.


How do I get down from here?

Most of us started our descent together. As expected, the children went faster. Gabriel slid down a steep large rock straight into the shallow running water. I was afraid to do that. I went the long way around and did another Tarzan with a branch hanging over the stream.

After a while, I found myself alone again. I could not keep up with my younger companions, and the people behind me seemed to be taking their time.

I tried to keep my mind off scary wildlife. I thought, Well, at least I have not gotten my shoes or jeans wet. Gabriel and Markus and most everyone else had slipped and slid and fallen in the water. Me, I am still good. Thank you, Nike. Good traction!

Just then, I came to a very tricky part of the river that was difficult to cross. The current was strong and stepping stones were underwater. I stepped on a wet rock, and bam! I lost my balance, slid and fell knee-deep on all fours. Aaayyy! I screamed and hoped nobody saw me.

Not far ahead, I found Markus collecting rocks. Then we walked on together.

"Mom, I was waiting for you. You know what I was doing? I was praying, God, please protect my Mom, because you were screaming so loud. And I saw you fell," Markus said.

"Really? Was I loud? I thought nobody saw me," I said. "Well, thanks for praying."

We had a good chat going back to camp. We encountered Gabriel and his friend as they were coming out of another path.

"Mom, the workers showed us the waterfalls," Gabriel said excitedly. I think he was referring to forest rangers who were at the site. "We went on another trail and it took us only 15 minutes to get there."

"Whaaat? " Ugh, that was the trail we should have been on! That's the falls we wanted to see. We were supposed to go to the bottom of the waterfall, not the top of it.

If we go to Camp Hope again next year, Ill make sure to try that other path. And I'll make sure to follow adults.

Last part coming up...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Once again - part 1

We joined our church camp last weekend. Same site we went to last August in Hope, BC. Same Pinoy group from our church too, with several new faces. Same picturesque views, only lusher at this time of the year.


The entrance to Camp Hope

My family was the first to arrive at 7:30 am on Saturday. We wanted to get the same cabin as last year but there was a mix-up. The caretaker couple had given our reserved cabins to another Filipino group that arrived Friday night.

Acknowledging their mistake, the caretakers gave us the staff lodge and a few available cabins that had not been taken. My family got a room at the staff lodge. It was nicer than the campers' cabins. Neat bedroom, a furnished kitchen, clean washrooms. It felt like an upgrade!


Mingling with other campers. Lots of food, fun and fellowship.
We feasted on good food. Mosquitoes feasted on us. Everyone was happy.

Saturday afternoon, we went on a convoy to the Othello Tunnels in the Coquihalla Provincial Park. The tunnels are also known as Quintette Tunnels because there are a string of five of them. We've been to this place a long time ago, but it was nice to revisit. Scenes from the movie Rambo were shot there.


Just before entering the tunnels,
now part of a provincial park

According to the BC Parks website, the tunnels were built in 1914 as part of the the Canadian Pacific Railway linking the Kootenay Region with the BC coast by rail. The railway was built over three mountain ranges. The Othello Tunnels are located in Coquihalla Canyon where the river cut a 300 foot deep channel of solid granite. There, just a bit of tourist info.


In between two tunnels

Gabriel and Markus were too young to remember going to the tunnels when we were new in Canada. They were excited to run in the dark, hide and scare Mom. I screamed for real once. Gabriel got a huge kick out of it.


The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel


The swift river in the gorge was a sight to behold.

Back at the camp, we had BBQ dinner and fellowship. To cap the evening, we had bonfire and karaoke. Filipinos love karaoke! I would have sung if I were not singing solo during the next morning's service. I wanted to preserve my voice, or rather, keep the element of surprise.

Took a very late shower and slept soundly...

Part 2 coming up...