the power of tea shall help me pull this week off..
I have a hectic week ahead, with a major work presentation coming up, which I am barely prepared for. The hot summer weather is not at all helping. My entire household had been doing more coughing than talking in the past week. So with an overworked respiratory system and two days of presentation planning, I soul-searched in my backyard for much-needed support.
I made a tea concoction using oregano leaves, calamansi and ginger, all harvested while I boil water for tea–and call it my “cough concoction“. It’s no remedy but it soothes my throat, clears my breathing and has loosened up tough phlegm. I have been taking a potful of this concoction once every morning and in the afternoon in the last three days, and it’s been nothing but relief. It also helped that we swam in the hot pool yesterday, which relaxed all my tired back and chest muscles.
If like me, you hate taking medicine and dread going to the doctor because he’ll prescribe you some medicine, try my cough concoction. I’m sure you can take it alongside any cough medication. Even if you only have a tired voice or sore throat, one cup can work wonders.
These basil plants have almost outgrown their seedling bags. It’s time to move them to their new home at the farm. We are just waiting for their new containers to be delivered. On Friday, which is a holiday, they will be replanted on the ground so that come Christmas time, we’ll have enough basil leaves to make plenty jars of pesto.
When the absence of a garden stopped being an excuse for not gardening..
We live in a tiny apartment. We point to the soil underneath a palm tree outside our unit and call it a garden. We have oreganos, peppers, mints, basils and a small cement fish pond where our pet goldfishes swim around. Recently, we extended our so-called garden to include our roof gutters. Turo had planted lettuce, Italian parsley and some other herbs inside used plastic bottles and hanged them up against the roof where they are partly sheltered from the rain but receive an ample dose of sunshine everyday.
This is a photo of our flatleaf parsley in a bottle. It conveniently hangs right outside the door of our front porch so I can easily snip off a few leaves or branches to garnish pasta dishes and stews. Apart from herbs, almost any plant can grow inside a container, except for those with an extensive taproot like coriander. I’ve seen tomatoes, cucumbers and beans sprout from soil-filled soda bottles, mineral water containers, etc.
Some herbs are growing wild, it’s time to tame them back.
Just before my stash of tea runs out, I finally took a moment to prune back some of my potted herbs that are growing all too wildly. I planted several pots of tarragon and water mint a few months back hoping to give them away come Christmas time but now they’re way too big for their pots. And there’s still a hundred days more before yule. In the middle of the night, before my favorite TV show starts, I got hold of Turo’s pruning shears and trimmed the plants. My golden rule for pruning herbs is to cut back the plant by as much as two-thirds or until a couple nodes remain on each stem. Then I shower them with much affection, top-dressing with as much vermicast as there is within my reach.
These are water mint leaves. Mint plants are great because they grow well by themselves requiring little care. Be careful though because they grow too easily, they can start invading your other plants. It is best to grow them in potted containers so they don’t do much harm.
It is amazing how nature creates, transforms and sustains itself. And we are lucky to be witnesses to the abundance and wealth that our good earth offers to those who are willing to cultivate it. The earthy smell of the soil being dug, the miracle of the seed transforming to a living plant, the crisp of leaves fresh from the picking. This is bounty that we are blessed to experience every waking day.
Our garden is our inspiration. We look out to it the moment we wake up. Our first greeting is to our beloved children, then to our beloved bushes right outside our porch. We take a closer peek at insects and pests that may be on the attack. A quick check on the soil especially if it did not rain the day before. This is our morning habit, which sometimes extends until noontime, or even until the late afternoon. Continue reading everyday bounty→
My grandmother is a baker by profession. She’s tried to teach me to bake cakes since I was in grade school. But I cursed baking ever since my first (flop) pineapple upside down cake, and the rest of the flop cakes and flop cookies that followed.
For reasons I could not explain, Turo and I find ourselves with much more free time now than when we’d lived in the city. We’ve started to enjoy lazy weekends even when we have more housework now than when we lived in my parent’s house. Before we had a laundrywoman and an ironing lady, now I am both. It used to be my parents who took over house repairs and garden work, but in our tiny apartment, this was Turo’s domain. In addition to the usual cooking and cleaning and looking after the kids, now we also take turns fetching Ari to and from school.
Running a household on our own certainly means a lot of work. But it’s the kind of work we lovingly attend to however physically exhausting it gets. Still, at the end of the day we get to sit down with a cup of coffee or a couple bottles of beer before getting some real rest. And in the morning we are woken by our hungry little monsters clamoring for breakfast that we all enjoy without the rush.
I also found myself accessing the internet less, reading more, bonding with my kids more, even cooking more. Proof of this is my recent reunion with la germania. After years of enjoying my lola’s perfect pastries without ever having to learn to make them myself, I realized I still wanted to learn how to bake—bread in particular. I love bread, I love herbs in my bread, but gourmet bread is not as easy to find here. No Rustan’s, no delicatessen anywhere close. If you can’t buy them, why not bake them yourself.
After some serious consideration and more second thoughts, I signed up for Italian Bread, Pizza and Pasta lessons in Sylvia Reynoso-Gala’s Culinary Studio. Up until the first day of my cooking classes I felt reluctant to go. What if I start baking perfect flops again?
But my hands found themselves kneading dough for the first time that day. I felt liberated and satisfied.
We can easily while away hours on all things garden. We spent our morning in Manila Seedling Bank, buying pots, plants, soil and other gardening supply. We walked past gardens and growers, big and small, admiring new ornamental varieties that we have not seen before. On few occasions, we spot common blooms dressed up in ornate pots being sold at very dear prices. We pity the untrained gardener who fall prey to this kind of sales gimmick. Continue reading all things garden→
We had a few pieces chicken quarters leftover from the dinner I prepared for Turo’s officemates the other weekend. I pan-roasted the chicken quarters while I cooked last night’s leftovers for lunch today. Ideally, meat for roasting should be elevated on a rack so that it’s the heated air that cooks the meat. This process causes browning or caramelization on the surface of the meat and enhances flavor.
My present read is about gardening in small spaces. I bought the book three years before as a birthday gift for Turo for the obvious reason that he likes gardening more than I do. Well, I also like gardens. Just not the soil digging and plant growing part, which I’m not any good at. For me, it’s mostly just the admiring and appreciating part that I like.
If you can’t go to market during the weekend, better do it in the middle of the week. Last night was Wednesday night and I made a lucky stop at Farmer’s Market. Vegetables were cheaper compared to post-Pepeng prices and there was greater variety. I bought lettuce for P120/kilo and basil for P80/kilo. Fruits were expectedly pricey as we near Christmas but I thought lemons at P12 a piece were a better deal than when you buy one for twenty pesos in the grocery.
I planned to make tuna pesto sandwiches for breakfast this morning and woke up extra early only to find out that Turo already cooked chicken sopas while I lulled the babies (and myself) to sleep. The leafy greens I bought last night will have to wait for another breakfast opportunity over the weekend. In such cases, storing vegetables, particularly the green leafy ones, are important if you want to maintain their crispness and freshness.