My First Three-Course Sit Down Meal At Home

Saturday, 15 April 2017

When J and I moved into our new flat in London, one of the things that we thought about was having family and friends over for a meal. The truth is, I have long dreamed  of hosting a three-course sit-down meal at home, but it was quite impossible to do so in the last 14 years because I was either living in a studio flat or sharing a house with other people. Dinner at home during those times meant a buffet meal or sitting on the floor- Japanese style. When we were in New Zealand, I was able to sort of host a couple of small lunch parties but still, it was more or less a buffet style. It was only when I had my friend Ei over that I was able to somehow have a sit-down meal with a guest. But even so, we had breakfast stools rather than proper dining chairs. 

It took us at least two months to partially furnish our flat in London so it wasn't until then that we were able to invite friends over for a meal. It was sort of a house blessing sans the priest and prayers. The blessing was our friends and their little one. Surely, they have brought a lot of blessings into our home and into our lives.

Needless to say that this was an exciting time for me because I was able to finally  play "plato-platuhan". I had a more elaborate table arrangement in my mind, however our place is still not big enough for that, so I thought I'd start with something  simple for now. So, I proudly laid our dinnerware from Ikea  and came up with the most basic table setting that I learned from when I was training to be a nanny in Canada (yes, I did that). 

When it came to planning the menu, I opted for dishes that I have cooked before. I didn't want to experiment as I knew that I would definitely fail if I did. So to be on the safe side, I cooked what I believed I am good at. :)

For starters, we had "lumpiang Shanghai" (spring rolls). I've never failed on this so far so it was my best bet. As expected, they loved it.

For the mains, I decided to cook two dishes but the star dish was - what else but my famous Kare-kare (oxtail in peanut butter sauce). If I can be honest, this is the only Filipino dish that I can definitely cook with confidence. It's my favourite as it reminds me of my childhood. When I was in grade school, I often   helped  my Auntie Eding at her restaurant and she used to make Kare-kare from scratch. Hers is one of the best Kare-kares I've ever tasted. Because of her, I fell in love with this dish.

Kare- kare is also the first Filipino dish that J ever had. Unfortunately, I have yet to convert him into eating my native food because most are eaten with rice and he doesn't eat rice that much. But he likes my Kare-kare, so we're good. Do I have to mention that my friends enjoyed my Kare-kare very much?

Now, my anaemic naked chicken adobo. I am not proud to say that I can't cook our national dish. I have tried so many times, but each time I failed. I don't know what I have been doing wrong. My adobo never really tasted like adobo. This time though, it sort of did but I used  light soy sauce, hence the anaemia. Perhaps J and our friends were just being polite but they said it was actually good. 

Ah, didn't I just say that I didn't want to cook something that I haven't cooked before? I've forgotten that I actually baked  cassava cake for the first time ever. I was originally going to make fruit salad, but when I showed J a photo of it, he disapproved right away. I also considered leche flan but J has  tried it before and he didn't like it. He said it was too eggy. The rest of the Filipino dessert recipes I found online were way beyond my cooking ability. And so  I thought I'd try  cassava cake because I have seen someone made it before and I thought that I could easily do the same. 

Unfortunately,  my first cassava cake was almost a failure (as well as the presentation.) I basically didn't get the consistency and the flavour that I wanted. Although J and our friends liked it, I definitely  could have done better. Luckily, I thought of vanilla ice cream to go with it. That did the trick I must say.

And so that was my first ever three-course Filipino sit-down meal at home. I really enjoyed the whole process and I am happy that I had the Munchkins to share this beautiful experience with. 

I still dream of elaborate table settings and more formal and fine dinnerware, but I'm sure the right time will come. And of course,  don't forget the Afternoon Tea party. Ah, Royal Albert. :)


More Harry Potter Adventure In Oxford

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

To follow on our magical Harry Potter trip to Edinburgh, we headed to Oxford on a stormy day. Yes, typhoon Doris was in the UK and we definitely felt its presence through the strong winds. Luckily, there was no rain so it was a little more comfortable to walk around Oxford.

The main purpose of our trip to Oxford was to see "The Great Hall" and "The Stairway". As a clueless Harry Potter wanna-be, I didn't know anything else apart from that. I later found out that one of my favourite structures in Oxford was in four of the Harry Potter films. The  Divinity Hall was used as  Hogwarts Infirmary, and the Duke Humphrey's Library was the Hogwarts Library, where Harry became invisible. Both of which are located inside the Bodleian Library.

A certain  tree in New College was used in The Goblet of Fire.  This is where Draco was turned into a ferret- this I remember quite well.  The tree is actually visible from the "Bridge of Sighs" - another Oxford favourite of mine.

When we arrived in Christ Church, we were told that The Great Hall was closed until 2pm and were instructed to go back. We bought the tickets anyway, and because we had more or less than two hours to spare, we explored the grounds of Christ Church and then went for coffee at a nearby cafe.

I can't remember if I have been inside the Christ Church Cathedral before, but I am glad I did this time. The interior of the church is a sight to behold. 

We did as we were told, so we were back at The Great Hall just after 2 o'clock. 

I have seen The Great Hall at least twice before but for some reason, this time it was more fun and exciting. Perhaps because I was with my niece, who is a true Potterhead. We did a two-day Harry Potter tour on our own and that was a revealing experience to me. This whole adventure was a reflection of how passionate she is about the things that she loves. A lot of times, I stared at her and admired her for being such an intelligent, enthusiastic and determined person. Quite like Hermione Granger really. :)

So, our Harry Potter adventure ended in Oxford but our Auntie-Niece bonding didn't end there.

When we got back to London, we went straight to The Ritz for our afternoon tea. It was an amazing way to end our 4-day UK adventure. 

I surely miss her writing this because God knows when we'll see each other again (although we're hoping in the next few months). Farrah is a proof that no matter how distant of a relative you are, it's that special connection that brings you closer together. To be honest, I have a better relationship with her than most of my second-degree relations. This is why I treasure our relationship  so much.


The Day After The Westminster Bridge Attack

Thursday, 23 March 2017

When I left home this morning, I wasn't sure if Westminster Bridge would be open but I still took my normal route, more vigilant than usual. When I reached Trafalgar Square, I learned that Whitehall was still closed. Police and reporters still gathered in the area. I picked up my early morning almond croissant and skinny latte, afterwhich I approached a policeman and asked if I could take The Mall to my workplace but apparently, Westminster Bridge was still closed so I took a detour and walked towards the Southbank instead. The walk was longer than usual but I felt that I needed those extra few minutes to reflect on what happened yesterday. I know I am not directly affected by the incident but I feel sad that this happened in London and to innocent people. 

While crossing the Golden Jubilee Bridge and looking at Westminster bridge from a distance, I felt a terrible sense of guilt. Not so long ago when I was in New Zealand, I dreaded the thought of coming back to London. Today reality struck me. Reality that  sometimes you don't realise how important something is until something horrible happens.  I felt heartbroken and all of a sudden, my love for London grew stronger than ever before. Suddenly, I felt nothing but gratitude. I am grateful simply for the opportunity to live in a city known for its formidable courage and extraordinary resilience. I arrived at work humbled, grateful, and with my love for London completely renewed.
I took this photo the day before the attack.

At work, we briefly talked about the incident but it wasn't long until we were soaked in our daily routine. I looked at today's paper on my lunch break and the photos I saw were heartbreaking. I still couldn't  believe that this happened. 

At around 3pm, I looked out the window and noticed buses, cars and pedestrians on the bridge. I could only assume that Westminster Bridge was finally open. 

I left work just on time this afternoon. I decided to take my favourite route and walked towards Westminster Bridge. Unsurprisingly, it was less busy than usual, especially on a good day like today.

As I moved on, more people appeared from the stairs on the  West side of the bridge. I carried on walking and saw smiling tourists taking selfies, parents and their kids taking family photos, some other tourists taking photos of the iconic Big Ben and some just hanging out on the bridge. It was clear that tourists and locals alike were back in their own business. 

I took a few more steps and stopped briefly to look at the flowers left on the pavement, and so I could pay a little respect to the victims as well. It was hard to believe that I was actually walking on the bridge where the terror attack happened. I watched as   vehicles drove past, and admired the people confidently crossing  the road. There were cyclists and runners too. The people walking on both sides of the bridge appeared to act as if nothing has happened. Then something hit me. It could have been any of us, especially those who  cross the bridge more than once a day. The mere thought gave me shivers. 

I continued my poignant walk towards Bridge St but unfortunately, it was still closed so I turned right on Victoria Embankment. Outside The New Scotland Yard gathered a number of media people doing interviews. At the same time, strangers were taking photos of them too. 

I overheard someone say that Whitehall was opened so I made my way there. Whilst I was rushing home,  people were making their way to Trafalgar Square for the evening vigil. I could see policemen everywhere. One or two helicopters were flying in the air. The sound of sirens were constant. Some roads were and I believe are  still on diversion. 

When I finally got home, I told J about my heart-rending walk over Westminster Bridge. Everything seemed surreal to me for some reason.   Perhaps because Westminster Bridge has been a part of my daily life for more than three years now. 

From our flat, I could hear some people chanting, laughing and talking aloud in the street . The sound of sirens remain constant, but from what I saw today, London is back to normal. As Theresa May said yesterday:

"Tomorrow morning....We will come together as normal.   And Londoners - and others from around the world who have come here to visit this great City - will get up and go about their day as normal.They will board their trains, they will leave their hotels, they will walk these streets, they will live their lives.And we will all move forward together. Never giving in to terror. And never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart."

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