Friday, 19 May 2017

My Version Of Granola

I thought I'd make granola today. 

Sometime ago I ran out of these two jumbo packs of dried cranberry and granola that my thoughtful sister from Florida gave me last December.   She knows that I top my oatmeal for breakfast with dried fruits and  crunchy cereal to allay boredom.  

Since then, I've been buying granola and muesli, though they are quite expensive here, most of them, if not all are imported.  Therefore it is more practical to make it myself. 

This is my version of granola partly using local ingredients. 

Hey, what's the green one?  It's called pinipig, or duman or in the Ilocano vernacular, dudumen.  Pinipig is made from immature glutinous rice, burned in open fire rendering the grains partly toasted.  Then it is manually pounded.  

Making dudumen is an event that locals enjoy on summer nights.  They build a bone fire and toast the grains.  For single ladies and guys, this is an opportunity to get together and have fun.  Partners alternately pound the grains in tune with the music, as they sing along. 

The green color, which is sometimes dark green to grayish green is due to the green testa of the young grain;  the color depends on how long the grains are toasted. This is unpolished and therefore more healthy. 

There is another form of pinipig that I added, the white ones looking like Rice Krispies , these are toasted popped pinipig.

After the almonds is pulse-chopped, I mixed this with the grains .  Unfortunately, I only have almonds in my pantry but it would be nice to add walnuts, pistachios or Casey nuts. 

2 1/2 c rolled oats
1 1/2 c green pinipig
1  c almonds
1  tsp sea salt

1/2  c olive oil
1/2. c honey
1       Tsp vanilla

The liquid ingredients are added to the grains and nuts until they are thoroughly coated.

The resulting mixture is evenly spread on my non stick baking sheet and poppep in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Mid- bake, the product need to be brought out and mixed to ensure that they are evenly  toasted.  I then added the popped pinipig and brought it back in the oven for another 10 minutes.  

The dried fruits are mixed in thoroughly after the baking is done and allowed to cool.  I would have liked to add apricot and dates  but I only have dried cherries that my BFF Lorna from California gave me when she visited.  So I just added raisins for good measure. 

Notice that the baked product is darker brown because it  was toasted. 

The granola should be stored in dry and sealed containers.  If the yield seem too much, half maybe placed in ziplock bags and put in the freezer for longer shelf life. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Learning To Co-exist With The Business Competitor

"Now you have seen the worst", 
our son said on FaceTime the week after a giant superstore opened a junior outlet in the village.   He wanted an update how it is affecting our convenience store.  Well, we have been feeling the brunt these past weeks and while the sales is low, at least it is a bit better than we expected. 

Like Jim, our son understands how business works, he being a marketing guy himself.  He further said:
"Well, I know that the sales may not go up to the mark as it used to be anytime soon but......".  We are realistic and we believe that too; that's why Jim told him that we are giving this a minimum of three months to observe how it goes. 

"Most people are curious, they like to see what's in the new store",  my older daughter said,  "wait it out, the novelty of shopping there may wear out one of these days".  

Jim knows that in this business and most businesses for that matter, vicinity is important.  He told our son that we are hopeful because we have an edge over our competitors since our location is pretty much the ideal place in the over-all scheme of the village.  

Besides, there is no such thing as a favorite store, like what Filipinos call "suki"  (frequent buyer).   I learned early on in the trade that people buy where it is convenient, where they can find most of their requirements and wherever they find themselves at the moment of need. When they are at the mall, there's always a grocery there; and if not, they would choose the closest,  (not necessarily the dearest).

I held back in purchasing two weeks before the dreaded opening of the new store.  I wanted to observe first how things go because I didn't want to be left with a lot of merchandise that may not move.  I was partly wrong though, because we ran out on some fast-moving items the following weekend. 

As merchandise filled the store again, we noticed a slight increase in sales.   So what is there left to do?  

When our younger daughter abroad asked how things are going, I replied that our primary move is to improve customer assistance, we believe that people are often in a rush, impatient to stand in line, so they should be able to get what they want with ease and go out as swiftly as possible. 

"I am personally doing the stock Inventory and  purchasing since that is crucial.  if we want our store to be a one-stop shop then we must make provisions for the frequently needed merchandise.  At this point, I can't delegate that to anyone."   I further told her. 

Merchandize display is important too.  If it's sausage, customers must see all available brands and sizes in one glance, from big to small or vice versa.  Every item must be clean and should be displayed in such a way that they seem to be calling attention as if to say:  "here I am, buy me".

"I like your approach on this", my younger daughter replied. "It is also a driver to further improve things; operations and efficiencies". 

Our children's comments are our thoughts exactly, they reflect how we see things and how we feel about them. Moreover, it feels great to be encouraged and inspired by them and to know that we are in this together.  I can say the same with our staff who are vigilant to assist customers.  They regularly fill us in on customer feed back. 

The last three weeks in "limbo" were excruciatingly stressful, but we now see a pattern that we can hold on to; though the cash register reading is still not what we want it to be, at least we can get by for now and hope that things will get better.  Most importantly, we were able to release some of the nerves which have been bubbling inside and around us since the new store opening.
"Let us relax now so we don't stress ourselves", Jim told me one night.  "Life is short, we must enjoy it, we've done what needs to be done, let's just hope for the best", he added.  Well,  I just hope that the universe is holding up its end of the bargain. 

I'd like to believe Maya Angelou when she said:
"We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated".

And I keep telling myself:
"Never give up the dream", right?

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Learning To Live With Diabetes

Someone said that there is no reset button in life, we can't take anything back, we can't undo anything.  Our actions have consequences, everything that we say or do may have lasting impact for the rest of our lives. 

Well then, if I can't undo diabetes, at least I can control it so I won't suffer serious complications like nerve damage, kidney trouble or blurry eyes and at its worst, blindness.  It is therefore imperative to restrain myself from too much sweets and  carbohydrates. 

If only to know is as easy as to do, then all our resolve will be realized.  Unfortunately that's not the case with me.  I've indulged too much on foods not good for me.   Now I have to double time washing down the traces of sugar in my system. 

I've always loved sweets, it is my food orientation since I was a child.  My mama always baked cakes; my aunts frequently made native cakes and our afternoon snacks were mostly pastries.   

In my childhood, before the advent of chips, (well, maybe there was already plain potato chips then),  we had boiled plantain, sweet potatoes, peanut with shells and other root crops to munch on in between snacks and meals, they simply weren't our real snacks. They were always on the table for anyone to pick and eat. 

Nobody told me that diabetes is in my genes.  I should have known that after seeing my great grandmother eat steamed okra with fish sauce night after night for dinner because she had diabetes. 

But I can't blame anyone, can I ?  This high blood glucose just cropped up in the last two years when I was tagged pre-diabetic.  Had I restrained myself from eating too much sweets, I should still be good, right? 

At the end of January my FBS was 8.13 mmol/L, but my doctor thought that a good part of it was due to holiday food.  Nevertheless, he prescribed medication and cautioned me to go slow on sweets and carbohydrates and do another test after a month.  

Using HbA1c as a diagnostic tool confirmed, to my dismay, that yes, I am diabetic.   Though the result is on the lower bracket it is diabetes just the same. 

Determined to overcome my high FBS, I watched my diet closely and exercised a lot in February anticipating a much lower FBS result by month end.  To my disappointment, I was able to bring it down to a mere  0.03 mmol/L which is negligible.  

I did not lose hope though, I recall what my younger daughter said that traces of bad elements remain in the blood stream for six months even if you stop taking them in; that's how long it will take to flush it down, and maybe not even totally.  To abstain from foods high in sugar the day or even a week before the test won't make a difference as well, no, we can't cheat. 

So I worked up more restraint, I did more exercise and finally I was rewarded.  At the end of March, my FBS went down significantly to 6.99 mmol/L.  My doctor reduced my diamicron to half and told me to have another test in ten days.  

Ten days?  I thought I could have a little reprieve and relax a bit, but NO, apparently I can't do that.  I have to see this through, not only in ten days but until I'll hit normal again;  even if it takes all my will power to get to that finish line, I'm going to do it.  

Finally, I know that even when I bring my FBS down, I have to make a drastic change in my lifestyle diet from here on.  As Chico Xavier said: 

"Though nobody can go back to a new beginning; anyone can start over and make a new ending".

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Our Edible Backyard Garden Gives Back Fruits For Our Labor

Our backyard edible garden is at its best this time of the year. Though the weather is humid, our plants love the summer sun, sunshine is vital for optimum growth.   Their flowers don't fall and they continue to grow into fruits.  

Come, follow me, I'll give you a walk-through. 

Look at our herbs. 


I'm presently propagating mint because my customers are requesting for it, besides, my older daughter wants it as well.  When you see roots in two weeks, that's the time to plant them in soil.  

Tarragon.  It is easy to propagate from cuttings that could be  planted immediately in soil.

Rosemary smells so good!   I love to sprinkle the leaves on bread before toasting.  The entire kitchen will smell so good. 

My oregano patch.  I stick oregano tops almost anywhere in the garden where there is space.  It thrives with or without sunshine. 

These are oregano planted in plastic containers ready for sale. 

This basil patch is in the front lawn where it can get plenty of sunshine.   Jim grew this from seeds.  

These basil pots are ready for sale too.  

That's it on herbs!

Now let me show you Jim's fruit-bearing veggies. 

The okra patch. 

Look at this single okra plant with multiple fruits. 

Here's another. 

Eggplant with fruits growing.  Can you count five fruits here?

Bitter gourd (ampalaya) . This is beginning to cover our entire back wall.

See those fruits hanging by our aircon? 

Two more fruits by the horse frame. 

Cherry tomatoes!

A close up of one cherry tomato plant. Never tires giving us fruits.  Notice that a branch is flowering again. 

Now let me show you Jim's kangkong patch.

These are Chinese kangkong, notice that they don't craw unlike the native ones.  Their leaves are also thinner. These are ready to be harvested. 

Jim integrated tomatoes with the kangkong. Notice that the bamboo trellis is ready when the tomatoes grow taller. 

Pandan, just like oregano are also all over our garden. 

These pandan in small pots also sell.   

Let's go to my citrus collection. 

Two pots of lemon. I almost gave up the one on the left but Jim gave it life again. Now it has three fruits and several flowers. 

Among the kalamansi this has the most fruits now.  

I've been harvesting from these two, haven't bought kalamansi fruits in a month, they are giving me enough. 

We placed these in the front lawn for the meantime. Two of them now have tiny fruits while the third has fruits soon to be harvested. 

Look at the citronella, I was not sure they will thrive in the shade but look how robust they are now.  Jim put out his magic green thumb again 

They are thriving sans sunshine, this one in the corner is even hidden by the okra patch. 

Thats all folks!

The harvest from this garden isn't much but we're happy that it certainly brings the freshest, purely organic veggies one can get.

This garden is our serene oasis, we enjoy breakfast and afternoon snacks here while we appreciate the surroundings.  It brings us so much joy too.  

I hope I inspired you to start planting as well, that is if you arent doing it yet.  If not, I hope I entertained you and made you smile. 

Friday, 24 March 2017

Optimism Is A Stepping Stone To Success

We didn't know that the real challenge is yet to come, well, not until a giant supermarket opened a "junior" store in the village, just about a block from our store.  

How do we compete with a known superstore that gets big volume discounts and display allowances from the suppliers?  That is a feat that Jim and I have to overcome in the coming months if we want our store to stay afloat.

It's a daunting feeling to look forward to an uncertain future.   This store is not just a place of business to us, it is also a place to go to for a change of scene, a diversion from daily challenges; a source of "coffee money".  But more than that, didn't I tell you that selling is my passion?   It brings me joy to do something that I love aside from gardening.  

Sometime 20 years ago, we almost sold the business to a Japanese guy and his Filipino wife.   I say almost, because we already accepted the payment in hard cash but to our surprise, the couple came back for their money after three days.  The guy felt it beyond his dignity to sell local flip flops, brooms and other daily Filipino household necessities that is in demand. 

But they got a bigger surprise when we gave back the same money they paid us, untouched in their original bundles tied with the same rubber bands. 
"It's the same money, our money", said the Japanese guy when we handed him the money.  I guess he expected us to have spent a part of it or at least deposited it in the bank. 

And so, the business went on.... .....

Two years ago we almost gave it up again, in fact we got several inquiries from prospective buyers.  We even went through a thorough inventory of all items to quantify our merchandise in case a sale will push through. 

That time coincided with our move to this new home.  We thought then that leaving the village where the store is situated may prove complicated logistics-wise.  But then again, circumstances didn't allow the sale to happen. 

Recently, the store has been doing fairly well, and I couldn't help but work harder to improve the service.  In fact, this encouraged me to start making an Operations Handbook for the store while I can;  for our children in case anyone among them would like to take over when we are not able to do it anymore.   

Then our lead man got into trouble with a delivery guy and they ended up in the Barangay hall.  That worried his parents who asked him to cool off in the province along with his brother and his live-in partner who are also part of our staff.  

Minus three from our staff means we can't  operate without us in the store all day.  Add the fact that  our head cashier is already set for a two-week vacation leaving only the other cashier who didn't want to be left alone.   What to do ?  We can't afford to close shop, we will lose customers.   

Ahh,  "when it rains, it pours".  

But Jim and I don't give up easily, this is one of the times that we really put our heads together.   Immediately, we found two people to help run the store with us.  That's the advantage of a retail business over a service-oriented one where the staff need a certain expertise, like a trained beautician is needed in a beauty parlor;  likewise a dress shop needs a seamstress.  Since I'm a hands-on manager, we can run the store without a hitch except it required us to stay at the store for longer hours.  

The challenge is becoming more intense with barely a skeleton staff and the dwindling foot traffic at the store, but we continue running the business.   We are just feeling the impact this week when sales went down.

But then I'm partly hopeful because I know that Jim always thrive on challenges, when things are down he makes them work to his advantage; a challenge can be a stepping stone to success.  An impending failure can turn to success with a positive attitude if we focus closely on our goal; this time optimism is crucial.  I assure you, this won't go without a fight, besides I know that we are in this together, a united effort divides the problem. 

In spite my optimistic mindset, I don't know how to feel about this yet.   It looks like I'm in a holding pattern circling in the clouds above twin airports of resignation or relief, not really knowing which is going to clear me to land.  I guess it would be like this until circumstances will give it a shape again. 

In retrospect, I still believe that this business is meant for us, otherwise, we could have sold it years ago.  Still, anything can happen but I don't stress myself too much anymore, I am resigned and open to new developments.  As I often say: 
"God's plan is bigger than my dreams". 

Sunday, 19 February 2017


When we pursue our passion with a vengeance,  it may seem to others that we are over-doing it and the usual comment is : " hey, you're angry".   
Well, I'm making pickled veggies again but I'm not angry.   I'm just feeling passionate on pickling at the moment because I found a way to eat my veggies without the hassle of preparing them for every meal.  

Today I just made a variety of pickled veggies to choose from whenever and whichever I'm in the mood for.  They go well with anything, pork, chicken, beef or fish; it works as an appetizer too and eating them fills me up easily so I eat less of the main course which has definitely more calories. 

Today, I pickled the following veggies

Bitter gourd, cucumber, turnips, small shallots, and daikon radish.  

Jim helped me peel them.  He cut off the shallot leaves and peeled the bulbs to be pickled. 

I sliced bitter gourd diagonally after I removed the seeds and scraped off the white portion with a spoon, that part is so bitter.  

I put salt to the sliced bitter gourd and daikon radish and let them sweat out the tangy juice, then I squeezed further.  I then rinsed and squeezed three more times to remove the salty taste. 

I chose the Japanese cucumbers to be pickled because they normally have less seeds.  However I found that some parts still have significantly big seeds.

Notice that I started to take off the part with big seeds.

When all the veggies were sliced, 

I sterilized the mason jars and put the veggies in. 

The usually mixture of two cups each of vinegar and water, 3/4 cup white sugar and 1/2 tsp salt is brought to a boil and poured over each jar.  As soon as they cool down, I covered the jars tightly. 

My final products.  

I still have kangkong and carrots left over from yesterday.  I just added the excess turnips in the carrot jar. 

Thursday, 16 February 2017


You maybe wondering what this blog is all about, am I into birds now?  No, no, in fact I already have a title in mind for this topic but Jim reminded me of the homing doves, and I totally agree with him on the analogy, hence the title. 

Did you know that the homing pigeon has the remarkable ability to find its way home repeatedly over extremely hugh and disorienting distances?  Yes, competitive pigeon racing has recorded distances as far as 1,800 km or 1,100 miles.  

Well, I could say the same to humans, especially Filipinos who live abroad.  No matter how far and wide they found jobs, they always manage to come home occasionally.    They are tagged as the "Balikbayans". " Balik", meaning go back and "bayan" is country. 

Every year in late November to mid-February Filipinos living abroad, be it in the United States, Europe, the Middle East or just in the neighboring Asian countries come home for family or class reunions or simply for vacation.  They are the so-called balikbayans. 

They choose these period because of the cold weather and escape the freezing winter where they presently live.  Majority that come home regularly are retired citizens because they have the time and the money for travel and leisure.  Younger ones come home occasionally but not as often while others have to wait for many years due to residency concerns in their country of work. 

Balikbayans are seen in beach resorts in the countryside where they enjoy the sun and commune with nature.  They frequent the malls and love filipino delicacies; they bring their families to lunch or dinner and meet up with friends in restaurants around town where their friends back home have raved about as something to see.  Oftentimes, they squeeze in a weekend Asian trip along with their families. The younger ones are more inclined to go to the beaches in Boracay and Palawan; the most talked about beach resorts that made it to the top five best in the world.    

This season, we had our share of balikbayan visitors; relatives from abroad,

my sister and brother-in-law from Florida, 

Jim's brother,  his wife and daughter from Vancouver 

Jim's former colleague and BFF with his wife from San Francisco, 

my college Besties and their spouses from California and Las Vegas.   

Of course, my son and younger daughter and their families flew in for Christmas but I would not count them as guests. 

If I were to count friends who came home from all over the world for our high school grand reunion in my hometown this year, I'd say that there are a lot of them.   Many of them expressed to see me personally but due to heavy traffic navigating around the metro, and too many commitments during the holidays to meet up with friends and relatives, it was not at all possible. 

It's the middle of February but the weather is even getting better, if I may say so since I love the cold, but not the freezing cold.  For the balikbayans still in town I'm sure that they are also enjoying the weather especially in Baguio and Tagaytay.