There are 52 weekends in a year. Let's see where each of them takes me-- at home, in the kitchen, outdoors, next door, or overseas. (Maybe I could even post something in between.) Happy weekend!

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Winter Greens and Glimpses of Summer

Winter is fast approaching in many parts of the world. We here in Sydney are quite the opposite, with summer giving us glimpses of its warm and sunny (occasionally muggy) days at the tail end of spring.


Not long from now, we’re going to have sand between our toes and maybe a strawberry banana smoothie to keep us cool and refreshed. A quick dip in the still-freezing ocean is likely— while wishful-thinking about the tropical waters of the Philippines.


Last winter, when the beach took a back seat, we drove away from the coast, explored a little bit of the country, and spent an afternoon in the vineyards of Hunter Valley.



One thing I took home from this trip was the taste of sauteed greens in my mouth— the side dish we had for lunch. When we got home, we tried to recreate the recipe based on the flavors we could remember. It has made a regular appearance on our home menu ever since, and it whenever it does, it transports us back to our rustic little table overlooking the vineyard.


Here’s our version of Black Creek Farm’s sauteed greens:

250 grams of bacon (or as much as you like, really)
a handful of brussels sprouts
a handful of round beans
minced garlic
olive oil

Bake the bacon in an oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. (You can also pan-fry, but I find baking to be the easier and healthier option.) While the bacon is in the oven, prepare the brussel sprouts. Here’s where I learned how. Also, prepare the green beans by cutting off the ends.


Heat the oil in a frying pan, and saute the garlic until a tad bit golden. Add the greens and saute until they’re tender but not mushy, and then add the bacon at the last minute. (Because the bacon is already salty, I don’t add any more salt.) Season with a dash of pepper.


Enjoy!

Saturday morning walk with the hubby

Saturday morning walk with the hubby

The past two weekends have been full of activities. We had two of my brothers-in-law visit us from the Philippines for what turned out to be a 10-day celebration of my hubby’s birthday. One great thing about having family over is that we get to explore and become tourists with them all over again. Here are some of the highlights.

Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk

Outside the Opera House on a Sunday afternoon

On the eve of the hubby’s birthday: dinner & drinks at Lowenbrau

After dinner by the Opera House

Brunch for the birthday boy! I made pancakes with bacon on a Saturday morning.

The boys threw some steak and corn on the barbie for the birthday dinner at home.

My mom made the most delicious carrot cheesecake!

You haven’t really been to Sydney if you haven’t had fish & chips by the beach. This one was in Manly.

There is nothing like having sand between my toes. And then tossing off my flipflops to walk barefoot.

It’s the weekend again! Hope you’re having a great one! :)

Only clear blue waters in this lagoon, a couple of kilometers into our 7km coastal walk. It’s extremely inviting. Hopefully next time we could actually jump in. :)

Only clear blue waters in this lagoon, a couple of kilometers into our 7km coastal walk. It’s extremely inviting. Hopefully next time we could actually jump in. :)

Easter Sunday Picnic at Watsons Bay

Autumn showed up last weekend and kept the sun hidden for the most part. The morning drizzle stopped just in time for our fish n chips lunch! (as the weather bureau very accurately predicted!) It was a wonderful day- picnic mat, grass, food, coffee and family!

Easter Sunday Picnic at Watsons Bay

Autumn showed up last weekend and kept the sun hidden for the most part. The morning drizzle stopped just in time for our fish n chips lunch! (as the weather bureau very accurately predicted!) It was a wonderful day- picnic mat, grass, food, coffee and family!

Ode to Meatballs

I spent a couple of hours in the kitchen the day before Easter making meatballs, since we just stayed in Sydney over the Holy Week.

Meatballs are definitely on my top 3 list of most convenient dishes to serve (even though it does take a bit of time to make them). It takes about an hour or so to prepare the meat, shape them, and then bake/fry them until golden.

This, however, is time invested—not wasted, I assure you.

Mix half a kilo of lean pork mince with half a kilo of lean beef mince. (You can also use veal.) Add diced onions, half a cup of milk and half a cup of breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. (I usually stick with this simple recipe— thank you, Ma!, but feel free to add other herbs and spices that you might like.) Mix all the ingredients together. I start by using a spoon, and then use my hands.

It’s best to mold the mixture while the meat is still cold, and not completely thawed to room temperature. It’s not difficult to shape them at all. For that I give credit to my sculpting skills which I had developed in my early childhood while playing with Play-Doh. (See, there is a purpose for these toys!)



The cooking time also depends on the size of the meatballs, as they must be cooked thoroughly on the inside. (I like molding them into the size of ping-pong balls, and it takes about 25 mins to bake one batch of these in the oven).

I must also mention that I prefer baking over frying, as this is the healthier alternative, and I don’t believe it makes much of a difference on the taste or texture. Putting them in the oven is also more convenient for me, as I  can use the time to do other things in the kitchen. (I multi-task a lot.) But of course, never leave the oven unattended.



After cooking, I wait until the meatballs have cooled down. I then store them in a freezer-safe container and stock them up in the freezer. When it’s time to serve, I simply thaw/defrost them for a few hours before reheating in the microwave. (Here’s a tip: I move the meatballs into the fridge the day before I plan to serve them. But if you have to take them from the freezer at the last minute, the defrost function of your microwave should come in handy.)



Meatballs are very versatile, as they can take the lead role in several different meals. So even though I make them in big batches, we don’t get tired of them too easily. (We also alternate them with other dishes.)

There’s a lot you can do with meatballs: Serve with your favorite gravy and mashed potaoes on the side. Or add to your spaghetti bolognese or pomodoro. My mom also makes a sauce to turn them into sweet and sour meatballs. I’m sure you can come up with other ideas. (Feel free to share them with me!)

Here’s one meatball dish that’s a favorite in our home: Spaghetti Meatballs!



Top left: Take a serving of spaghetti and top with meatballs.
Top right: Pour in your favorite tomato-based sauce (like bolognese or pomodoro).
Lower left: Sprinkle with parmesan. I like putting a generous amount.
Lower right: Best served when shared! :)

Enjoy!

On Goodness and Chocolat

Last weekend was pretty normal and laid-back. I haven’t been able to share about it, because I feel like being quiet during the Holy Week. I’ve been more on a listening rather that speaking mode.

I’ve been reflecting on God’s goodness, about how I haven’t exactly been good, and how I might be able to better bounce off God’s goodness to the world— not just to the people I love, but more so to the people whom I don’t deem “worthy” of that goodness. It’s really not for me to say who’s worthy and who’s not. For all I know, I’m probably on the same list as the people I write off.

I don’t really have any earth-shattering conclusion about this— just that I am only able to give the goodness that I have received. It’s not an option, and it’s not conditional. I must give because I have received much, and have received without cost.

Chocolat

Let me share one of my favorite quotes that was said by Père Henri in the movie Chocolat:

I’m not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be. Do I want to speak of the miracle of Our Lord’s divine transformation? Not really, no.
I don’t want to talk about His divinity. I’d rather talk about His humanity. I mean, you know, how He lived His life, here on Earth. His kindness, His tolerance… Listen, here’s what I think.

I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude.

I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.

Have a blessed Holy Week, and a glorious Easter Sunday. :)

Beach Cruising on Sunday
After a long week, it’s usually very tempting to just stay home and veg out. But the weather was so fine last weekend that we decided to go biking in Manly.
We first headed to BenBry to grab some late lunch to eat by the beach. (It’s our go-to place for great burgers whenever we’re in Manly.) After lunch, we headed to the bike shop and rented a beach cruiser each for a good couple of hours.
We did the 7km bike-the-beach route from Manly Bike Tours. We enjoyed biking so much that we decided to do the route twice! The beach was a good place to start biking again, especially since I hadn’t done it in years. Maybe even 10 years. It’s good to know that it’s one skill that didn’t go away even if I hadn’t used it for so long.
We took a very relaxed pace, enjoyed the scenery, and savoured the cool breeze. Good vibes all around! It was such a wonderful and pleasant afternoon. I don’t think we’re going to wait another 10 years until we go biking again. :)

Beach Cruising on Sunday

After a long week, it’s usually very tempting to just stay home and veg out. But the weather was so fine last weekend that we decided to go biking in Manly.

We first headed to BenBry to grab some late lunch to eat by the beach. (It’s our go-to place for great burgers whenever we’re in Manly.) After lunch, we headed to the bike shop and rented a beach cruiser each for a good couple of hours.

We did the 7km bike-the-beach route from Manly Bike Tours. We enjoyed biking so much that we decided to do the route twice! The beach was a good place to start biking again, especially since I hadn’t done it in years. Maybe even 10 years. It’s good to know that it’s one skill that didn’t go away even if I hadn’t used it for so long.

We took a very relaxed pace, enjoyed the scenery, and savoured the cool breeze. Good vibes all around! It was such a wonderful and pleasant afternoon. I don’t think we’re going to wait another 10 years until we go biking again. :)

Weekend Wanders.

I’ve been wanting to tweak this blog a bit— give it a different feel, a new theme. A change in scenery. It took some time for me to do that, and I initially thought that my blog was going through an identity crisis. But then, I realized that this blog evolves and grows, just as I do. It’s a reflection of the current state of life I am in, what keeps me occupied, and what I am currently passionate about. :)

It started out being about the things that made my day, and then transformed into a travelogue for months after our European adventure. That was then followed by my chronicles as a newly-wed and full time housewife. Since then, I have gone back to work and started my post-graduate studies. And, not quite coincidentally, since then, I have not been able to keep this blog consistently alive and active.


It’s not that there hasn’t been anything to write about. Just a lack of time to actually write about them. Most of the time, the things I’d like to write about and the window of time that I have to really sit down and write happens on the weekends. Hence, my new theme.

My weekends are, like any other’s, colorful and varied. Some weekends are quiet and laid-back. Some are fully-booked and action-packed. Others are for catching up on major household chores, while others still are lazy and refreshingly unproductive.

So in my next entries, I’m going to be sharing about the two days of the week that just about every person I know looks forward to. There are 52 pairs of them
in a year. Let’s see what each weekend has in store. :)

So this was what my husband was up to for dinner on Valentine’s. He really put my cooking skills to shame. And I don’t mind that at all!

This was a dinner surprise. He did all the cooking while I was at work— how very convenient that his day off fell on the 14th of February. While enjoying the meal, he recounted his day and how, pressed for time, he brought Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minute Meals to the grocery, propped the book on the child seat of the shopping cart (beside a bunch of flowers he had just picked up), and went on to get the rest of the ingredients. Absolutely adorable. ♥

A fantastic meal it was. On the main photo, clockwise from the bottom: perfectly grilled lamb, store-bought houmus (partly hidden), toasted flatbread seasoned with thyme and oregano; and natural yoghurt for dipping. He also made a refreshing mint and pomegranate drink to go with the meal, from the same recipe book.