Hello, Environment!

Let us not stop bringing children closer to the environment.

Traveling with Kids

These are their first little steps toward exploring the world, and you are privileged to take those steps with them.

A Yummy Database!

I accumulated so many recipes that I have created this simple recipe database to store them in.

Hydroponic Systems: Grow a Garden Without Soil

Environment-friendly and space-saving way to grow your own food.

Why Prayer is the Best Stress Reliever

To banish stress, try prayers.

My Fitness Adventure - the Beginning

Thus began my journey to bring good health into my life.

The IT Men and Women

People who work in the IT industry are in a class of their own.

Does God Really Listen and Answer Prayers?

If we are not sure that He will listen, does this mean we should quit praying?

Where is the Followers Gadget in Blogger?

If you'd still like to use the old Followers gadget in Blogger, here's how.

Pesto Love

You can wing it with pesto and never go wrong with the taste.

Sep 28, 2013

Pesto Love

My love affair with pesto almost didn't happen.  I was born and raised on "red" spaghetti -- the kind dripping with tomato sauce and overflowing with meatballs and cheese.  Every special occasion in my life, in my friends' lives and everyone else I know has red spaghetti as a staple attraction.

A spaghetti pesto meal from Joey Pepperoni Pizzeria

When I first saw this green monstrosity -- heaps and heaps of oily green gobs, with tiny bits of green leaves looking very much like those shredded tobacco bits in commercial cigarettes, smeared over every strand of otherwise pearly-white, clean and pristine spaghetti pasta -- I was shocked.  Where's the meat?  Where's the brilliant red sauce tempting me to taste it?  It looked like something the cat threw up, to be honest.  And the taste?  It didn't agree with my taste buds.   It was a dark day for pesto.

Things changed when I worked in a company that had only 30 minutes allowed lunch break and 15 minutes for afternoon snacks.  I had to gobble everything very quickly.  Weeks into the job and my stomach is rebelling from all that speed-eating.  Until one day they served pesto at the cafeteria.  It was delicious, and the olive oil helped the pasta go down smoothly with a minimum of chewing.  That pesto spaghetti was a hit in that speed-eating environment.  And since then, and until now when I am no longer in that organization,  I have loved pesto and my love only grows as the days and the weeks and the years pass.

Okay, let's get down to the nitty-gritty of it.  Why do I like pesto?  Here's a few things why:

1.  Pesto is delicious

If you break free from the bonds of traditional tomato sauce, the combination of basil, nuts, parmesan cheese and olive oil provides a tasty fusion of flavors that is appealing to the palate.

The cheese is the first thing that your tongue will probably appreciate, since cheese of any kind is in all of our comfort zones.  The olive oil isn't too bad either, it is very similar in appearance to the common oil we use for cooking.  But for health-buffs trying out pesto for the first time, all that oil may make them wary.  However, unlike traditional cooking oil, olive oil is actually healthier.  The nuts are palate-friendly, too.  It's actually the basil that screams at you, and, depending on your taste, can make or break pesto in your mind.  For one, basil is a herb -- it smells and tastes strong.  Some dislike basil for this, and the fact that it seems to leave a strange, pungent, medicine-like aftertaste. 

For first-timers, once you get over the pungent and general strangeness of basil, however, you will learn to like it.  Like Japanese sushi, it's an acquired taste.

2.  Pesto has many culinary uses

The pesto sauce that comes from pounding together basil leaves, pine nuts, and garlic, adding parmesan cheese, olive oil and salt to taste, is a versatile concoction.   As a pasta sauce, served with baked potatoes or green beans on the side, it is a healthy and filling meal.  It can also be used as a sandwich spread, a pizza spread,  or as additional ingredient in seafood menus and meat-based products like meatballs and burger patties (yes! even that!)  Food Network actually offers 50 things to make with pesto!

3.  Pesto is healthy

Pesto contains vitamins, minerals, good oils and phytochemicals that are good for the body.  Garlic and basil are little rays of sunshine -- packed with vitamins A and C.  Also present are potassium and phosphorus, omega-3 acids and a battalion of antioxidants.

4.  Pesto is fulfilling

It's one of the soul foods.  For people on the go, a plateful of pesto is a practical, no-fuss and guilt-free few-minutes of indulgence.  It is a filling meal that can alleviate hunger immediately.  It even has little to no complications with the digestive system.

5.  Pesto is easy to prepare

The original way to prepare pesto is by pounding together basil, garlic and pine nuts in a mortar with a pestle.  These days, a food processor or a blender can do quick work with crushing the said ingredients.  The addition of olive oil will combine the dry ingredients into a smooth paste, and adding salt and pepper to taste completes the mix.

The quantities of the ingredients can vary with your own taste.  Normally 2-3 cups of  basil is the only baseline to follow.  The quantity of garlic is up to you.  The amount of pine nuts can be 1/4 cup at a minimum, or more if that's how you like it.  Pine nuts are also optional for those people shying away from eating nuts.  The olive oil is also up to you.  Same with the cheese.  Basically you can wing it with pesto and never go wrong with the taste.

Pesto sauce can be stored in air-tight containers or bottles, and you can freeze them up to three months.

6.  Off-the-shelf pesto products are easily accessible in the market

As an alternative, there are also off-the-shelf instant pesto sauce products sold in grocery stores.  They come in vacuum-sealed sachets or bottles that you can just heat and serve conveniently.  Here are a few of those products selling at Amazon Online Store:

Personally, my favorite easy-to-prepare pesto spaghetti meal is one topped with tuna flakes and liberally sprinkled with parmesan cheese.  I substitute grated cheese of any kind when the parmesan runs out.  At times, I replace tuna with shrimps or chicken strips, or any leftover in the fridge.   

Nowadays, whenever I eat out with family and friends, a good pesto meal is also one of my staple go-to no-brainer choice.  When I hate to peruse the menu and get torn over so many choices, I just immediately order pesto.  The pesto spaghetti meals served at Joey Pepperoni Pizzeria and The Old Spaghetti House are a couple of my favorites.

Having said that, I hereby rest my case about pesto. 

Sep 26, 2013

Traveling with Kids

In my younger days, I was pretty much a wanderlust.  I guess that came from having a vivid imagination and a love for books.  Books open your mind to different places that you won't otherwise get to visit.  From fairy tale books with castles and forests, to various book genres.  I think all books I ever read painted such beautiful settings that made me look forward to traveling, with the high hopes that at every place I will ever go to it will surely offer the same beautiful scenery and enjoyable experience.

The thought of encountering a breathtaking meadow just around the bend, or a gurgling brook when I turn a corner, or a serene seascape -- those thoughts propel my love for traveling.  And travel I did, here and there and everywhere.  By land, sea, air.  Taking a bus, walking, running. hiking, climbing -- travel!

Travel plans definitely change with the onset of parenthood -- they disappear altogether.  When you go through the phases of your children's childhood, the only travel you ever undertake is as far as your pediatrician, if you can help it.  And later that extended to as far as the children's schools and the nearby parks and playgrounds.

We are one of those parents that avoid traveling to any destinations, with kids in tow, as far as possible.  I guess this is because of the following reasons:

  • Safety.  When we travel with children, their safety is foremost in our mind.  Babies are such fragile beings at this stage.  Toddlers are a handful and can be rambunctious during trips.  While pre-teens and teens, though better-behaved, have a mind of their own and need to be looked after, too, for their safety.  Any type of travel involves a certain degree of physical activities that may potentially cause injuries to children.  One has to be careful with even the food they eat in a trip.  In case of untoward accidents... I shudder to think of travel accidents and children at the same time!
  • Ease.  Having a child in your arms, or holding on to your hand, or fussing about something, or needing something, or crying, while walking up and down airplanes, cars or trains -- with luggage and all -- is not an easy feat.  All the elements of travel, from transportation, to accommodations, and travel activities, become more complicated with children in tow.
  • Details.  Traveling with children is a major production because of the many details that one need to consider long before we even make the trip.  We pack for all the kids, for example, and their travel packs won't include mere clothes, but there are milks, diapers, snacks, emergency items, toys, books, and the like that we also need to bring.
  • Money.  There are more financial considerations when traveling with children.  The cost of transportation (for bus, train, plane or sea travel) alone increases with each child.  The cost of food and accommodation  also increase.
  • Time.  We need to make the trip as comfortable as possible for children.  We may need to travel in easy stages, and make more stopovers, which will involve more time spent in traveling.

If you are like us as parents, all these reasons will probably sound overwhelming to you, too.  But while they seem tantamount to launching a military operation when traveling, there comes a time that we just have to overcome them.  Travel opportunities will inevitably arise for the entire family.  And when travel is unavoidable, how do we make traveling with kids a safe and even wonderful experience?  By keeping in mind the following tips:

1.  Plan carefully and well ahead of time.  
  • Determine the safest routes to travel and the mode of transportation.  Will the children be comfortable in a train or with riding a plane to the destination?  
  • If the destination is optional and you just want to take them on a holiday or vacation, research online or pore through maps for the best child-friendly destinations.  
  • If the schedule is flexible, opt for the time when the weather is nice to travel.
2.  Pack carefully.  
  • Bring everything necessary, anticipating the needs of each child before and during traveling to the destination, staying at the destination, and getting back home.  
  • Pack wisely, however, so as not to burden yourselves during the trip.
  • Don't forget your travel documents, cash or credit cards.
  • Bring a small first aid or emergency kit.
3.  If traveling by car, keep it in fine shape before the trip.  

4.  Stay alert during the actual travel
  • Always keep an eye on the children, especially in crowded areas, around stairways and elevators, where things maybe difficult to navigate for them.
  • Keep the children as comfortable as possible.  Any signs of tiredness, hunger, medical issues, anxiety or just plain restlessness have to be addressed as soon as possible to make for a pleasant trip.
  • In getting to the destination and back home, maintain the same vigilance for the children's safety and protection.
5. Plan for emergencies. 

 And finally, the best thing to do when you cannot avoid traveling with kids is to enjoy yourself.  Treat the trip as an adventure that you are sharing with your children. A time for family bonding and quality togetherness.  Of making memories.  It's their first little steps toward exploring the world, and you are privileged to take those steps with them.  Do your best to make each trip together a memorable and wonderful experience for them.

Sep 23, 2013

Does God Really Listen and Answer Prayers?

I came across a blog once where the topic of the post is how can one be sure that God really listens to our prayers.  I did a double-take on that because it has been my long-held belief that God ALWAYS listens and answers our prayers.

There are many reasons why I believe God is always listening to our prayers, and here they are:

  • God, in all His omnipotence, has the power to listen to everyone in this planet.  Even if all 7-billion people of this planet pray at the same time, I believe He has this incredible communication network setup from Heaven to Earth and vice versa that makes sure no prayer ever gets lost.  Not even in translation due to the different languages and dialects of this planet.  Not even timezones nor religious background nor social statuses nor geographic borders.  Not even silent prayers, real-dumb prayers, one-word prayers like "help."  Nada.
  • God always welcome conversations coming from us.  He has shown this too many times in the Bible, when He talked to prophets and later when He talked to the saints.
  • God often says do not be afraid for He is near.  It's His guarantee to us that He is always there to listen to our  needs in the form of prayers or supplications.
  • God says He loves us no matter what.  When you love someone, you care enough to listen to them.  How much more God with His incomprehensible and profound love?  He listens even to the prayers of prisoners, criminals, and sinners.
And there are also several reasons why I believe God always answers our prayers, and here they are, too:

  • God is merciful.  He can't help it.  Every complaint or whisper that we send up to Him pierces His merciful heart.  
  • God loves our company.  Or else why make Adam and Eve at all?  He could have stopped at the animals and fishes.  He meant for us to have the best life that He can provide because He treats us like friends, or His very own children. 
  • God loves us. Period.

On the question: "How can we be sure that God listens to our prayers?", need we even ask this?  Shouldn't we base it on faith that He does listen?  Why the need to make sure?  If we even entertain thoughts that He may not be listening, what is the point of praying to Him?  If we are not sure that He will listen, does this mean we should quit praying?  We must have the confidence and faith that He always listens.

So if we are absolutely sure that God listens to our prayers, what should be do on our end after that?  We wait, of course.  We take the Bible passage below to heart (for this is extremely important):

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  - Jeremiah 29:11

Some prayers He answers immediately, if it is good for us.  Some He answers after a long time, and only after we have grown enough to be ready to accept the answer.  And some are even answered not in the way that we expect them.  It is based on the plans He has for us as in the Bible passage above.  One thing is sure:  He NEVER not answer our prayers.

So we wait. And pray.  And pray.  And pray some more.  We pray until our hairs turn gray.  We pray whenever or whatever the situation.  We pray while doing the dishes, just talking to Him.  In fact, if there's anything in this world that we better do and do really well, it should be praying to our God.  And when His answer comes, we pray even harder with thanks and gratitude in our hearts.  Because He always listens and always answers our prayers.

(Photo credit: Google image)

Related Posts:

Why Prayer is the Best Stress Reliever
October - Month of the Holy Rosary

Sep 21, 2013

What is Single?

Single is a marital or relationship status.  You know, one of the choices that we need to answer in many forms that we fill-up, like credit cards, censuses, job applications, and the like.   The only possible answers to the question of marital status are really just "single" or "married".  But these days, we tend to complicate this with more options (seeing that the world is not really just black and white, so do "married" or "single" become insufficient).   Enter "divorced", stage right.  Or "widowed", "cohabiting", or even "unmarried partners".

Over at Facebook, there are currently nine(!) marital or relationship statuses, 10 if you count the "--" status which probably means you don't know what state you are in.  Facebook is extra-creative: "in a relationship", "engaged", "in an open relationship" and a big-hit with us: "it's complicated."

Focusing on single, it's the opposite of being unmarried.  It is synonymous to being only one, solitary, alone.  Individualized.

You can either be a happy single or a miserable one.  They say it's a choice of being.

What do you say?

“I like being single, I'm always there when I need me.” ― Art Leo 


(Photo credit:  Google image)


Sep 15, 2013

My Fitness Adventure - the Beginning

After years of having children, working on a pressure-filled career in the I.T. industry which involves sitting on my backside the entire day, and having a social life that pretty much involved frequent drinking, over-eating and late-night partying, you can say that I'm one of those modern-day women that won't ever grace a cover of a magazine -- fat, overweight, sedentary, stressed.

Those days, I sometimes caught myself at the mirror and asked myself: where had my youth gone?  Where's the active girl who played basketball in college?  Where's the bubbly girl that can party till past midnight and be hard at work the next day?  Where's the slim person who can eat whatever's on the table and get away with it?  Where is that young lass who can smile and be happy in the midst of the smallest or biggest of adversities?  Where in the world is she?

I was entering my middle-age, with pains and aches in my joints, and diagnosed with mild scoliosis at that.  I was prone to coughs and colds with the slightest breeze, constantly felt weak and exhausted, and have tons of clothes in my closet that no longer fit.  I thought I was ugly, chubby, wimpy, and I was miserable.

Then I took up aerobics classes at the gym.  I initially paid for one session, and stayed at the back of the class.  I was so conscious of how roly-poly I must look  to the others in the class, and how I couldn't possibly keep up after a decade of inactivity and of letting myself go.  I was so out of shape that I was scared I'd pass out 10 minutes into the session.  I had to cheat.  Instead of 16 repetitions, I did 8, counting twice before raising my legs or bending my arms.  I was dazed, out of breathe, and in pain well before the class even went down for floor execises.

But I welcomed the pain and the difficulties of that first ever aerobic class.  For me the important thing then was to drop some sweat, which I never experienced anymore for more than a decade of my inactive lifestyle.  And when that aerobics class session ended, I was fiercely glad I survived.  Fiercely glad because, I really thought I was going to die.  Really.

Thus began my journey to take back what was once mine -- my youth, my health, my strength, my confidence, and my beauty...

The lessons I learned initially:
  1. Recognize the need to change (or embrace your own overweight, unattractive, miserable self)
  2. Commit to change (or gather all of your separate, doubting and dissenting selves into one team and have all of them agree to that one goal of getting fit)
  3. Actually start changing (or concretize your plan by enrolling in an aerobic class, gym class, dance class, go running, start walking, eat healthy or whatever you planned)
  4. Be unfazed by the difficulties (it looks bad at first but remember that when you're down, there's no way to go but up)
  5. Allow yourself a glimmer of hope (the best part of these darkest days of change)
  6. Treat every drop of sweat as a moment of triumph!  (No, really, overdo this part of it. This is the part that will keep you going!)

More of my journey back to healthy in later posts.  Thank you for reading!

Related Posts:

My Fitness Adventure - Why I Run

Where is the Followers Gadget in Blogger?

For those of you who are used to publishing your blogs through Google's Blogger platform, you may be familiar with that nifty little gadget known as the Followers gadget.  This gadget displays the list of users that love to follow your blog posts.  What's more, it allows blog readers to choose to become followers and add themselves to your followers' list.

Well, following Google's spring cleaning in 2011, and to push more of its Google+ packages, many of the Google Friend Connect services have been retired.  This includes the Followers gadget in Blogger, which Google recommends to be replaced with Google+ Followers gadget.

If you'd still like to use the old Followers gadget, fear not.  Here's how:

  1. Access your Blogger Dashboard.  Go to Layout, and in the place where you want the gadget to appear, click on Add a Gadget.
  2. Locate the HTML/Javascript gadget and click on the plus (+) icon to add it.
  3. In the next window that pops up, copy the link that appears in the address box.  Close the window after you have copied the link.
  4. Edit the link in a text editor like Notepad.  Replace the text 'widgetType=HTML' with  'widgetType=Followers', careful not to change anything else in the text.
  5. Open a new window in your browser and paste the modified link into the address box.  Click Enter to add the Followers gadget successfully to your blog.

Sep 13, 2013

Hydroponic Systems: Grow a Garden Without Soil

We all know that most plants need soil to grow.  But did you know that what plants actually need are the nutrients in the soil, not the soil itself, for them to grow?  This has been found out by researchers way back in the 18th century. It's the nutrients carried by water that are absorbed by the plants, and soil is just a rich reservoir of these nutrients.

A Light Bulb Moment

This discovery led researchers into thinking that there are more ways to grow plants other than in the soil.  The idea gave birth to the concept of hydroponics.  Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil.  Almost any plant that grows in soil can grow in hydroponic systems.

The introduction of hydroponics flung wide open the doors for more opportunities in food production.

Benefits of Hydroponics Systems

With global food scarcity always part of every doomsday scenario, hydroponic systems provide better odds in favor of food production, for the following reasons:

  • No soil is needed.  Therefore no need for acres of real estate to grow food.
  • Less water is needed.  The water in the hydroponic system is reusable.
  • Can be grown in small spaces.  Imagine a condo unit with thriving lettuces!
  • Healthier plants, higher yields.  Since the environment is controlled, plants are less prone to pests and diseases.
  • Less pollution! 

Start Your Own Hydroponic System Now

Here are some ways you can start a hydroponic system in your home.

1. Vertical Hydroponics  

Vertical hydroponic systems solve the problem of space.  Using frame towers or hanging baskets, more plants can be grown per square area.  The plants in the vertical hydroponic system look like pillars of green and provide a decorative appeal to any home.  One limitation of this system is that the towers can tip over when the plants become overgrown.

Below are some examples of vertical hydroponic systems.  Click on the links for more details about each.

2.   Passive Hydroponics 

An inexpensive type of hydroponic system is the passive system.  Nutrients are fed to the plants through a cloth wick that draws water and endlessly flows to the root.   A medium of sand and vermiculite anchors the plant.  A limitation of this system is that the roots may starve due to lack of oxygen, or become over-exposed to water.

3.  Ebb and Flow Hydroponics

Regular flooding and draining of water to and from plants is called ebb and flow hydroponics.  Kind of like the Nile River inundating Egypt's flood plains to make for fertile grounds perfect for planting.  The plants grow in a medium of either rock, wool or gravel.  There is a time interval for flooding the plants, allowing the roots to dry in between the flooding.

Below is an example of an ebb and flow hydroponic system.

4.   Aeroponics 

Aeroponic systems allow for nutrient water to drain completely from the roots at certain intervals.  There is no medium that anchors the roots.  An open aeroponic setup exposes the roots to air and light after draining the water, while an enclosed system provides a container that shields the roots from light, keeping them humid and protected.

Here is an example of an aeroponic system.

5.   NFT Hydroponics 

The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) hydroponic method suspends the plants over a container of nutrient water, while a small pump controls water circulation to keep the plants fed.  The roots get much-needed oxygen from the space between the suspended container and the water.

With this type of system, there is minimal work to be done after the initial setup, and the energy cost is small and owed only to the energy needed by the pump to work.

So there you have it.  You can grow your own food easily and with little expense through the help of hydroponic systems.  You can either purchase from stores or build your own hydroponic system.  Either way, you are assured of an environment-friendly and space-saving way to create your own garden.

Happy gardening!

(Photo credit:  Google and Amazon images)


Sep 11, 2013

Why Prayer is the Best Stress Reliever

We are biological organisms, albeit in a most advanced stage. As such, we are subject to the physical laws of biology. We are born, we grow, we die, and in between birth and death, we live. In the process of living, we encounter conditions in our environment that either hamper or promote our living. We can call these encountered conditions as stress.

Whenever conditions change, our body is built to react, and that is where the stress comes from. The way we handle stress can have a significant impact to our mental and physical well-being.

To banish stress, try prayers. There have been several studies that reveal the efficacy of prayers in alleviating health problems.

Beyond the empirical studies, many personal accounts of the stress-relieving power of prayer also circulate in the web.  It makes perfect sense that prayers can remove stress and promote good health and well-being.  Here's how:

  1. Prayer is a form of meditation.  It puts the body in a state of relaxation and rest.  Stress is at once relieved from the body when it is no longer uptight, tense or agitated.
  2. Prayer is a form of worship.  It puts the body in a state of exultation, joy and happiness.  Whatever stress in mind, body and spirit is removed and replaced by a general state of well-being.
  3. Prayer is a form of supplication.  There is a kind of release in the simple act of confiding your troubles to a personal God.  And since the relationship with a personal deity is based in the core belief that God has the power to work miracles, then the act of asking for something through prayer carries with it the confidence or the hope that a solution is forthcoming in the future, banishing worry.
  4. Prayer is a form of cleansing.  When you ask for forgiveness for wrong acts done, people slighted, negative thoughts, words and actions delivered, prayers restore and refresh the body, mind and spirit.

Getting into the regular habit of prayer can work wonders in your life, by removing stress, in such a way that no amount of stress-busting methods like entertainment, sports,  shopping or medicine can equal.