Monday, October 22, 2012

A Merrily I Go Shopping...Filipino Desserts

For a recent late evening potluck with good friends, I wanted to bring a Filipino dessert dish. Anybody living in San Diego, CA knows that the best place to buy Filipino food is in National City. National City is the second oldest city in San Diego County and has flourished as a cultural mecca for Filipino cuisine.

I first stopped at Filipino Desserts Plus located in the Grove Plaza Center in National City. This desssert shop was highly recommended by my Mom, who, in my opinion, is an expert in knowing where to find the best places for Filipino food. She not only shops in National City frequently but she also makes the best homemade Filipino food (I might be a little bias) and therefore knows what tastes good. Filipino Desserts Plus is a family-owned and operated business that has served the San Diego community for over two decades. It specializes in filipino desserts and party trays.

When I first entered, I was very impressed with their interior presentation of prepackaged desserts along the shelving unit and throughout parts of the store. Everything was well organized and labeled, and with clear packaging, the scrumptious shapes and colors of each food item were visibly shown. A variety of freshly cooked food were kept behind a couple of pastry display counters and I was happy to see that they had some leche flan readily available. I decided to purchase their flan (one of my favorite Filipino desserts) for my potluck. It was shaped in its traditional oval mold and quite delicious! I've also heard rave reviews about their turon (banana fritters) and will have to try some the next time I stop by National City. 

The entrance to Filipino Desserts Plus.

Shelving full of prepackaged filipino desserts and snacks.

Roasted cashews and Hopia (pastry filled with sweetened mung bean paste).

Colorfully wrapped pastillas (milk candies).

Behind the display counters include things like: Kwek Kwek (hard-boiled chicken eggs wrapped in batter than fried until golden brown), Karioka (deep-fried, chewy rice balls made with sweet sugar), Turon (deep fried banana fritters) and Leche Flan; in front of the glass counters are pre-packaged Suman (sticky rice wrapped in banana or coconut leaves then boiled).

Puto (steamed rice cake) and Biko (sticky rice cake made with coconut milk & brown sugar).

Another dessert shop, also recommended by my Mom, is the Chinese Canton Bakery in National City. It's just a few blocks west from Filipino Desserts Plus. The Canton Bakery is a nice little place with display cases full of cookies, cakes, eclairs, and other good stuff. Although this bakery does not specialize in Filipino desserts, they do make amazing siopao (Filipino version of the Chinese steamed buns) filled with BBQ pork or chicken and can be purchased by the bunch at a very affordable price. 

Siopao, steamed buns with savory meat filling. (Source:

Also, the lady working there was quite nice and a delight to chat with! I did buy a dozen of their strawberry butter cookies for my boys and their little cousins, and they absolutely loved the cookies! Of course, I had to try one and it was very light and subtly sweet, just the way I like cookies. I've heard their coconut breads are pretty delicious, too, and I will have to try them the next time I am in the area.

Store front window of Chinese Canton Bakery.

Delicious strawberry butter cookies.

Display case full of many cakes!

I also wanted to share with you some of my favorite Filipino desserts and each with a link to recipes on how to make them. There are many different recipes readily available throughout the internet and I selected ones based on pictorial presentation and simpleness of their recipes.
  • Leche Flan - Leche Flan is the Filipino version of créme caramel, a rich custard dessert with a soft layer of caramel on top. The traditional mold used in the Philippines is an oval-shaped metal baking pan called llanera. These days ceramic ramekins or custard cups are used for convenience. 
Leche Flan Recipe from "Everybody's Recipes" blog.

  • Bibingka - Bibingka is a dense and chewy rice cake traditionally eaten during Christmas season. There are a variety of bibingka cakes each made with rice flour, coconut and cheese.   
Bibingka Recipe from "All the Trimmings" blog.

Read more here:
  • Pastillas de Leche - Pastillas de Leche are milk candies traditionally made from carabao milk. Carabao, the Philippine's national animal, is a type of water buffalo. It's milk which is richer, creamier, and contains fat, lactose, vitamins, and minerals is what gives pastillas that melt-in-your-mouth goodness. It is simmered with sugar under low heat until thick. It is then rolled into small cylinders then coated with sugar and wrapped in cellophane or Japanese paper. When my parents or other relatives return from the Philippines they alway bring bags full of these colorfully wrapped treats which really do melt in your mouth!
Pastillas de Leche Recipe from "Panlasang Pinoy". This recipe, because carabao's milk is not readily available in certain parts of the world, uses condensed milk and powdered milk instead. Also, no cooking involved!

  • Turon (Banana Fritters) - Turon is a sweet and crunchy fritter snack made of thinly sliced bananas and a slice of jackfruit, caramelized brown sugar, and rolled in spring roll wrapper then fried. These banana fritters are sinfully sweet and delicious and are a great addition to any party!
Banana Fritters Recipe from "".

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Filipino desserts! Let me know if you try any of the recipes and what you think about them! I will try making some too!!!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Whimsical Notions & Heartfelt Songs

My boys are a hoot! One of my biggest joys as a parent is musing about all the fun and charming things Paco and Tomás do and say everyday. Creating magic and playfulness out of ordinary objects is the beauty and wonder of a child's imagination. 

For instance, I love how by just adding a trail of round stepping stones throughout our backyard has made my boys playtime outside more than just play. They now jump from stone to stone while pretending they are on some grand adventure fighting anything from zombies to enemies of Mario and Luigi. 

And just last week, the first big rainfall of this Autumn season arrived and my boys couldn't of been more happier. They were ecstatic to see "Mr. Puddle" return and made sure to greet him every time they stepped outside of the house. "Mr. Puddle" is the small pond of water that collects right in front of our driveway during every major rainstorm. They treat this temporary visitor like he was part of the family. Of course, there is also "Mr. Skeleton" hanging outside our front door. To the boys, he is also family even if he only comes around once a year. My youngest, Tomás, even mentioned to me that he is glad "Mr. Skeleton" has no skin so he won't be too cold being outside. Such whimsical notions always makes me smile and reminds me to try to see the wonders in life of everything. 

"Mr. Puddle" enjoying the afternoon sun.

"Mr. Skeleton" hanging outside our front door. He's kept company by our ornamental plum tree that we named "Eats A Lot".

To amplify these tenderhearted moments, I love to listen to certain songs that remind me of the simple, carefree days of my childhood and of my boys growing up. The lyrics of each song are so poetic. Below is a list of those songs:

  • "Pure Imagination" sung by Sarah McLachlan or originally by Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory)
  • "Junk" sung by Sara Gazarek or originally by Paul McCartney
  • "We're Going to be Friends" sung by the White Stripes
  • "Big Bird in a Small Cage" sung by Patrick Watson
  • "Rainbow Connection" sung by The Glee Cast or originally by Kermit the Frog

Enjoy the music and here's to many flights of whimsy! Also, I'd love to hear about any of your favorite songs that conjures up warm-hearted memories of childhood! 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Everyday Lives, Everyday Homes - My Home

"Everyday Lives, Everyday Homes" will be my on-going blog series looking at homes of everyday people from studio apartments to single-family homes. I really would love to show an honest picture of how people live as seen through their living spaces. These homes are not about perfection or about showcasing the most hip, design-savvy places. Moreover, they are not so much aspirational pictures as they are more just a glimpse at people's lives told through their homes. I believe that every house has a story and whether big or small, our homes have the power to reflect our identities. 

I invite you to take a look at these everyday homes for what they are and just remember that home is where the heart is. 

I begin with my home:

  • Everyday People: Family of Four with two boys (ages 9-and 6-years old).
  • Everyday Home: Single-Family House
  • Heart of Our Home: Dining Room

We live in a 900-square foot 1920's bungalow in San Diego, CA. My husband, Carlos, an engineer and I, a decorator at IKEA, moved into this charming house just over nine years ago. I was about 6 months pregnant with my oldest son, Paco, when we bought our home. As first time home buyers, we didn't know the full extent of what owning a house would be like. You sort of form a relationship with your house and you realize most days are great and some days not so great. But through perseverance and a lot of love, it all works out in the end. And of course, buying an old house comes with a handful of imperfections. Luckily for me, I adore imperfection!

So, please come in! Vampires welcomed too!

Entering our home you are first greeted by our piano which was a Craigslist find for only $100. I kept my piano books that I learned from as child and now Paco is learning from them. Our dining room, currently decked out with Halloween decorations, is definitely the heart of our home. A lot of family time, from eating meals together to homework to playing board games, takes place in this room. Our dining table is one of my favorite furniture pieces. It's a 1970s Danish Modern table with two extension leaves that expands to 94 inches long. I always have numerous stools handy in case family and/or friends come over to eat. It's quite the sight to see at least 12 people sitting around the table just eating and talking. Family gatherings are music to my ears, loud and lively!

A look into our kitchen from the dining room. We remodeled our kitchen in 2010. We couldn't have done it without our friend and carpenter, C.J. Thompson, who passed away earlier this year. 

Our entire kitchen is IKEA. We choose white ABSTRAKT high gloss drawers and doors, which are very easy to wipe clean, with butcher block countertop. I've always loved the warm wood look of butcher block rather than hard granite. My favorite part of the kitchen is my VARDE drawer unit with stainless steel drawer fronts. I love the whole VARDE kitchen series from IKEA and would have done all VARDE but my kitchen is too small for these generously-sized cabinets. So when I planned our kitchen I had to include at least one VARDE piece! It holds up well to all the chopping and prepping work I do there.

Our kitchen is home to not only the typical cooking gadgets and wares but also houses some very personal decorative pieces of mine. The ceramic painted Japanese woman and girl are gifts brought back from my dad's Navy travels back in the late 1970s. They were part of a larger collection that included other similar ceramic figurines representing members of my family. The Japanese woman seen here represented my mom and the little girl represented me. Mine and Carlos's favorite coffee mugs are out in the open and easily accessible on the corner shelf unit next to the microwave oven. Also, on display in the kitchen are my little collection of Japanese anime fully-posable action figures located on the shelf right below the mugs. They are quite awesome! 

On one of our kitchen counters next to the stove is a display of mid-century ceramic vases (gifts over the years from me to Carlos) . I use the triangular vase to hold my wooden utensils. I love to buy ceramic art for Carlos because he's a material science master particularly with ceramics!

Pictured above is Tomás doing his school work on the dining room table. Our large dining room table accommodates homework time for the boys and crafting time for Mama. The lavender cabinet in the background is from IKEA (with Anthropologie knob handles) and stores all our arts and crafts supplies easily.

Paco quietly reading his latest book in our living room. Those familiar with IKEA will appreciate our living room with 80% of furniture from this mega-Swedish company. All pillows and rugs are non-IKEA. Our faux-orange leopard print rug was actually a Christmas gift for Paco several years ago. One of his items on his Christmas wish list was a new rug so Santa Claus got him this rug!

Our coffee table is currently the "drawing table" for Paco and Tomás. I make sure we always have plenty of recycled printer paper and coloring markers for them to use. They draw every day! Our fireplace never worked (at least it didn't look safe to use) so Carlos and I decided to cover it up with MDF board and paint over it with chalkboard paint. The boys love it and I love it! We take turns drawing whatever our hearts desire! 

Mine and Carlos's little eclectic bedroom. I fill our bedroom with my favorite and personal pictures and artwork. The rose painting is by one of Carlos's brothers and the framed drawing right below it is a sketch by Carlos of me back in college. Carlos is a big fan of Willem de Kooning's paintings circa 1980s so I found this print and got it framed for him. Our bed frame is from IKEA and it was our first bed frame purchase after we ditched our futon bed. It is still sturdy and looks great after 12 years.  I bought this beveled mirror frame about the same time we moved into our home. It's nice and large which helps make our 10 x 11 room feel a bit bigger. I also have a little spot for my sewing machine complete with undone sewing projects. 

The boys room is just about the same size as mine and Carlos's bedroom. They share a silver framed TROMSO bunk bed (not pictured) from IKEA. The birch storage unit is great for toy storage and other knick knacks the boys accumulate over time. We found this large cork board at the Container Store on sale for only $5 because it had a tiny piece of cork scratched off. A large United States map is attached to the board and we place push pins on all the cities we've travelled to. We also pin postcards from family members on the cities they visited. The boys dresser drawer unit has been revamped with new drawer knobs several times already. Changing out drawer knobs and handles is one of the simplest ways to refresh any piece of furniture.

I love that our narrow driveway is so long because it makes the perfect second dining room when hosting large parties, of course, depending on weather (which is mostly nice in San Diego). Using fold out tables, patterned table cloths or fabric, and various chairs creates a fantastic party table for many guests. In addition, we hung string lights across the driveway to accommodate any get togethers that last into the evening. I love string lights! They are never too bright and create the most romantic glow.

I hope you enjoyed my everyday home! I look forward to presenting more everyday lives and their homes...and I would love to feature your home too! If you're interested, just send me a message or post a comment below on how to reach you! Thanks!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Poll - Who Had the Hottest Pair of Celebrity Crushes?

I always like telling people how I grew up in a family with five kids. It was really fun growing up with three older sisters and one younger brother. Our sibling dynamics were definitely something Sigmund Freud would have loved to study. Through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, we were and still are very close to one another. One of those strong bonds between us siblings was always knowing who were our latest celebrity crushes. We made sure nobody messed with our main celebrity squeezes!

So in grand tradition of sibling rivalry, I am asking everyone to please take my poll and choose which sibling had the hottest pair of crushes by decade. I have ordered our names by oldest (Charmaine) to youngest (Jun-Jun...that's my family's nickname for my brother). I appreciate your participation and please share this post because the more votes the more accurate the results! Thank you.

One last thing, I just want to give a shout out to my friend and co-worker, Kristina, for inspiring me to make this poll during one of our many, "deep" conversations about pop culture at work. Thanks Kristina!

Celebrity Crushes of 1980s

CHARMAINE - Johnny Depp and Roger Taylor (of Duran Duran)

ROSE - Rob Lowe and C. Thomas Howell

STEVIE - Matt Dillon and Billy Zabka

JESSICA - Ralph Macchio and Jon Cryer

JUN-JUN - Cheetara of ThunderCats and Lady Jaye of G.I. Joe

Celebrity Crushes of the 1990s

CHARMAINE Johnny Depp and Ewan McGreggor

ROSE - Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas

STEVIE - Keanu Reeves and Ethan Hawke

JESSICA - Tennis Champion Boris Becker and Brad Pitt

JUN-JUN - Paula Abdul and Martika

Celebrity Crushes of 2000s

CHARMAINE - Johnny Depp and Eric Bana

ROSE- Brad Pitt and Josh Holloway

STEVIE - Matt Dillon and Dermot Mulroney

JESSICA- Christian Bale and Brad Pitt

JUN-JUN - Eliza Dushku and Salma Hayek

Celebrity Crushes of the 2010s - Present

CHARMAINE - Robert Downey Jr. and Joseph Gordon Levitt

ROSE - Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling

STEVIE - Keanu Reeves and Tristan MacManus

JESSICA - Christian Bale and Alexander Skarsgard

JUN-JUN - Sean "Boromir" Bean and San Diego Chargers' Quarterback Phillip Rivers