Chicken Ratatouille. I came up with this recipe at a time when I needed something quick and simple to make. We were out grocery shopping and would only be home close to noon. With SO in tow, lunch has to be between 12-12:30 PM or she starts complaining of hunger. LOL. I mentally came up with ideas about what I could possibly make. I stopped in front of the aisle of canned products and saw the words, "Ratatouille". "Now, I could heat this up with some sort of meat, " I told myself. I had my choice - beef, pork, but finally settled with chicken. This is how this recipe came to be. My quick fix which has become a family favorite!
The original plan was for us to visit Dad at the cardiac rehabilitation center tomorrow (Saturday) since we couldn't go on Sunday. I thought I would give today for Dad to settle in his new room and get to know people. But he called and begged that we come today. I wasn't too pleased since I had the week all planned out and today was already meant for something else. I had to remind Dad that the cardiac rehabilitation center is 100 kilometers away and going there every day like I did in the hospital was not possible. I don't have the time and the budget. And if we ever went, we would go preferably right after lunch and spend the whole afternoon there. This was also a reason why I wasn't so pleased to go today because it meant that we could only stay 1 or 2 hours, unlike tomorrow where we could stay the whole afternoon. But Dad insisted and so off we went. The cardiac center is in the middle of a beautiful landscape. I just love the setting and will definitely dedicate a post for it.
I didn't pay attention to this song until I heard this cover (original by Pink) by the YouTube duo sensation, Jayesslee. This one goes out to all want to give up. Don't. I always tell myself, if you're down and at the bottom, there is only one way to go - up!
Dad was transferred from the hospital to the cardiac rehabilitation center this morning. Truthfully I thought it was still a little too soon, but it really is the doctor's call after all. Dad asked me to come early morning to the hospital, right before the transfer, so I could get his dirty clothes and bring him clean ones. The physical therapist came in his room while I was in the middle of packing Dad's clothes and said, "Wow Sir. How lucky you are to be so well taken care of by your daughter." I looked up and without thinking said, "It's only natural that I do. He's always taken good care of me, it's my turn to take care of him." The physical therapist smiled at me, saying that wasn't common anymore nowadays. I looked at Dad, who was holding back tears. I mentally kicked myself for making Dad sad, but I couldn't help it - I spoke my truth.
In the past days, Dad was transferred from the high-care room to his own regular room and heis leaving the hospital tomorrow to go to his 3-week stint at the cardiac rehabilitation center. This week didn't go as well as we had hoped. The doctors found water in his lungs and they had to remove it - twice! That is why he had difficulty in breathing for a couple of days and problems with oxygen saturation. After the water removal, Dad tells me he feels better. But physically, he looks weak. He looked so good right after the surgery, I wonder what happened since? MR tells me it might be because the anesthesia and morphine has left his system. Well, I remind Dad to just hang on and soon it will be all over. I so did not need this added stress right now!
A while back Dad subscribed to a weekly television guide for a year. With the subscription came a free bread toaster and a citrus juicer. When Dad mentioned it before paying his subscription, I told him it was a great idea and we could definitely use a bread toaster. I wasn't too sure about the citrus juicer though because what I really wanted was a fruit juicer. But it doesn't matter anyways and I just love that both items are in inox. Anyways, with Dad in the hospital, I had completely forgotten about this. I received a couple television guides already, but since they were addressed to Dad, I set them aside. Then this morning, early morning, I heard someone ring our bell and I wondered to myself, who the hell would that be first thing in the morning??? Imagine my surprise, when the friendly delivery man handed me two medium-size boxes. The three of us excitedly tore through the box to see what was this wonderful surprise and that's when I realized that this was Dad's Bread Toaster and Citrus Juicer. They were exactly as I had pictured them. And since it was early morning, I figured we'd test them for a nice breakfast.
We were gathered in the living room, watching television. I was scanning through the channels until I stumbled on Gordon Ramsay. It was weird at first to hear him in French (with the dubbing and all), but I chose to stay on that channel. It's been so long since I've watched cooking shows - I miss it! So Gordon Ramsay was going on and on about his favorite quick recipes and one of them was an Asian-Inspired Noodle Dish. It made me crave to eat anything Asian tonight. I didn't have any rice noodles, like he did, and since I've always wondered how spaghetti noodles would taste like when prepared Asian-style, I thought I'd go for it for dinner.
As much as I like to organize and plan things out ahead of time, sometimes my spontaneous side can't help but take over. This is a side of me I've tried to control in the past years to prevent any "bad surprises". I thought I was past it, but today I suddenly felt like eating Homemade Cheeseburgers. I was going to prepare something completely different, but I tossed that aside for another time. I did have to make a quick trip to the supermarket which wasn't included in the weekly budget, but screw it, I just want my Cheeseburger today. I'll keep my eyes open for any incoming "bad surprises".
I've been visiting Dad at the hospital every day since his surgery. He was staying at the ICU up until yesterday when he was transferred to a high-care room. He shares the room with another patient and they are pretty strict about visiting. Visiting hours starts at 3PM until 8PM and only 2 visitors are allowed at the same time. Dad really wants his own room, where he is alone, but you don't really have a choice. I'm just glad that he's doing good and out of the ICU. I'm hoping that it continues as well as this.
A couple of days ago, we received a note in our mailbox about a town council meeting tonight. I thought it would be nice for MR and I to join being that we are the newbies in town. The winter season had us (and the majority of the townspeople) stuck at home the whole time so meeting people was hard. The only people I got to meet were some of the parents of the kids in school. But we mostly just exchanged bonjours and au revoirs. Now I'm hoping to finally meet the townspeople and neighbors. So I called to confirm our attendance and was surprised to know that the organizer was one of the mothers I'd already met. At least, there would be one familiar face. I also told her I would bring something sweet to the meeting and from the sound of her voice, I could tell she was pleased.
It's a weird feeling being home alone for me. All of my life, I've never really ever been alone at home. There was always house help, a gardener, a driver, and even dogs! I could be "alone" in my room doing whatever I wanted to do, but I never felt that "alone" feeling. I knew that if I cried out, someone could hear me. But today, for the first time, I finally felt alone. It's an unsettling feeling and needs adjusting to. But I know I have and will adjust quickly. I am in France, after all, and here (in Europe in general too), life is at a faster pace and you learn to do things on your own. No one to bag your groceries and carry them to the car. No one to pump your gas in the car. And unfortunately no one to do the house cleaning and laundry! But I also kind of like it.I like the independence and the freedom. Not having to rely on anyone but myself. And being alone means I can finally do what I've always wanted to do. Which is to (please don't laugh) ..... walk around the house naked! LOL.
When I wanted to make Sinigang the other day, I lucked out when I found string beans at the supermarket. I used half the pack for my soup and saved the other half. Today, I thought I would use it to make the Filipino dish, Adobong Sitaw at Baka / String Beans and Beef Tip Adobo. Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines and it can be made with pretty much anything you want. Just as long as you have soy sauce and vinegar.
Having news from Dad yesterday was wonderful and being able to talk to him was beyond amazing! He looked so good that if I didn't know better, I'd think he never was operated. I can't wait to go see him at the ICU again this afternoon. I'm hoping that he looks and feels as good as he did yesterday. It has put me in a much better mood. And I am so lucky to have my loving husband. He has taken over all of my usual tasks for me and asked that I just rest. Preparing SO in the morning, bringing her to school, picking her up, cooking our meals, doing the household chores, and putting her to sleep. How lucky I am to be loved so!
My mom was operated 3 times because of her cancer. The first time I was 8 years old and my only memory is of visiting my mom right before she was operated. I brought her some kind of cake I had made in school to cheer her up. The second time I was a couple of years older and I remembered waiting and pacing outside of the operating room with my girlfriends. These are vivid memories. The third time, though, is still fresh in my head. I was 15 years old. Through all the suffering and ordeal, the only thing my parents asked of me was to go to school and do well. I did. And that morning, the morning Mom was getting operated for the third time, I went to school. Coincidentally, our English class assignment that day was about Ernest Hemingway and Stream of Consciousness. The teacher asked us to go one by one in front of the class for a minute and reveal our stream of consciousness, or whatever thoughts were crossing our mind that exact moment. While my classmates revealed their fear and shyness of speaking and being in front of the class, I had only one thought in mind - Mom. I lasted about 10 seconds upfront before turning my heels, crying, and running to the bathroom. I can still recall hearing the English teacher asking my friends what was wrong with me. I hid in the bathroom until I gathered enough strength. I made arrangements to go home early. It was quiet when I got home with a pending gloominess hovering our house. I went to the place I felt most safe - my room. I had no news, had no idea what was going on. I grabbed my rosary, kept it between my fingers, went to bed, and sobbed until I fell asleep. My last thoughts were begs to keep my mom alive and with me. She pulled through then but was taken away from me one year later. After 8 years of fighting, we lost the war.
I don't particularly believe in signs. Once in a while, I will jokingly ask for one, but there's nothing really more to it. Earlier this afternoon, we were just done settling Dad in his hospital room and we were going home. I started the car's engine while talking to MR about Dad and his surgery. The first notes of this song floated in the air and I stopped talking. James Morrison's You Give Me Something is my favorite song of his and one of my all-time too! It's never ever played on radio and this was the first time. I know it isn't any sign for Dad's surgery tomorrow, but my spirits were immediately lifted and for 4 minutes, my mind was taken away, all that mattered was this, and I was finally resting.
I woke up early this morning feeling a knot in my heart. I had no more excuse. Ever since Dad gave me 2 new pajama pants to cut and stitch, I've been ignoring it and said to myself I'll do it the next day. I've continued to put it on hold, never really acknowledging it. Kinda like the way I am handling Dad's surgery. I've been doing exactly what the doctors asked us to do in preparation, without noticing that our time was running out. But D-Day has finally arrived and I finally fixed Dad's pajamas. I also brought Dad to the hospital this afternoon to get him settled in his room prior to his heart surgery. The videos we took of SO and Dad hugging and saying goodbye are heartbreaking to see. And we're finally here - at this exact point. This is what we worked for all these past weeks - the doctor's appointments, the trips to the dentists, the physical therapists. It's an emotional experience to go through and it's certainly not easy. I am not a big fan of the unknown and it freaks me out. But here I am, in the middle of this darkness. A big part of me dreads tomorrow morning when the nurses and doctors will drag Dad to the operating room, but another part of me just wants it to be over. I can't lose him. Not now. The doctors tell us to go through this with a positive mindset. Which is what I did the past few weeks, the image that I wanted to show to Dad, to SO, but I am only human and by nature, pretty sensitive. Alone during the day, these thoughts creep in my head. What if Dad can't take the surgery, the anesthesia? What if something bad happens? What if I lose him? My father. My father, my hero. If anything bad happened, I wouldn't know what to do. I wouldn't know how to go on. I spent weeks preparing Dad for what will happen to him. But what's gonna happen to me?
My morning today wasn't exactly how I thought it would be. Dad came to see me early morning to give me "a special envelope". I asked him what it was and he simply answered, "If something happens to me, open it. There's a list of people you will have to send a death certificate to .....". At the words "death certificate", I turned my head and an unexplained fury took over me. It was too early in the morning and I just didn't want to deal with this now. I wanted to be as far as possible from those papers, never wanting to ever open that damn envelope. I was quiet the whole morning. But my mood quickly changed when I remembered I had to bring SO to a birthday party she was invited to in the afternoon. She gets along really well with her new classmates and has been invited to several birthday parties already! But this one was special and she's been talking about this the whole week! That's because she's been invited to her first Pony birthday party, which is a big first and I gotta admit I am equally, if not more, excited than she is!
MR's French class are going really well, according to him. He is enjoying learning and studying his lessons. He has classmates from all over the world, each with their own stories on how they got here. It is quite fascinating. MR is slightly disappointed that there are no fellow Filipinos (we have yet to meet Filipinos in our area). Anyhow, he gets along well with his classmates and spends a lot of time with the Asian group. He is always full of fun stories when he comes home and after hearing the latest I was dying of laughter. I love MR, he's the best husband ever, but sometimes I wonder if he has any "finesse". You see, he eats lunch at the building's cafeteria with his classmates, most of them women. When he saw what his Thai classmate was eating (3 Tupperwares full of food), he bluntly said, "Wow, you have a healthy appetite!" LOL. And because she is pregnant, he added, "But that's okay, you should eat a lot since you're eating for two." I have no clue how his classmate took it, but I couldn't stop laughing at him! As a man, you should never comment on a woman's appetite, even if she stick thin! Hahahaha. Anyone can see how naively blunt he is, so I doubt anyone was mad, but yeah, never talk to a woman about her eating habits, MR!
It's no secret that MR and I have expressed how much we want to have another child. After our year-long separation, we realized that we are not getting any younger and this is our chance. But we aren't exactly trying hard...yet. Our situation isn't as stable as we'd like it to be and we aren't exactly fully ready. But then again, I think of the first time we were pregnant. To find out at 5 months in the pregnancy was a total shock to the system. That we were so not ready for! But that experience taught me that maybe we never really are ready to have a child. There's always that fear, that uncertainty. And then it happens, the stick turns to pink, and your instincts kick in. You make yourself ready. Well, that's what happened to us anyway 4 years ago. But our way of thinking right now is that we'll take each day as it is and if it happens, it happens. If it's meant to be. And I seriously thought it was good this month. I was about 2 weeks late. But that went down today. I won't lie, we might make light of things, but it can be a little sad and disappointing. It's been 6 months now and nothing. But like the doctor said it was a collapsed sac and a result of the intense stress I'm going through right now. It just wasn't meant to be.
The tension is in the air. We feel it every day. There's just 5 days to go till Dad's heart surgery. We're all worried. I try not to think about it. I try to remain positive for Dad's sake. I know that if I show just a single sign of weakness, it'll bring him down. I have to be strong not only for myself, but for him. All of my life, he's been my pillar and now the roles have been reversed. I'm his stone. I stand strong for him. We go through each day like it's a normal day, but they're not, are they? Dad still has several physical therapy sessions to go and I'm thankful for those moments when we're just together. Just Me and my Papa - partner-in-crimes, just like the good old days!
Out of the blue, I thought of making a Broccoli Soup for tonight. The winter cold has calmed a little, but a soup is still highly appreciated. Spring is quickly approaching and we're crossing our fingers for a little warmth soon. But then again, once Spring comes this will mean I won't be making many of my delicious creamy vegetable soups. But here we are now and I thought of the delicious Broccoli and Cheddar Soup SO once ordered at TGIF's in Cebu, Philippines. It was so good and I wanted to make my own version tonight. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't find any cheddar in the supermarkets here. That's when I realized how there aren't a lot of foreign products available in regular supermarkets here. I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised about the Cheddar though. France is home to 200+ (according to Charles de Gaulle) cheeses and they like to prioritize and feature local products. This was a problem for my original dinner plans though, but not a bust, since I decided to go ahead and stick to a simple Broccoli Soup.
This song has been playing a lot in the radio here. I've sang along with it without knowing what the title was or who the singer was. And then I saw that it was covered in Glee. I told myself - that's it, I have to know who sings this and what the title of the song is! Ellie Goulding is a goddess! Turns out, she also sings another song (Lights) that I like to sing along when I'm in the car.
Eggplant has got be my husband's, MR, favorite vegetable. Just the other day, he talked about this little Carenderia he used to frequent as a teen near his house. The place served an Eggplant dish that he just absolutely loved. My Mother-in-Law, who is a gifted cook, tried numerous times to recreate this eggplant dish, but it was never the same according to MR. His mom eventually gave up and he was only too happy to go to the Carenderia to get his regular eggplant fix. For 5 pesos, he had a small plate full of eggplant (just eggplant, no meat) stewed in soy sauce. With a cup of white rice, this was one of his favorite meals.
This is just one the saddest songs ever. I know Shontelle sings the original version, but James Arthur's (UK X-Factor 2012 winner) version gives me goosebumps! His voice which just sounds naturally sad, in combination with the poignant lyrics creates a melancholic but beautiful song. The first times I heard this song I had tears in my eyes. As impossible (no pun intended) as it might seem, I can feel the person's sorrow and despair. There is no anger, just pure dejection. Unfortunately, it makes me think of someone dear in my life. It's hard and it's heartbreaking. :'(
The past weeks have been very hectic. Like really, really busy. Dad's surgeon gave him a checklist of things to take care of before the surgery and we've been ticking items off the list. So what did we have to do? First, Dad had to go to the dentist for a check-up and get a clear for surgery. The dentist told us she had to extract 3 of his teeth. It wouldn't have been complicated if Dad wasn't taking blood-thinning medications, but he is, so it was complicated. On a Monday morning, Dad had 3 teeth extraction in one sitting with excessive bleeding which led the dentist to stitch the gums. By afternoon, it was still bleeding and I had to bring back Dad to the dentist's office. It healed and we got the clear. Second, we also had to visit the physical therapist. Dad has 10 sessions; he will practice the proper breathing exercise. I have to bring him 3-4 times a week for a 30 minute session. We are also buying the necessary clothes he will need, for the hospital stay and the after-care stay. Did I mention the after-care rehabilitation? After an 8-10 days hospital stay, Dad will go to a center about 100 kilometers from home for his after-care rehabilitation for a period of 3 weeks. Because it's far away, I obviously won't be going back and forth every day so I want him to have enough clothes with him all week long. On another note, MR has also started his French classes. On Thursdays and Fridays, I bring and pick him up from his school which is 20 minutes away. SO has, since November, been going to school as well. She has adjusted pretty well and we are proud of her schoolwork. I bring and pick her up everyday too. But at least her school is just a walk away. Between Dad, MR, and SO, I end up spending a large amount in the car and on the road (thank God I took some time off)! But I don't mind. I just got to be organized with our time schedule. As much I'd love to, I just can't be at two places at the same time!
I stumbled on a recipe (Click Here) on the website Foodgawker that I immediately fell in love with. It was a recipe for a Quick and Healthy Pasta with Spinach. I have a 4 year old daughter who loves to eat but also leans on her preferences (pasta, pasta, and more pasta!). When I hand her a plate of pasta, she will excitedly grab her fork and finish her plate. But when I hand her something else, she will hesitantly get her fork and will spend more time picking her food than eating it! I dislike seeing her pick her food and will tell her so. She'll stop but won't be motivated to eat. What will happen next is that I have to feed her and she will finish her plate that way (even the vegetables). I reckon that at 4 years old, feeding her is a big no-no! I don't like raising my voice, but sometimes I just can't help it!
I won't lie and say that today was a wonderful day. The day was very, how can I say it, lourd. Or heavy, in English. Tiring. Dad had his appointment with his anesthetist (and we came along!). It didn't go exactly well. We were scheduled to go in at 9:30 AM, after a loooonnnnnggg wait, we were finally accommodated at 11:15 AM! The doctor was so confused why people who had their appointments schedule after us came in before we did! I don't get it. We arrived before 9:30 AM and I was under the impression that a 9:30 AM appointment was a 9:30 AM. Who knows what the secretary did....Anyways, the doctor did his thing with Dad - asked him questions and explained the procedures of the surgery. This appointment was important and put things in perspective for all of us. Dad will be undergoing an Mini-Sternotomy for an Aortic Valve Replacement. He will have an open-heart surgery. They will use a cardiopulmonary bypass, where they stop his heart for 40 minutes and the "heart-lung machine" takes over the function of the heart and lungs. Dad freaked out, but he was relieved to know that they will incise just a few inches (3-4 inches) across the sternum rather than the old procedure, which they open along the sternum (8-10 inches) and stopped the heart for 3 hours! It's amazing how modern science has evolved!
Pot au Feu. A recipe that's been visited and revisited. Over and over again, I simply can't help but make it. It doesn't matter how many times I prepare it, everyone at home enjoys it. And come spring and summer, I won't be able to make Pot au Feu anymore, unfortunately. Well unless, we have a real crappy and cold spring. Oh gosh, I hope not! I shudder at the mere thought!
The first recipe I ever posted in this blog was a recipe for Shrimp Bisque (click here). That was 2 years ago. Looking back, I can't believe everything that has happened in 2 years. All the changes, the happy moments, the tears, the uncertainties, but most of all eating all these yummy yummy dishes (and unfortunately, gaining the extra pounds on my belly and thighs!). In 2 years, I've moved to a new country, lived away from my family, and lost my mother-in-law :'( - it feels like I'm living a new life right now. In 2011, I was cooking in my kitchen in our home in Cebu, Philippines. In 2013, I'm doing the same except it's in my kitchen in France. MR has recently mentioned how he thought my cooking has evolved positively. He's right - a lot of influences have affected my cooking these past years and I've learned a lot which I am happy share here.
After lunch, we quickly washed up and prepared to go to Metz Technopole. MR, SO, and I were excited to soak up the sun as much as possible this afternoon. This winter has particularly been very grey and depressing, so knowing that we would have a ray of sunshine today was the best news of the week! As soon as SO got out of the car and we walked in the park, she ran around like a mad child! She's always loved being outdoors and I can tell that being stuck indoors most of this winter has been tough for her! But overall I think SO's experience of the winter has been good. I love that SO has the chance to experience different seasons, something she never would have been able to do back in the Philippines. In fact, when people ask me what motivated me to move back to France, this is my first reason.
Today was announced to be a nice, sunny day and that is why we decided that after lunch we would go out and take a walk. When I brought MR to his meeting the other day, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful park in Metz Technopole, which I thought would be a neat place for us to visit. The original plan was to have a picnic, but although the sun decided to pay us a visit, the temperatures were still pretty low, and it was windy. So I put out a beef fillet to thaw out last night and prepared it for lunch today.
So I just read online that the author of one of my favorite books last year is coming to France for a book signing. Aaaaaand she's coming to a nearby city, Strasbourg. Can you tell how excited I am?!? I am simply dying to go even though that means I will have to take a whole day off and will most probably take the TGV train back and forth. It wouldn't be so bad except that it's scheduled at the end of the month, which means Dad will be at the hospital then. Can I afford to be so many kilometers away in case there is an emergency??? I looked online for TGV train tickets and the round trip costs 30 Euros for now. If I get my tickets later, it will increase that's for sure, but I don't think I'm ready to get my ticket now. I'll wait and see. But, OMG, I would really really love to meet the author.....Ms. Sylvia Day!!!
We were on our way out of the house early this evening when DO called and asked if they (TH and her) could pass by the house and eat with us. She was in the middle of grocery-shopping 10 kilometers away and wanted to buy some items to bring me. Dad mentioned that he wanted to invite us all to a restaurant before his operation and since we were planning to eat out tonight, he suggested to invite DO and TH to join us. They agreed and we decided to go to Les 3 Brasseurs in ZAC Augny in Augny, France. This is our second time to dine here. The first experience, back in December, was so-so. I thought I wrote a post about it and looked for it, but looking back I realized I never did. I have no idea how I could have missed that!