Archive for February 2011

What would your mother say?

I have a sweet gig as a sometime/somewhat member of my town’s online advice column, aptly called the Moms Council. Every week the council is posed a question, we answer, and by some ambiguous screening method, a tidy collection of replies posts every Wednesday afternoon. There is no telling how many council members there are (or if we are all women)–since communication is done via email and we have yet to meet–but after a little over a month of Mom Council-ing, this is the image I have of our group:

**I’m Lucy, of course 🙂

The questions range from serious child raising topics to our reaction to pertinent news in our neck of the woods. Our answers don’t attempt to be more than what you’d tell your girlfriend over the phone, or better yet, over a glass of wine. It is so. much. fun, because as soon as a new topic or issue is brought forth, the Internet is a buzzin’ with the Peanut Gallery’s two cents, with lots of personal info added in for good measure. Hey, how else would I know a fellow member has a new and bigger bed?

Anyway, I’m posting the question and my answer from last week in order to give you an idea of what the Mom Council is all about, and to be honest, because I’m still a little brain drained from the weekend. Hit or miss? I’d love to know what you think~

Question: When is a child ready to experience a wake and funeral? How would you determine this? How do you respond (kindly) to those who question your decision? 

 My Answer: We never questioned the age of our children when preparing to attend a wake and/or funeral—we just all went. Sure, when the kids were younger, we would pack snacks and activities to occupy them, but now at ages 15, 13, and 9 we fully expect them to listen to the eulogy, participate in the prayers, and pay their respects to the deceased. We always addressed their questions or assuaged any fears but for the most part, there have been few. Once, our daughter was a bit apprehensive approaching the coffin of a family friend, but was comforted knowing we were right alongside her. What to respond if questioned of our decision? I’d shrug my shoulders and say we couldn’t find a sitter.

 Our culture (my husband and I are Filipino) is rich with tradition, some of which involve honoring our deceased relatives. We feel it is important to teach our children that while family memories are gathered from joyful times they are, unfortunately, also built on occasions bittersweet.



1 comment February 28, 2011

So hot for that pot!

Some women desire jewelry, shoes, and designer handbags. Not me. Do you know what I love? Cookware. Throw that Louis Vuitton to the floor, and kick off those Louboutins–I’ll take a LeCreuset any ‘ol day. So you understand my happiness this afternoon, when I scored a 5.5 quart, cherry red LeCreuset round dutch oven at my local Marshall’s. It literally took my breath away, and I couldn’t wait to bring this baby home.

Shiny enamel over cast iron, these pots are made to last a lifetime. Julia Child swore by them, and amassed quite a collection! I love their weight, and how the lid fits oh so snug. And the deep “ding” sound my wooden spoon makes when it hits the side of the pot. They’re great for making soups, braising on the stove top, or roasting in the oven. I also have a friend who displays her oval dutch as decoration in her kitchen. Yes, they really are that pretty.

I wanted to make something savory, slow cooked, and comforting to break in my new LeCreu. Beef stew seemed the most appropriate for this gloomy and wet afternoon. And when it’s time for dinner I may take a pass on the serving bowl, and bring my LeCreu to the table, front and center.

 Too Boots Beef Stew

3 lbs choice roast, cut into chunks 1 inch wide

2 strips salt pork, cut into lardons

3 sm onions, sliced

3 lg cloves garlic, smashed

5 roma tomatoes, cut into eighths

carrots, parsnips, celery, cut into 2 inch chunks

8 or so sweet gherkins (cut in half if big, or leave whole if midget)

1 8oz can tomato sauce

1/2 cup red wine

8 whole cloves

dried oregano, salt and pepper

Pre-heat your dutch oven. Cook the salt pork in a little oil until brown. Set aside. Saute the garlic slowly until soft, but not brown. Add onions, cook until soft. Set aside. Brown the beef in batches. (make sure it is dry!) Then add cooked salt pork, garlic, and onions. Deglaze pot with the wine, making sure to scrape up any bits. Add tomatoes, celery, carrots, parsnips, tomato sauce, and all seasonings. Stir well and place lidded pot in the lower third of your 300 degree oven for 1 hour. Add gherkins and adjust seasonings. Cook for another hour. If you want a thicker stew, strain meat and vegetables, and reduce remaining liquid on the stove top. Add meat and vegetables. Adjust seasonings and serve with crusty bread, or over rice. Serves 5, with leftovers.

5 comments February 26, 2011

I think I have a low grade bieber fever…

I brought my daughter to the new Justin Bieber movie with no other expectation except a bucket of popcorn, with a fair sprinkling of SnoCaps. (Any one who knows me can attest I often sleep through movies) Guess what happened? Not only did I stay awake; I had a great time.

For those of you living under a rock, Justin Bieber is the latest dancing/singing/acting phenom pulling on the heartstrings of tween and teen girls worldwide. He’s achieved his superstar status without the help of a Disney or Nickelodeon platform, instead using the Internet as his vehicle. Plus it doesn’t hurt having the support and Rolodexes of L.A. Reid and Usher.

As soon as the movie started, and we donned our required 3D glasses (yes, this movie is–ugh–in 3D), girls started screaming in Dolby digital surround sound. The Justin Bieber story, told via baby pix, home movies, and personal interviews, was interspersed with rehearsal clips for his upcoming Madison Square Garden debut. While the movie made you feel as if you were at one of his concerts, I liked his personal story even more. This is what I learned:

  • He was raised in Stratford, Ontario (for literature buffs, the site of the annual Shakespeare Festival) by a single mom, with the support of his grandparents.
  • He showed an early talent for singing, drums, and guitar.
  • He keeps in close contact with a handful of childhood friends.
  • His mom posted early performances on YouTube for out-of-town relatives.
  • He favors the color purple, basketball shoes, and baseball hats worn backwards.
  • He can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under two minutes.
  • He is closely monitored by his peeps.
  • He’s a white boy, but doesn’t dance like one.
  • He makes girls crazy.

But Justin Bieber is safe. He’s good-looking without being overly so; innocent with a touch of shy sex appeal. He has a great head of hair. He also has, as one would expect, a fair number of putter-downers who critique his songs, appearance, and authenticity. So let them. No one at the 7:20 show cared about anything but his music, his dance moves, and having a great time. Girls, and some moms too, were singing with him and clapping to the beat, and by the end of the movie were dancing in the aisles. Everyone left the theater in smiles.

Just as I had Donny Osmond* to make me feel the way only a teeny-bopper could make me feel, I am glad my daughter and nieces have the Bieber.

*You knew I had to squeeze Donny somewhere in this post. Come to think of it, doesn’t Justin Bieber look like Donny Osmond?!?


3 comments February 26, 2011

Every Good Cook Has to Start Somewhere

I love to cook, and I have Kenner Products to thank for it. When I was in the 3rd grade, Santa Claus brought me an Easy Bake Oven. You have to understand, I came from a Filipino household whose idea of dessert consisted of sticky rice, cassava, or coco jam, so having access to true Americanized sweets was a big deal indeed.

My Easy Bake was shiny red plastic with faux temperature knobs and cabinets. It also came with assorted metal pans–even a long-handled stick whose sole purpose is to scoot the pans along the heated assembly line. All a girl had to do was mix water with the pre-measured cake mixes, also included, and move the pan into the oven. There was even a little plastic window available to watch the cakes rise. It took forever to bake a cake that could be swallowed up in two bites (believe me, my brother did just that), but I swear that tiny cake made the house smell so GOOD!

So it was with a twinge of regret to learn today that the Easy Bake Oven is in need of a little updating. It seems the age of green has caught up with this beloved toy; as of next year, 100-watt incandescent bulbs–the source of Easy Bake’s power–will no longer be available. Hasbro Inc., which now markets the oven, promises an updated, albeit bulb-less, model by this fall.

Whether the new design will work as well isn’t the question, but rather will it matter? Little girls, in my opinion, are no longer fascinated by the Easy Bake Oven, as my friends and I were years ago. Today’s budding cooks can practice their cooking skills playing games such as Cooking Mama, Cookie Maker, or Pizza Maker on their Nintendo DS systems, iTouch, or iPad, all without the bother of the clean-up. For the hungry, pre-stamped cookie dough can be baked, or shelf stable brownies microwaved. If this is the new intro into the culinary arts, so be it.

As for me, I’ll stick with the old-fashioned way. I rescued my daughter’s Easy Bake (circa 2004) from the Goodwill donation box and kept it for safe keeping. Oh, and I better stockpile some light bulbs while I’m thinking of it…

2 comments February 24, 2011

I. am. Boots.

Ms Boots Anson-Roa

My given names are beautiful. Maria, after the mother of Christianity. Felicitas, a family name shared by my mother and maternal great-grandmother. Yet I am not commonly called either of those names. I am, for better or worse, referred to as Boots.

This nickname was gifted, or burdened, by Lourdes, my godmother or Ninang who interestingly enough has a funny moniker of her own: Baby. (We’ll have to save that for another post!) At the time I was born, Ninang Baby was fascinated by the Manila starlet Boots Anson-Roa. Tall, thin, famous, and movie star gorgeous, perhaps Ninang Baby wished all those traits on her new goddaughter. I possess, alas, none of those qualities, but the name stuck.

“Did you wear lots of boots as a child” “These boots are made for walking” “Puss in boots” I’ve heard them all. As a child, I would shrug, and give the above mentioned explanation. After a while I just smiled and stayed quiet. It certainly didn’t help that Ninang Baby gave her daughters beautiful, glamorous, and no-need-to-explain names: Beverly, Abigail, and Claudette.

As a pre-teen I hated my name. Especially when my Lola Inay or grandmother, visiting for the summer months, would start gift and souvenier shopping for all the cousins back home. With so many grandchildren, it was easier to get the same gift for all. A particular gift that still sticks in my memory were these ceramic necklaces, each one scripted with a girl’s name. One by one a ceramic necklace was purchased, wrapped, and deposited into the treasure trove that is the balikbayan box. Beth. Christina. Ella. Beverly. Abigail. Claudette. Cat. Liesel. Leslie. And no matter how many times Lola Inay scoured the displays at Claire’s, I knew there would be none for me.

Not that I didn’t give up without a fight. During the fourth grade and after a Gilligan’s Island marathon, I announced to my family and friends to refer to me as MaryAnn. Because, 1) people admire Ginger, but love MaryAnn; 2) I liked the way I wrote the cursive M, uppercase; and 3) I would finally score the coveted ceramic necklace! This went on for a good three months, until one by one, family and friends reverted back to the shoe name. Sigh. **Though funny enough, a recent FaceBook friend request inquired if I once went by the name MaryAnn**

Later on I grew to like, ok tolerate, my name. In a way it set me apart. Boots was easy enough for substitute teachers to pronounce during roll call. Say it loud and it sounds strong, one syllable. Say it soft and it can sound mysterious…or meek. During the eighties, say it any which way, and it just sounded preppy.

Flash forward **ty years. I am still called Boots, and sometimes Bootsie, Butch, and even Pretty Bootsie (god love my nieces and nephews). But I am also referred to as wife, mother, sister, cousin, in-law, friend. I am Boots, after all, for better or worse.

11 comments February 24, 2011

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