Friday, March 23, 2018

While Joseph Slept


Angels came giving
him dreams understood by his
open mind through faith.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Monkey See Monkey Do

I‘ll, plie, saute,
do arabesque, but please no
leotards, tutus.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Handout on Maxim 80 Monroeville Prayer Group March 19, 2018

Shown above are the two page handout on Maxim 80 thoughtfully prepared with love by Natalie for our Prayer group meeting in the St. Bernadette Convent this past Monday, March 19, 2018. Thanks Natalie for your time and effort,  Note Natalie as usual put together different resources to expand on the maxim.

I also would like to share with you the CSJA Yearly  Renewal Promise which some of the Monroeville Associates did after the Sisters did their vows during the 9:30 AM Mass on St. Joseph Feast day, Monday, March 19.  Thanks and regards.

Sister Paula's Presentation on Hope

Natalie and I  attended the Annual Spring Recollection for Auxiliaries yesterday, March 20, 2018 at Medaille Hall of the Motherhouse.  Sr. Paula Drass, CSJ was the featured speaker on the topic of Hope. Fifty or so auxiliaries attended and braved the impending snow that was coming that afternoon and found peace in the stillness and wonderful reflections given by Sr. Paula. The exquisitely and thoughtfully prepared two page handout by Sr. Paula is reproduced below.

Along with the handout which consisted of song lyrics, scriptural quotes, a poster and two beautiful poems, I am sharing with you a few of my notes on hope taken during Sr. Paula's presentation. These are my notes and not necessarily Paula's thoughts.

  • According to Pope Francis, hope is like grace.  It is a gift and cannot be bought.
  • Hope is about presence. God's and ours.  It is how God is with you no matter what.
  • Hope can be found in the quiet.
  • It is a way of life, a journey not an outcome.
  • If you seek you will find it.
  • Practice meditation and you will find hope, presence.
  • Let us not be afraid of distractions during meditation. According to St. Therese of Liseaux, distractions during meditative prayer can be considered invitations to what God actually wants.
  • According to Cynthia Bourgeault, in her book, Mystical Hope, hope overcomes fear.
  • Hope is divine energy.
  • As the poem in the second page of the handout, it keeps you going. Hope gives us strength to be continuously be present.
  • The Maxim, "Do not be ahead of grace" was also quoted by Paula.  You will have what you need when you get there.
  • Hope is not about having the outcome but about showing up with God and dear companions in the journey. It is not about God getting the outcome we want.  Instead hope is about God being there with us in any event or journey not necessarily changing the event to what we want.
  • We can be both hopeful and fearful.  It is up to us to choose the first option.
  • As Jesus in the Garden in Gethsemane, we are to be courageous, to lean on God.

In the poem Paula wrote on Joy and featured in the second page of the handout, she reminds us to live life with not only hope but joy,

In the second poem on the second page, the poet, Rilke, invites us:

"To let everything to happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me,"

As we were breaking bread with the other attendees and sisters during lunch, Natalie and I saw Jeanne Minnicks, the present head of the CSJ Baden Development Office, at another table.  We decided to request her to give us copies of the beautiful Spring Prayer she said at the start of the meeting. The copy is reproduced below.

In this snowy day, the day after the start of spring, I pray you find peace, joy, courage and hope in the stillness as you meditate on the messages in the handout prepared by Sr. Paula.  Thanks Paula, Jeanne Minnicks, Christina Blomburg and the other organizers for this inspiring event.

Slow Cooker Pork Bicol Express

This spicy, creamy pork dish made with chili peppers and coconut milk originated from the kitchen of Cely Kalaw of Malate, Manila according to this delightful online account of the origin of this dish . She grew up in the Bicol region as a child and was enamored by the use of chili peppers and coconut milk in the dishes by the people from this area of the Philippines. She invented this dish to accompany another iconic dish called laing.

I first had the vegetarian version of Bicol Express at the Pamana Restaurant in Pampanga in 2015. I fell in love with the fiery dish despite the fact my mouth was on fire from biting the chili pepper. I encountered this dish again at a turo turo or cafetaria style restaurant where we stopped by for our lunch during our trip to the Banaue rice terraces in the Mountain Province. This magnificent work of  the Ifugao natives was formerly considered one of the seven wonders of the world. It was one of our destinations during the recent road trip I and my husband, Bob, took together with my sisters Bebeng and Menchie and their husbands, Jun and Bubut, during my recent visit to the Philippines this past February.

My photo of a photo of the Banaue Rice Terraces that was hanging at the dining area of the Rock Inn Hotel in Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines.

I was intrigued with this pork version of the Bicol Express at this restaurant and vowed to make it when I come back to the United States. I also decided to try making it in the slow cooker. The cook at the restaurant gladly enumerated the ingredients listed in the recipe below and I more or less based their amounts from a recipe I found in Panlasang Pinoy.

Another feature of this dish is the use of fermented shrimp or fish we call bagoong. I used a shrimp paste instead I bought at the Asian store since I did not have bagoong.  You can skip this ingredient or just use anchovy paste or patis or just plain salt.  However the bagoong does give it more umami flavor.

Here is my slow cooker version of this delicious spicy and creamy pork dish. It is a flexible dish you can adapt to your taste or sense of adventure into the incendiary world of Bicol dishes.

Slow Cooker Pork Bicol Express

  • 2 lb pork meat (note 1), cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 to 6 pieces whole long hot chili peppers (note 2)
  • 2 to 4 tbsp shrimp paste or shrimp or fish bagoong (note 3)
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste   

Place all the ingredients in the crock pot or you can saute first the ginger, onion and garlic in 2 tbsp oil and then transfer them to the crock pot with the rest of the ingredients.  Cook for 3 hours at high setting or at low for 6 hours. I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours.

Serve over white rice. Do warn people not to bite into the hot chili pepper. Hot, hot, hot. Or have a big glass of cold water handy for them just in case.


1. Pork belly is preferred but you can use pork shoulder or just pork chops like I did.

2. I used only 2 chili peppers but I have read recipes using 6 or more. I obtained my chili peppers from my friend's garden. As usual the amount one uses or can tolerate is sort of a bragging game for some.

3. The amount will depend on the kind of shrimp paste you have and according to the saltiness you want to attain. The shrimp paste I bought was not that salty and neither was it that fishy so I used 4 tbsp. You can also use anchovy paste but start with about 1 tbsp first. You can skip its use altogether and use salt or fish sauce. As I have mentioned bagoong which one can obtain from the Asian store is preferred.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

As We Plod Through Uncertainties

One can be certain,
He's always there with us with
what's best in His mind.

Note: The artwork was done by my late maternal aunt, the multi-talented Tita Con, or Conching Cortes.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Eternal Now

To be in the now,
the present moment, is to
live life to the full.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Getting There

We're on a climb. With
Him it'll be like taking the
elevator up.

Note: Reflection inspired by an excerpt from the book, Story of a Soul: Autobiography of St. Therese of Liseaux (The Little Flower).

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Seek the Bottomless Reservoir

Allow God to love
you. Draw from this love all day
and all will be well.

Note: This comforting assurance came from the down to earth and inspiring
talks given by Brother Joseph
Schmidt, FSC on St. Therese of Liseaux at my parish mission week these past three days.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken Wings

I wanted an Asian chicken dish with no aromatics like garlic and ginger which I am supposed to avoid before my surgery since they claim they could also promote bleeding like aspirin and fish oil during surgery. I found this recipe in an Asian cookbook I bought for two dollars from thr Oakmont Library. I adapted it for the slow cooker. Here is this simple but delicious dish. 

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken Wings

  • 3 lb chicken wings
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp Soy sauce
  • 3 tsp Sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch in 2 tbsp water

Place all the ingredients in the crockpot and cook on high for 3 hours or 6 hours at low setting. I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting 

You can serve it with cut green onions and steamed napa cabbage and also steamed rice. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Paula’s Prayer Meeting March 8, 2018

As the beautiful handout says, come and rest awhile and listen to what God is saying. Venture into meeting Him more intimately during this time of lent.

Sr. Paula played Monica Brown's "Quiet Your Soul" during the meditation period. I could not find it in YouTube and so instead I am giving you a video of the song or chant my husband, Bob, sang during the Taize ritual held at St. Bernadette recently.

Happy Easter to all.

Slow Cooker Pinakbet (Filipino Vegetable Dish)

When I went home to the Philippines recently, the vegetable dish called pinakbet was in almost every meal I had when I ventured out to eat at the different restaurants. Of course I had it also at my brother's house where I stayed while there prepared by their wonderful cook, Baby.

When I and my husband Bob took a road trip to Vigan in the Ilocos region of the Philippines together with my sisters and their hubbies,
pinakbet was the number 1 dish we made a point to order when we ate out. After all the iconic dish originated from Ilocos.

We relished it during our first dinner in Vigan at Café Uno. It was also served at the buffet in a restaurant across from the Marcos Malacanang Palace in Ilocos Norte. We also had it in every restaurant we ate at when we went out, Judy Anne's Crispy Pata Place in Malabon, Jerry's in Edsa, Club Filipino and also at the hotel in Rock Inn in Sagada.

One can use any combination of vegetables with the most popular ones being squash or kalabasa, eggplant or talong, green beans or sitaw, bitter melon or ampalaya, okra, tomatoes together with the aromatics, onions, garlic and ginger. I used in this recipe what I had and you can improvise too. For example I love adding spinach in everything which I did here.

For flavor fermented fish or shrimp called bagoong is used. For myself I used miso paste as an alternative to make it vegan. You can also just use salt or fish sauce. For protein, pork or shrimp is added which I skipped in this vegan version.

You may or may not use coconut milk. I noticed while in the Philippines, they do not use thick coconut milk like I am used to here in the US since I use canned ones. They make their own fresh which comes very thin with barely a whisper of the taste of coconut. So you can skip it.
You can add hot chili pepper and leave them whole like I did and remove it before serving or warned your guests or just skip it.

You can saute the mixture in oil if using the stove top method and then simmer till the vegetables and meat are cooked. In this recipe I decided to experiment and see if I can use the slow cooker approach. Namely, to just dump all the ingredients and forget it. The result was a dish I relished for several meals. Though the different vegetables really needed different lengths of cooking times, they came out together fine and created a very delicious combination of texture and flavor. Yes Kuya and Ate, you can cook pinakbet in the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Pinakbet (Filipino Vegetable Dish)

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cubed
  • 1 medium eggplant, cubed
  • 2 cups green beans 
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 bag prepared spinach leaves
  • 1 tbsp miso paste for vegans or for the nonvegans use shrimp or fish bagoong or fish sauce
  • 2/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 6 tbsp coconut milk full fat from can (optional)
  • 1 whole red chili pepper uncut (optional)
  • Pork or shrimp for nonvegans (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a crockpot and slow cook on high for 4 hours. I used a Crock Pot Brand casserole slow cooker. Note: After 2 hours, the squash and spinach are cooked but not the rest of the vegetables so I cooked further the whole mixture for a total of four hours.

Serve over rice. Yum.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Gift in the Night

Finally it came.
That deep, long restful slumber.
Jet lag gone. Thank God.

Power of Hope

Hope engenders love.
A sense of gratefulness. What
was and is to come.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Seriously and Unseriously

Men shall see you as
the things you love most. Oh no!
Just ate three bagels.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Your Soul

From nature will you
find your soul. It is what it
is. Reality.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


The acceptance of
knowing and unknowing. To
move from there gladly.

Note: The photo shows the renovated St. Bartholomew Church in Malabon City, Metro Manila where I grew up. As a student at the adjoining St. James Academy attending weekly Masses there, I used to gaze up above and wonder how I could get up there where a sort of veranda is located. I am glad to see that part of the church has been retained in the renovation.

Sunday, February 25, 2018


We're called to evolve.
We are co- creators. A
task not God's alone.

Note: Based on Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation for Sunday, February 25, 2018.


Not known to those who
realize there's only one
person to please, God.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

My Philippines

Palm trees, water waves.
The sun, blue skies, white sand. Etched
in my memory.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The First Step

Everything starts with
the first step. The big YES. The
rest is in God's hands.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Slow Cooker Green Beans and Tofu

This is an easy side dish or even main dish with rice. Just dump all the ingredients in a crock pot and let it do the cooking for you

Slow Cooker Green Beans and Tofu

  • 3 cups green beans
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 8 oz tofu, cut in large cubes
  • 1/ 4 cup soy sauce
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder or more to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Black pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook for 3 hours at high setting. I used the Crock Pot brand casserole slow cooker. 

Invitation from Nature

Come feast your eyes with
the color I wear, the grace
leaves, flowers drape me.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Union with All

Do we have to build
fences? When we're all one from
start and till the end.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Sacredness of Helplessness

In the lowest depths
we climb out stronger. We find
in, with Him our strength.

Note: Photo taken by my friend, Lulu Yambao of the sunrise in a beach in Bohol, Philippines.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Life is What You Make It

Water was shallow.
Didn’t matter. Swam like a fish.
What joy. Had a ball.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Just Be, You Are Loved Unconditionally

Stand tall and proud like
the mahogany tree. You
are always God's child.

 Note: The photo features the manmade Mahogany Forest located between the borders of the Loboc and Bilar towns in Bohol, Philippines.   It is about 2 kilometers long. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Peace and Happiness

To give and receive
without strings attached is the
key to be happy.

Note: Photo features part of the nature driven garden of Aloha Hotel in Bohol, Philippines.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Easy Buko Pandan Salad

This is my favorite salad so far during my current visit to the Philippines. My talented and beautiful sister in law Pinky, my brother’s Benjie’s  wife, prepared it from fresh buko or young coconut. She was drinking the coconut water of the buko for health purposes and usually was left with the white delicious soft flesh of the buko. She decided to prepare this salad to make use of it.

It is easy to prepare this salad due to the availability of the pandan flavored gelatin mix. Pandan leaves are commonly used as flavoring in both savory and dessert dishes in the Philippines. Pinky also used a condensed milk product already mixed with cream. The latter is usually added  separately from a can of Nestle cream. The combination of the two milk products are used in fruit salads in the Philippines. Now they have both in one can. A bottle of kaong, or palm sugar, a nutty textured unriped fruit from a palm tree that was cooked in sugar, was also added. It contributes to the overall mixed texture of the salad, soft and crunchy and creamy and sweet.

Buko Pandan Salad

  • Meat from 4 buko, shredded Note 1
  • 1 bottle kaong, drained
  • 1 box pandan gelatin mix
  • 1 can Angel Brand Kremdensada (condensed milk with creme) Note 2
Prepare the pandan gelatin according to the package directions. Cut the prepared gelatin into cubes. 

Combine the cubed pandan gelatin with the rest of the ingredients. 



1. One can use two buko. The result will be a sweeter salad. 

2. One can use plain condensed milk and mix it with a can of Nestle Creme or softened cream cheese.