Which cutting board is best, wood or plastic?

Ever wonder which cutting board is safest — traditional wood boards, those new bamboo cutting boards, plastic, or even glass boards?

Jeff’s freshly baked breads ready to slice, on top of bamboo cutting board

For the answer, check out this article from Ask Umbra (Green Living Questions) at Grist.org…  Excerpt:

In fact, this question of bacteria helps answer your question about plastic vs. wood. Plastic gained favor for a while because it is non-porous and dishwasher-safe, two qualities that made it seem like a healthier, cleaner choice. But it seems this was just another PR coup by the plastics industry.

According to research, including a study at the UC-Davis Food Safety Laboratory, wood wins the bacteria battle.

While bacteria such as salmonella and listeria are easy to clean off brand-new plastic boards, these boards become, say the researchers, “impossible to clean and disinfect manually” once damaged by knives. In other words, the sneaky little bacteria hide out in the cracks and crevices. Wood cutting boards provide a home for bacteria too, but only for a short time, and the little critters actually scoot down under the surface and die.

Click here to read the full article…

Related Links:

UC Davis Research: Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards

Rodale’s This or That? Wooden vs. Plastic Cutting Boards

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth (gardens and grandsons)

This theme for last week’s photo challenge and blogging experiment at the Daily Post is GROWTH.   And nothing can convey growth to a grandmother, like me, as much as seeing how quickly my grandsons grow.

As most grandparents will tell you, having grandchildren is a whole lot different from raising your own children.  For one thing, our age — and being on the finish line side of the aging spectrum — makes you focus on what is really important.  Plus, life’s experiences makes me more relaxed about, well… life in general.

It’s not that I am less busy…I am not yet retired, and am also growing a small business. It is more that I filter out — at least I try to — things that will not bring joy and value to my time.  And the time that I value the most, is time with loved ones, and most especially my young grandsons.

Here are some of my favorite garden and growth related photos of my two favorite little men.  They are now 5 and 7, but still little, for now…

Gabriel helping his Lola water plants

More water please, Lola!

Gabriel then shorter than the potted tomato plant

Jun among daisy flowers

This last photo I took at Elkhorn Slough — and is among my favorite photograph of the two little men.

“I am spending delightful afternoons in my garden, watching everything living around me.  As I grow older, I feel everything departing, and I love everything with more passion”  French writer Emile Zola (1840 – 1902)

Who is Rachel Carson…and the MBARI Open House

On a foggy day last week, Jeff and I walked from the Potrero Rd. entrance to the Moss Landing beach, past the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and towards Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery.

Rather large driftwood — drift LOGS, really, at Moss Landing Beach

On the way back, we decided to take the road and frontage trail, instead of walking back on the beach.  On Sandholdt Road, we noticed this ship, the Rachel Carson, at the Moss Landing Harbor.

We wondered….who is Rachel Carson?

Note: The photo does not do justice to the rather new, shiny ship.

I did not think anymore about the Rachel Carson ship — and these set of photos — until reading the “Your Town” section of today’s Monterey County Herald.  Excerpt:

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute will hold an open house from noon to 5PM Saturday at 7700 Sandholdt Road.

At 12:45PM, aquarium executive director Julie Packard will christen the institute’s newest ship, the R/V Rachel Carson.

Other activities include talks about the expeditions to the Gulf of California and Sargasso Sea, a tour of the labs, a look at ships and undersea robots used in the deep-sea excursions, and workshops where children can build their own remotely operated vehicles.

According to the MBARI website, the R/V Rachel Carson “will serve as a replacement for both the R/V Zephyr and R/V Point Lobos, and will be able to launch both ROVs and AUVs, as well as conduct multi-day expeditions”.

The new research vessel was named Rachel Carson in honor of the American marine biologist and conservationist.  Click here to view a better image for the R/V Rachel Carson, on the MBARI Press Room page.

Rachel Carson wrote the book Silent Spring and is credited with advancing the global environmental movement.  Excerpt from Wikipedia…

Late in the 1950s Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially environmental problems she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people.

Although Silent Spring met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.

The open house also celebrates MBARI’s 25th anniversary.  The presentation schedule is as follows:

  • In the PACIFIC FORUM: Extending MBARI’s reach
    12:00 Volcanoes of the Gulf of California ~ Jenny Paduan
    12:30 Video ~ no speaker during christening of R/V Rachel Carson
    01:00 Volcanoes of the Gulf of California (repeat) ~ Jenny Paduan
    01:30 Monterey Bay: A window to the world ~ Chris Scholin
    02:00 Secrets of the Sargasso Sea ~ Alana Sherman
    02:30 ESP around the world ~ Jim Birch
    03:00 Secrets of the Sargasso Sea (repeat) ~ Alana Sherman
    03:30 ESP around the world (repeat) ~ Jim Birch
    04:00 Exploring the Gulf of California ~ Steve Haddock
    04:30 Exploring the Gulf of California (repeat) ~ Steve Haddock
    12:15 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    01:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    01:30 Deep-sea video
    02:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    02:30 Deep-sea video
    03:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    03:30 Deep-sea video
    04:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    04:30 Deep-sea video

For further details, please visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) website.

Our trail walk back towards Potrero Road…

Foggy Moss Landing Harbor

Beach Sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala) is the most common, California native plant, found around sand dunes. This one encircled by non-native — and aggressive — iceplants, which do not provide food or shelter to native wildlife.

Reward for lost scientific instrument!

Fish & Wildlife Service employee photo, via Wikipedia

Link to Wikipedia article on Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964)

Carson began her career as a biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her a U.S. National Book Award,[1] recognition as a gifted writer, and financial security. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the reissued version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers. That so-called sea trilogy explores the whole of ocean life from the shores to the surface to the depths.

Rest in Peace Marion Cunningham

Marion Cunningham, cook, author, and advocate for home cooking, died on Wednesday, at the age of 90.

For many years, Marion Cunningham wrote a column for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times, and contributed articles to Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Gourmet magazines.  She lived in Walnut Creek, in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I remember reading some of her articles in the Contra Costa Times, or articles about her when we lived in the Bay Area.

Until I heard about her death, I didn’t know that she was already 50 years old when she started her career path towards the cooking world.  She was proof that it is never too late to take up a new career, when you are doing something you love.

Marion Cunningham’s book, Good Eating

We own a few cookbooks, and among them is Marion Cunningham’s Good Eating, which is actually two books in one (The Breakfast Book and The Supper Book).  I’ve used it more often than our other cookbooks.  The recipes are solid, and most are simple, no-fuss to make, meaning they are also kid-friendly.

Some of our cookbooks (Jeff likes to cook!)

The recipe (and LolaKo post) Best Buttermilk Pancakes Ever, is adapted from her recipe.  I’ve also made other pancakes — buckwheat,cornmeal — and waffles, using recipes from The Breakfast Book.

When my grandson Jun (an enthusiastic pancake eater) was home sick from school and I was looking after him, I decided to try another of Marion Cunningham’s pancake recipe.  I settled on Lemon Pancakes, since we had lemons and cottage cheese on hand.

Jun sat at the kitchen counter, and watched.  It was different from our “usual” pancakes — both in the process of making it, and in appearance.

I slipped the first pancake on a plate, swirled syrup on top, and presented it to Jun, who was about 6 years old at the time.  He took a bite, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, smiled, and uttered, “ummmmm…Lola!”.

You can imagine how happy I was at his reaction — and he got better rather quickly too!

I don’t normally make these pancakes as cottage cheese is not an item we keep on hand.  But…it is tasty, and well worth making if you want to make a special treat for your enthusiastic pancake eaters…even if they are not sick.

In honor of Marion Cunningham, here is her recipe.

From The Breakfast Book –  Lemon Pancakes

These pancakes make you sit up and take notice.  Serve them with fresh raspberries or raspberry syrup and you will have a summer morning special.

  • 3 eggs (separated)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.  In another bowl, stir together the egg yolks, flour, cottage cheese, butter, sugar, salt, and lemon zest until well mixed (I use the rotary egg beater I used for beating the egg whites).

With a large spoon or a spatula, fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture.  Gently stir until there are no yellow or white streaks.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Grease lightly and spoon out about 3 large tablespoons of batter for each pancake.  Cook slowly for about 1 1/2 minutes, then turn the pancake over and cook about 30 seconds.  Keep the pancakes warm in a 250 degree oven until ready to serve.

Related Links:

San Francisco Chronicle SF Gate article, with Marion Cunningham’s recipe for raised waffles.

New York Times article on Marion Cunningham’s death, with her recipe for coffee cake

Lola Jane’s Best Buttermilk Pancakes Ever

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Movement in Tae Kwon Do class

If you have read my blog over the last year, you know that topics close to my heart are related to the environment and conservation, as well as poverty and the Philippines (where I am originally from).  I can’t help it…I’m a grandmother deeply concerned about the state of the planet and what we are leaving behind for our grandchildren.  I feel compelled to learn about, and post articles on these topics.

These posts can often be depressing…which is why I look forward to the WordPress Photo Challenge from the Daily Post.  It gives me an opportunity to think about and share photos which I would not normally think to post on my blog.

This week, the theme is “movement”.  I thought about the photos I have from my grandsons’ Tae Kwon Do classes, and how frustrating it is — for me at least — to have a good “movement” or as I interpret this theme, an “action” type shot.

I have probably spent hundreds of hours taking my grandsons to Tae Kwon Do practice, often with camera in hand.  Though I love taking photos — and have taken photographs since I was a teenager, I am still a beginner.

Soon, I will elevate my photography to the next level…meaning, get a more professional camera and actually read the technical manual!

For now though, here is my submission for the “movement” photo challenge – with the theme Tae Kwon Do.

Here are some captures to give a feel for the classes:

Practicing “Poomse” movements at Tae Kwon Do class

Youngest Tae Kwon Do classes for 3 1/2 to 5 years old. My younger grandson is the little guy at the end with a white belt, looking at his Lola (grandmother) Jane, instead of listening to Master Lee.

Students enjoy playing dodge ball, after Tae Kwon Do class.  You can see the ball at the lower right hand side.

Board breaking at Tae Kwon Do belt promotion test

Sparring during Tae Kwon Do promotion test

So….despite the countless photos I have taken at Tae Kwon Do practice…I don’t have a  good photo of my grandchildren, breaking a board for promotion test, etc.

I did capture shots I liked…not of the grandsons, but of one of the instructors, Mr. Yates, doing a demonstration, at a promotion test.

Setting up concrete blocks

Alas! Captured a good “movement” shot

And as far as the best “movement” shots of my grandchildren at Tae Kwon Do….well, that is left to Monterey Bay professional photographer Ricky Cabalza.  Here are his photographs of my grandsons.

Photos by Ricky Cabalza – www.out2focus.com

Photo by Ricky Cabalza – www.out2focus.com

Professional photographers like Ricky Cabalza can coax and capture a fierce look, even from 4 and 7-year-old little guys.

If I had asked my grandsons to pose for something similar to the photo below, they would most likely make goofy faces at me, and probably stick their tongues out as I clicked the camera button.

Photos by Ricky Cabalza – www.out2focus.com

My other weekly photo challenge submissions are “Surfer-in-Training”, and the Philippine transportation method for the theme fleeting moment on the street — the “put-put” on NativeLeaf.info last week, as well as weaving hands on a prior photo challenge theme, also at NativeLeaf.info’s blog section.

Did you know that Tae Kwon Do is the national sport of South Korea?  It is also considered the most popular martial arts based on the number of practitioners world-wide (estimated at over 70 million in 190 countries),  and has been an Olympic event since 2000. 

Severn Cullis-Suzuki Revisits Historic ’92 Speech, Fights for Next Generation’s Survival

From Democracy Now —  a daily, independent global news hour, with Amy Goodman & Juan González:

In 1992, 12-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki became known as “the girl who silenced the world for six minutes” after she addressed delegates in Rio de Janeiro during the summit’s plenary session. We air Cullis-Suzuki’s historic address and speak to her from the Rio+20 summit, which she comes back to now as a veteran international environmental campaigner and mother of two. “Twenty years later, the world is still talking about a speech, a six-minute speech that a 12-year-old gave to world leaders,” Cullis-Suzuki says. “Why? It is because the world is hungry to hear the truth, and it is nowhere articulated as well as from the mouths of those with everything at stake, which is youth.”

“I’m only a child, yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong—in fact, 30 million species strong. And borders and governments will never change that. I’m only a child, yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.  In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid of telling the world how I feel… click here to view the video transcript.

Will your children and grandchildren also inherit your e-books?

Essay from Amanda Katz

…What happens to our books when we die? Many books disappear before we do, of course; they fall apart, or we put them out on the stoop for scavengers. 

…Whenever serious readers die, their heirs face the task of dispersing their books. But few of us like to think about what will happen to our own libraries. Will our children value our books (and will they have shelf space for them)? Will they be bought by a serious research library, or draw bids at Christie’s? Not unless we are famous, or they are first editions. Perhaps they will re-enter circulation at a used bookstore, sold for pennies and resold for a few dollars: it’s pleasant to imagine them released back into the sea of books, to be caught afresh by a new reader.

Link to read essay, here

Rocket scientist Robert Goddard’s Uncle Spud gave him this copy of The War of the Worlds in 1898. More than a hundred years later, it passed into the hands of essayist Amanda Katz

Not crazy for cactus…yet

I’ve planted and grown many plants over the years, but I can remember having only two cactus plants.

One was a gift from my friend, David, who gave me specific instructions to put it in my office, by the computer.  It died about 3 years later.  I am sentimental with gifts, and feel bad that I killed a slow-growing, easy-care plant, that can live for over 100 years.

And then there’s the second cactus, a saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)…which, amazingly, I still have.  This cactus is special to me — even if once in a while I get a poked by its needles — because my daughter planted it from seed.

My 17-year-old saguaro cactus, grown from seed.

Years ago, I went to Phoenix for a business trip.  At the Phoenix airport,  I purchased a package of saguaro seeds as part of my pasalubong items for my daughter.

Saguaro cactus are found in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mexico.  It can grow up to 70 feet, and live for over 150 years.

My cactus is about 17 years old, and just over 14 inches tall.  Talk about slow-growing!  At this stage (without “arms”) it is called a spear.  It will eventually grow an arm, after about 75 years.

So, if I manage not to kill it, and if my grandsons want it, they may see it grow an arm in their lifetime.

When I gave the seed packet to my daughter, she placed the seeds in a little pot with dirt, watered it, and we quickly had about 20 little seedlings.  One particular seedling took charge of the space, and all the other seedlings died.  We did not pick a particular seedling, nor thin them out.  It’s as if they all knew which seedling was boss, and simply died to allow the boss seed to grow in the space.

I’ve re-potted the saguaro just once.  Honestly, I am surprised that it is still alive.  It does have a brownish area in the bottom, so I don’t know how much longer I will have it.  Maybe it is time for a bigger container.

The silhouette of a large saguaro stands at sunset in Saguaro National Park on the east side of Tucson, Arizona. Photo via wikepedia files.

As much as I love  plants, I am not exactly crazy about cactus.

Maybe it’s the needles, and the poke factor.  I don’t like plants that can puncture my skin and make me bleed.  I do make an exception for old fashioned roses, since in return, I get to inhale one of the loveliest scents in existence.

A visit to Jardines de San Juan, a Mexican restaurant located in the historic mission town of San Juan Bautista, California, inspired me to learn more about my saguaro cactus.

The Jardines garden has an abundance of cactus, some of which I photographed using my phone camera.  Many were sporting beautiful flowers.  Below are a few of the shots…

Jardines De San Juan, back patio area June 2012

Learning more about my saguaro has given me a whole new appreciation for cacti, and may get me to bring another in our home.  For now though,  I must first get some heavy-duty gloves and re-pot the one I have.

Which cactus camp are you in….crazy for cactus?  Or…keep those spiky plants away from me!

And if you are curious to know how long cactus seeds keep (or are viable)…check out the comment section on Lolako.com’s “Contact” page, here.   Can you guess?

  • over 20 years?
  • over 200 years?
  • or for over 2,000 years?

Environment tipping point…are we living in an age of irresponsibility?

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently published their 5th Global Environment Outlook – a 525 page report analyzing the world’s environmental situation.

And… it is no surprise that the situation does not look good.  Excerpt from the report by Jenny Barchfield (AP) via SFGate, UN report warns environment at tipping point:

…In a 525-page report on the health of the planet, the agency paints a grim picture: The melting of the polar ice caps, desertification in Africa, deforestation of tropical jungles, spiraling use of chemicals and the emptying out of the world’s seas are just some of myriad environmental catastrophes posing a threat to life as we know it.

“As human pressures on the earth … accelerate, several critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded,” the report says. “Once these have been passed, abrupt and possibly irreversible changes to the life-support functions of the planet are likely to occur, with significant adverse implications for human well-being.”

Such adverse implications include rising sea levels, increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts, and the collapse of fisheries, said the report, which compiles the work of the past three years by a team of 300 researchers.

The bad news doesn’t end there. The report says about 20 percent of vertebrate species are under threat of extinction, coral reefs have declined by 38 percent since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions could double over the next 50 years, and 90 percent of water and fish samples from aquatic environments are contaminated by pesticides.  

I don’t know about other print newspapers, but ours (The Monterey County Herald) had this news on Page 7, on June 7, 2012.

If our home —  the beautiful planet, Earth — is “being pushed towards their biophysical limits”, then this news deserves more attention.

If indeed, catastrophic changes are looming, then should this news be on the FRONT PAGE?

Our home is on the verge of major disaster, and we put the news on page 7???

We do not want to think about this, so do we just ignore this information…to our own peril?

It’s time to wake up everyone.  This is the collective problem of all inhabitants of our fragile planet!

Is it possible to CHANGE the health of our planet and to stop and reverse these distressing environmental trends?

From UNEP executive director Achim Steiner:  “This is an indictment.  We live in an age of irresponsibility that is also testified and documented in this report.

“In 1992 (when the first of the agency’s five reports was released) we talked about the future that was likely to occur. This report 20 years later speaks to the fact that a number of the things that we talked about in the future tense in 1992 have arrived,” Steiner said. “Once the tipping point occurs, you don’t wake up the next morning and say, `This is terrible, can we change it?’ That is the whole essence of these thresholds. We are condemning people to not having the choice anymore.”

Steiner called for immediate action to prevent continued environmental degradation, with its ever-worsening consequences.

“Change is possible,” he said, adding that the report includes an analysis of a host of environmental preservation projects that have worked. “Given what we know, we can move in another direction.”

Here is the newspaper article about the UN report, on page 7 of our  Monterey County Herald.

Are you thinking what I am thinking…is this all there is?  Come on, Monterey Herald!

Does the placement of this article speak to how we all feel about the environmental problems we collectively face?  To bury the already tiny mention, in the middle of the newspaper?

If you care at all about the state of the world we leave behind for our children and grandchildren, then we have no choice but to take responsibility for the problems we have caused, and act now…before we reach the tipping point.

Do you think there should be more coverage about this report?  Who is responsible for addressing these  environmental threats?

Surfer in training

I am starting my week by participating in the Weekly Photo Challenge: Blue — a blogging experiment from The Daily Post at WordPress.com.

If I had to file every single photograph I own under colors, the top 2 colors would be green and blue.  The green file would contain lush green Philippine scenery and nature photos.  A close second would be a “blue” photograph file. The color blue for me, aside from the blue sky, means the ocean.

Santa Cruz, near where we live, recently received international recognition as a World Surfing Reserve.   Santa Cruz joins just 3 other spots in the world — Malibu, California, Manly Beach in Australia and Ericeira in Portugal — for this exclusive list.  Read more from The Blog Aquatic, here.

This surfing news and the color blue challenge reminded me of these photos I took of my grandchildren Jun and Gabriel watching surfers — including their mommy taking surfing lessons — at a beach in Pacifica (close to San Francisco in northern California).

After a good hour of this, then 3-year-old Gabriel, decided that a waterlogged driftwood would make a nice practice “surfboard”.

What do you think?  He looks like a natural to me, but that is just a lola (grandmother) talking…

Purple yam or corn and cheese ice cream…anyone?

Have you eaten Filipino style ice cream?  If not, you are missing out on some of the best tasting and most interesting ice cream available to us, right here in the Bay Area!

Magnolia Brand “UBE” Ice Cream, from www.RamarFoods.com

When we lived in San Francisco years ago, Mitchell’s Ice Cream on San Jose Avenue (at Guererro and the corner of 29th Street) was the “go to” place for tropical ice cream.

These days, it is still the “go to” tropical ice cream place in SF.  It is quite unusual to see a business with over 1000 Yelp reviews, let alone one with over 2,000 reviews. As of this post date,  Mitchell’s Ice Cream has 2,230 reviews (“in English” out of a total of 2,235 reviews).   And they rate consistently 4.5 out of 5 Yelp stars!  Their tropical ice cream menu consist of:

  • Avocado
  • Buko (baby coconut)
  • Coconut Pineapple
  • Ginger (available November through February only)
  • Green Tea
  • Halo-Halo (buko, langka, ube, pineapple, mongo & sweet beans)
  • Langka (also known as jackfruit, a relative of the fig)
  • Lucuma (a tropical fruit native to Peru)
  • Macapuno (sweet coconut)
  • Mango
  • Tropical Four (banana, guava, mango & pineapple)
  • Ube (purple yam)

They note on their website that the most of the fruit imported for their tropical ice cream line is from the Philippines.

My grandsons like the purple, Filipino ube (pronounced “ou-beh”) — the purple yam ice cream, as well as the coconut or macapuno flavors, made from sweetened young coconut meat.

My grandsons Jun and Gabriel love ube ice cream (and licking frosting off beaters, after their Lola makes cake)!

Mais Queso Ice Cream by Magnolia Foods. Photo from www.ramarfoods.com

And my favorite?  It is the uniquely Filipino, ice cream combination of corn and cheese!  Yes indeed, corn and cheese was my favorite as a little kid, and it still is among my favorite ice cream concoctions now that I am a Lola (grandmother) of two beautiful boys.

I don’t see my favorite Filipino ice cream flavor on Mitchell’s current menu. However, it is easy enough to find at most Asian/Filipino stores.

A popular Filipino brand is  “Magnolia” by Ramar Foods.  Magnolia brand ice cream is made here in the U.S, at Ramar’s Pittsburg, California headquarters.  Magnolia’s ice cream fruits are also sourced from the Philippines, for the most authentic flavors.

Ramar’s Magnolia Ice Cream line features 16 flavors, including a “halo-halo” flavor (see previous post) and my all time favorite, corn and cheese — though they call it the Spanish  “mais queso”.

I know it sounds weird — well perhaps not so weird if you are of a Filipino background — but corn and cheese ice cream is really tasty.

The corn pieces give the creamy ice cream added unique texture and flavors…and combined with slightly tart, orange-colored cheese bits…well, you will just have to trust me and try it.

But, I do understand if that sounds truly too strange for you to venture into the land of tropical ice cream.  So instead, you might just try:

  • Avocado ice cream — avocados have long been eaten as a “sweet” in the Philippines, as in avocado icicles, or ice pops, or the iced-avocado, sugar and milk snacks of our childhood.  And now, I am seeing avocado cheesecake recipes in magazines!  So finally, it seems…..Americans are trying avocado beyond its role as a vegetable, in guacamole or as ingredients for a salad and sandwich.
  • The mango, jackfruit or coconut flavors (like buko or macapuno)
  • The delicious ube — or purple yam.  Thanks to this purple yam, you will see a good share of Filipino snack foods in shades of purple .  Ube is used not only in ice cream, but also sold as a preserve (nothing like purple yam jams!) and stuffed in breads and added to many Filipino rice-based desserts.
  • And if you can’t decide and want to be adventurous, try the “halo-halo” ice cream, which translates to “mix-mix” or “to mix”, and where many ingredients are thrown in the ice cream mix (again, see prior post on halo-halo).

Growing up in the Philippines, I remember buying ice cream from the sorbetes man, scooped fresh, from his colorful push cart.

Jingling bells signaled the arrival of the sorbetes man on our street, and we would pop outside to let him know we would like to buy, and dash back inside to get our money, and favorite drinking glass, bowl, or cup, to contain the ice cream.

I can’t remember if there were even ice cream “cones” sold by sorbetes man back then, only that we would buy whatever scoop quantity we wanted and he would scoop it directly into our chosen containers.

Back inside and spoon in hand, we worked fast to eat our quickly melting ice cream.  Fresh ice cream from your favorite mamang sorbetero — the ice cream man — has to be one of the best snacks to eat on a warm, Philippine afternoon.

We did not know it, but back then, this was a very “green” method of getting a snack or treat, no waste of plastic packaging or paper trash to deal with.

Hmmm…I do wonder….can one still buy ice cream this way in the Philippines?

Related: Lola Jane’s Filipino food posts:

  • Burgers…and Bangus?  Why the bangus fish is often thought of as a Philippine national symbol
  • About ginamos & tuyo…and can you bring in your luggage when traveling to the US
  • About Sinangag, and how much I missed rice while in boot camp in the US Air Force
  • Use of Banana Leaves in Filipino food
  • The Ube, and why Filipinos love purple food!

Halo-Halo: Saveur’s Recipe Comix

Is Filipino food going mainstream, finally?  The March, 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine featured a recipe for the quintessential Filipino national dish, the chicken adobo (also noted by Local Nomad).

And earlier this week, Saveur Magazine’s website featured this halo-halo cartoon recipe (as they note, proof that a recipe does not have to be just words on paper).

Halo-Halo translates to “mix-mix” and is a much-loved, icy, Filipino treat, perfect for the hot Philippine climate, especially in the mid-afternoon.  It is also delicious as a dessert.

The artist for this recipe comix is Toronto-based Michael Deforge.

Halo-Halo is available at Goldilocks and other Filipino restaurants in the Bay Area.

In the Monterey Bay, Lola’s Kusina — not THIS Lola — on 265 Reservation Rd, in Marina (831)384-2600 is a good place to get your halo-halo fix.  My grandsons enjoy their halo-halo topped with their ube (purple yam) ice cream.

For a step-by-step (from scratch) halo-halo recipe, please visit Jun Belen’s blog,  http://blog.junbelen.com/2010/10/10/how-to-make-halo-halo/  Jun Belen is a Philippine-born, San Francisco-based professional food and cookbook photographer.         I have been a fan since learning about Jun’s Saveur-nominated blog — a collection of his Filipino recipes with narratives, and his absolutely beautiful photographs.

And if you have a favorite Bay Area halo-halo spot, please comment and share.

Do you think one day, Filipino food will be as common — and as readily available — as Chinese or Thai food here in the U.S.?

Blog Birthday

This month — and March 6th to be specific–  marks LolaKo.com’s 1st year anniversary.

Blog is my garden

So one year later, blogging is still fun.  I have learned much more about topics important to me, and met new friends through the blog.   Highlights for the first year:

Ginamos and Bananas - Photo by Karlhans

A story I posted called “Luggage with a special kind of stinky”, about my mother’s mishap bringing fermented fish (ginamos) from the Philippines to San Francisco turned out to be popular.

And at the same time, it was helpful to those wondering if they can bring dried fish (and ginamos) from the Philippines to the United States…

A story about old school  ironing “Hot iron for your undies” connected a person from France who rented his flat from the same family — and the “Oma” (grandmother) who took such great care of my then baby daughter, Dominique — when we were stationed near the town of Dudeldorf, Germany.

The funny part for me….are people landing on the blog by typing the words lola+undies, who, I imagine, may be very, very disappointed when they find out “Lola” means grandmother in Tagalog (Filipino), not some hottie “Lola” from a European country.  And that the article is about the uber sexy topic of…. IRONING!  Ha, serves them right.

The most popular search term bringing people to this blog last year has been….very oddly….the term “walis ting ting”.  This is all because I mentioned Filipino ting-ting and tambo brooms in an article about how products got their names, including the Procter and Gamble product, the Swiffer!

Though this year, the terms “plastic problem Philippines” and Philippine eagle and Philippine national symbols are quickly catching up.

And though this is not a food blog, I do love cooking for my grandchildren, so I include favorite recipes, now and then.

Two food related posts often visited are:

Whole egg leche flan with coconut milk.…turns out I was not the only person wondering if I really have to separate all those egg yolk and egg whites to make flan!

A story about “Banana leaves and sweets” on suman and puto, after my grandson Jun-Jun bit into a banana leaf and asked if he could eat it.

My penchant for charts and graphs (something I carry over from my past work presenting accident statistics) continues, but this time covering conservation, and human development topics.  I created a new category “Lola’s Pies” for this collection.

As of today, I’ve posted 125 articles, some short, some long.  For me, a blog is about exploring topics I feel are important and having my own little place — in this big but more connected world of ours — to collect, contain and share information important to me, and in the process (I hope) interesting and helpful for others too!

My goals the 2nd year:

As always, thank you for visiting!

San Francisco Arboretum

Males who get pregnant and give birth? Learn more at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

In case you live in the area and have not been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in a while, now is a great time to visit.  With much less crowds, you can relax, take in the beauty of the exhibits, get inspired and take pictures of your favorite creatures with ease.

Also, it is a good opportunity to check out the fascinating exhibit, The Secret Lives of Seahorses, which will be closing in August this year.

I posted an article about seahorses and our visit to the aquarium with our grandsons last year (click here to view).

And yes, there really are  males in the animal kingdom who become pregnant and give birth.  It’s the extraordinary seahorse!

From the Monterey Bay Aquarium on the seahorse exhibit:

Seahorses, sea dragons, pipehorses and pipefishes come in many shapes and sizes, but beneath the surface they’re all fish, with fused jaws and bony plates in place of the scales normally associated with fish.

Perhaps what most distinguishes seahorses from the rest of the animal kingdom is their unique life history—the males become pregnant and give birth. Seahorse fathers shelter their young in protective pouches, while sea dragon and pipefish fathers carry their young on spongy patches on the undersides of their tails.

And on a related topic, I recently learned about blogger Alex Pronove— who returned to the Philippines and now lives in the Palawan area, and writes about “discovering my new island home”.  Check out his informative post on sea dragons (and seahorses) and the supply chain and market here – or click on his photo below.

Photo: Alex Pronove http://retirednoway.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/seadragon-hunter/


Best Buttermilk Pancakes Ever

Since my earlier post was food related, and with the holiday season here, I thought it would be a good time to post my pancake recipe (and really, so I don’t lose the recipe).

It is simple and easy to make — a requirement for a busy Lola — and super delicious.  Here it is…

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk (more if needed to thin batter)
  • 1 cup flour (you can use 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white flour too or add a bit of cornmeal for more texture)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg.  Blend in buttermilk.  Add the remaining 4 ingredients and mix just until batter is smooth — do not over mix.  Blend in vanilla and melted butter.  Adjust if needed with more buttermilk for thinner pancakes.

I like to use a cast iron griddle — we have had this one since living in Germany, and pretty much use it just for making pancakes.

Serve with maple syrup or your favorite syrup — another favorite of ours is olallieberry syrup.

The pancakes are so good, they really don’t need extra butter, but by all means serve with butter if you like more butter with your pancakes.

Note: This recipe is just enough for my two grandsons, so if you have a big family, double the recipe (and as grandsons get bigger, I may have to make 2 batches anyway — boys can eat a LOT of pancakes!).

Taste tested more times than I can remember by grandsons — and expert pancake eaters — Jun-Jun and Gabriel.

And though technically this is not Filipino food, I’m also including it in my Filipino food category, since I have a feeling all lolas (grandmothers)  — no matter their background or nationality — love to make great pancakes for their grandchildren.

I hope you enjoy this pancake recipe as much as we do. Let me know…

Related: From Marion Cunningham’sThe Breakfast Book –  Special and uber delicious Lemon Pancakes

Plastic Rich / Plastic Poor

I am reading Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic, A Toxic Love Story.

The book is comprehensive, and a fascinating read about the history of plastic and products familiar to all of us. It also got me feeling depressed, and then alarmed about the future and the environment my grandchildren will inhabit.

Ms. Freinkel chooses eight objects to help tell the story of plastic:  The comb, the chair, the Frisbee, the IV bag, the disposable lighter, the grocery bag, the soda bottle and the credit card.

She examines how these objects are made, the history, the culture of plastics, and how synthetics affect our health and environment.

There is a comment from a speaker at a plastics manufacturer’s conference in 1956, quoted as saying “Your future is in the garbage wagon”. How true…and it turns out that today, the average American throws away 300 pounds of packaging a year — and this mountain of containers and wrappings accounts for about 1/3 of the municipal waste stream.

Initially, we had to be taught to throw away plastic items — especially after the depression era culture of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”.

But it did not take long for us to absorb the lessons — especially because everyone was becoming more prosperous — at the same time when many disposable products were entering the market.  Life magazine dubbed this (then) new era “Throwaway Living” .

The thing is…in these modern times, the abundance of plastic waste is not exclusive to a wealthy country like the United States.  Plastic waste is also an issue for the poor.

The difference between the Philippines and the US per capita income is huge.  The Philippines is at $2,007 (US Department of State data – 2010) and the US is at $47,084 (World Bank, 2010 data).

So…you would think that when you don’t have the money to spend on disposable utensils and other disposable conveniences, the issue of plastic trash is minimized.

Unfortunately, that is not the case in a country like the Philippines. Because the poor can afford to buy only the bare necessities…these items are packed in very small, plastic packages.  Snack foods too, are packed in tiny packages, and remnants of these tiny packages are often seen at the beach, by the side of the road…well, all over really.

Can you imagine buying only a clove of garlic, as pictured below, from a local market…

or just enough spice, or salt for cooking the day’s family meal?

or to buy detergent and laundry products to wash just a few items of clothing?

I am part of this plastics generation — and problem — and feel propelled into doing something, before it is too late.

The question is…what can I do…how do I get the word out?  Well, here is a part of getting the word out…PLEASE READ THIS TIMELY BOOK.

~Lola Jane

Books – Learning Colors

~ Here are two great books helpful to youngsters who are learning their colors, and will be added to our Favorites Pages.  Four-year old Gabriel really enjoyed the construction of these color books. ~

The Mixed-Up Chameleon – By Eric Carle

Eric Carle has written so many books that most households with children probably has at least one (even outside the U.S., as his most popular book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has been translated into 50 languages).

The Mixed-Up Chameleon is among our favorite Eric Carle book.

The book is about a  chameleon who sees a zoo —- and instead of just blending into different colors like a regular chameleon — he actually turns into the color and parts of the various animals he sees. This results into strange-looking combinations, making the chameleon look even stranger with each new animal and color he encounters.

Constructed with cutaways, each new page reveals a color tab on the right side, and matching color/animal on the left side.  By the end of the book, a rainbow is revealed, with the chameleon returning to his true shape .  One of the best color-learning books that we have come across.

Lemons are not Red – by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

This book is constructed with clever cutouts that work in bright colors and objects as you turn the page.

My grandchildren particularly enjoy these types of books, and they looked forward to turning the pages to reveal the correct object color.   There is minimal text so the focus is on learning colors.

Lemons Are Not Red starts out with yellow pages with a cutout of a red lemon.  When you turn the page, the lemon cutout reveals the previous (yellow) page and is then the correct color.

The pattern repeats with other objects like eggplant, carrots, flamingos, etc.

Book: Artichoke Boy

~ We will add this book to our Favorites Page ~

We live in an area perfect for growing artichokes…so pretty much, if we drive to go anywhere, especially on the way to Tae Kwon Do practice, we see fields with rows upon rows of artichokes.

And so with the boys already familiar with artichokes, it was fun for them to read a book about an artichoke boy and his artichoke-loving family.

The artichokes show up in the pages as ears, eyeballs, hair, knees, and there is even an artichoke bath and an artichoke bed.

But of course, being 4 and 6-year-old boys, the favorite artichoke boy picture page was the when artichoke boy was at the beach — and showed a little of his artichoke derriere.

Seems boys this age laugh out loudly at anything having to do with derrieres, or as they call it, but-buts.

The book is the first written and illustrated by artist Scott Mickelson.  Published by Boyds Mills Press.

Scott is a member of the San Francisco based alternative rock/folk band, Fat Opie, www.FatOpie.com.

Babe The Pig…Vegan Campaign?

My grandchildren are watching the movie “Babe”, a 1995 movie about a cute talking pig.  The farmer wins Babe at a contest, and enters a sheep herding competition (Babe entering the contest in the role of a Border Collie).

The movie is sweet, entertaining and well made.

It is also a movie that makes me feel guilty about eating and enjoying my lechon and other pork dishes (and this after I just posted a story about the piggy….see My Germany and Philippines connection).

There are many talking animals in the movie, including a neurotic little duck named Ferdinand….thank goodness we don’t eat much duck!

The animals differentiate themselves by which animals the human “bosses” eat.

The house cat tells Babe “Pigs don’t have a purpose but to be eaten by humans.”  Which makes Babe realize what happened to his mother, father,  sisters and brothers at the at the farm operation where he was born.

The cat adds “Bosses have to eat…they call it pork, ham, bacon…they only call them pigs when they are alive.”

I remember having discussions about eating meat with my friend Patrick.  His family had a farm in Germany.  His perspective, coming from a farming family was that we raised these animals for the sole purpose of eating them, so in essence, the farm-raised ones at least, would not exist without us.

The movie –and thinking about farm animals and then chickens — also reminded me of my Auntie Terrie.  When I was a teenager in the Philippines, my Auntie Terrie, came to visit and decided to teach me how to cook. She was a good cook and I recall that she had a little turo-turo restaurant (translates to point-point — Philippine fast food style eateries), and at one point ran a factory cafeteria.

She took me to the market, where we purchased a live chicken.  Odd to think about that live chicken in our baskets among other food and produce we purchased.  The chicken was tucked in the space under our seat on the jeepney ride home.

At home, she showed me how to kill the chicken and prepare it for cooking.  To her it was just a matter of fact act, and she was passing this knowledge to me.  And I was OK with this (though I have not had to buy a live chicken to cook since then–thankfully).  I wonder how many of us would actually eat meat if we had to take part in killing the animal that we consume.

So…this blog post goes from discussing the movie “Babe” to the topic of meat-eating.  And oh dear, my conflicted feelings since I love animals (I had a friend who use to call our home Dr. Doolittle’s house at a time when we had 3 dogs and 2 cats, a fish tank and a hamster)….and that also, I like to eat certain animals.

Maybe that is the point and the goal of the movie…..beyond entertainment.  To make you think about this —- and to promote becoming a vegetarian.

I googled “movie Babe about pig, vegetarians” and turns out the actor James Cromwell,  who played farmer Arthur Hoggett, is a vegetarian and active in animal rights.  He was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category for this movie role.

Babe was a box office and critical success when it was released.

Have you seen the movie?  Did it make you have second thoughts about eating meat or did you become a vegetarian as a result?

100% Natural Water

This ad for water caught my attention because of the big letters “Born Better”.  At first I thought it was some sort of new, better for the environment, bottle — especially with all the news about plastic trash (including many plastic water bottles) harming our oceans.

Reading further, I find the ad had nothing to do with the bottle or container, and was about the water itself…which is 100% Natural.

Really?  Water is 100% Natural?

This ad looks so healthy — the white clouds, blue sky, water and green grass.

But we have to be mindful of what is being sold to us here.  That is, that their particular water is “100% Natural” — “Born Better”.

Guess what…water from our faucet is 100% natural too…and if you want to take the extra step to put your water through water filtering systems or pitchers, it is still 100% natural.

If we are sold on a belief that this bottled water is somehow more “natural” or better for us than our tap water, does that make us feel compelled to buy water in a plastic bottle?  Which then results in even more plastic trash in our landfills because few plastic water bottles actually end up being recycled.  Worse, when bottles are not disposed of properly, they may end up being washed out to sea.

We are doing our best to bring our own reusable water bottles with us and to reduce drinking water from plastic bottles.  Sometimes I forget and don’t have a choice but to buy single use, plastic bottled water (and then we recycle!).

If you are as busy as our household is, it is best to have a few reusable water bottles at the ready —- we have several for each family member.

Here are websites to visit if you would like to learn more about the problem of plastic trash in our oceans — and what we can do:

www.oceana.org – plastics problem

And let me know what you think of this ad.

UPDATE: I have posted another water bottle related article, after attending the Bioneers Conference titled “No water bottles for sale? No problem…”  Click here to read.

Nicest Nickname EVER

Our family has a tradition of nicknames…hardly anyone is called by their “given” name.

I have several nicknames for my grandsons too.

Last night, when I told 6-year old Jun I was going to call him something other than his usual nickname, he replied, ” I will call you something else now too, Lola”.

I said….oh….really Jun?  What will you call me?  And he said…… “Beautiful!'”.

His four-year old brother, Gabriel, not to be outdone, said,  “I will call you Beautiful too Lola….and I will call Opa (Grandpa) Beautiful….and I will call Tucker (our dog) Beautiful, and I will call Jun-Jun Beautiful too!

I’m sure Jun — and Gabriel — will forget my new nickname by today, but for the moment….how truly sweet, and the nicest nickname ever from a grandson.

Kate McGeown of BBC News wrote a great article on why Filipinos have unique nicknames — view the next post “Playful” Filipino Names” for more information.

What are nice or fun nicknames you have given to someone — — or given to you?

Beautiful California Central Coast Sunset 2011

Bob Staake’s Look! A Book!

~We are adding this book to our Favorites Page~

Look! A Book! By Bob Staake

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (February 1, 2011), 48 Pages.

My grandsons — especially 6-year-old Jun — are currently into “I Spy” types of books.  The boys really liked this book…and with a subtitle  “A Zany Seek-and-Find Adventure”,  I could see why.

Right from the start, the boys were intrigued by the page style.  It starts out with 3 rhyming word lines and 3 punched holes on the page– that peeks into the next page.

They liked putting their fingers through the holes, then flipping the pages back and forth before settling in to search for the item they were supposed to find.

The pictures were terrific and there were many details — as you would expect — to make the find challenging.  This is the first book we have read by the writer / illustrator Bob Staake, who won a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book award in 2006.

The structure of the book kept 4-year-old Gabriel engaged to the very end…and both boys were disappointed that the book ended.

So it’s a good thing the author included another “finding” exercise at the end!  Which we did not have time for –but was a nice enticement to continue looking again the next day.

I remember when my daughter was a little girl, the “Where’s Waldo” book series were very popular and she had a few of those books—though I don’t remember the Waldo books having the fun rhyming words.

Great rhyming words are always a good feature for beginning readers — so in that sense, (plus the interesting punch through holes) this is a definite improvement from the Where’s Waldo series.