Palates from another planet

When it comes to my 4 and 6 year old grandsons’ food preferences and their palates,  I sometimes suspect they are from another planet.  I’m kidding of course, but would most kids like and eat a dinner comprised of fish sauteed with capers and garlic, wilted spinach and couscous?

Kid Favorite? Fish with capers & garlic, spinach on couscous – Yums!?

When I made this, 6 year old Jun took a bite, closed his eyes and stated, THIS IS SOOOOO GOOD, Lola!  Ummmmm, ummmmm!  Well, as you can imagine, hearing this and seeing the expression on his face —- makes any cook, especially this Lola, so HAPPY.  It was as if the taste was so terrific that he had to close his eyes to take it all in.

Mind you, Jun is not the expressive type (not yet anyway), so for him to have this reaction was great.  Gabriel followed suit with thumbs up, and Lola was a happy cook.

And the funny thing is that this is one of the easiest meals I make, uses only two pans –and the last thing you would think a 4 and 6 year old would love.   Come on, what is easier than making couscous—5 minutes and surprisingly high in fiber by the way— and quicker than cooking fish and spinach (I use the same pan to cook the fish and wilt the spinach).

Prior to Jun and Gabriel visiting my sister over the Christmas holidays, she called to ask if there are any special foods she should get for them.  I asked their Grandpa (whom they call Opa)—and he said, “not that I can think of, and oh tell her, whatever you think kids would NOT like, they like”.  This is true!

Photo of Bok Choy from Luigi Diamanti, www.freedigital

Often, kids hate vegetables — they don’t.

Months ago my neighbor gave me a big bag of broccoli — oh no I thought, how am I ever going to cook all this?  Well, Jun and Gabriel practically fought over the broccoli.  When we make asparagus — it is more! more!

And another odd one, Bok Choy…they just LOVE this vegetable, especially in the pot sticker soup we make, or when in the Filipino sour soup dish called sinigang.

When Gabriel is in a salad mood, be ready to refill his plate and expect him to say “more salad please Lola!”  The other night Gabriel proclaimed – “more veggies please Opa!” (it was a leftover saute of cabbage, green beans and carrots).

These guys love eating fruits. Bananas, kiwis, clementines, melons, and especially mangoes and pineapples…to the point that the fruit acids have made their mouth red and itchy (especially with eating too much fresh pineapple!).

Here are Lola’s shopping bags after coming back from the store with not one but TWO pineapples.

Of course they love their candy, ice cream, cookies and all the other goodies we all like, but in general, they are not fussy eaters at all.

Maybe it is a phase (a long phase) and the next time I make this fish dish or offer up a plate of asparagus they turn their heads and exclaim BLLCCCCHHH!  Well, at least then I will know for certain they are children from THIS home planet of ours after all…

But for now, Lola is quite happy to cook and shop for veggies and fruits for these good little eaters.

Jun and Gabs cleaning up frosting after Lola Jane makes cake.

Hot Iron for your Undies?

Photo of New Iron by vichie81,

My friend Rachel recently returned from visiting her family in England.  She told me that her mother still sets time aside for ironing, including pillow cases, sheets and even underwear.

While there, Rachel told her mother —  to her mother’s surprise — that she no longer irons.

Rachel is a busy wife and mom to 3 boys— one is still a baby.

The topic of ironing reminded me of when I was stationed in Germany and of our loving babysitter, Oma (Grandma) Adelaide Lonien.

Baby Dominique in one of her german outfits, probably ironed by her Oma Adelaide

Any clothing that baby Dominique soiled while at Oma’s house got washed and IRONED.  Mind you, these clothes were for a BABY, whose wardrobe consisted mostly of SLEEPERS, and well…who SLEPT a whole lot.

Don’t get me wrong, I so appreciated getting the clean pile of uber-soft, perfectly folded, smoothly ironed baby sleepers when I picked up Dominique.

At the same time though, the thought of baby sleepers being ironed always made me laugh because I found it so unnecessary.

I suppose that it is a gesture of love and pride from certain people —- you want your family to look good right?

So perhaps the same thing with the ironing habits of my friend Rachel’s mom…but the ironing underwear part?    Well, OK, if you were modeling for Victoria’s Secret, you would not want wrinkly undies.  Not a good look on the runway.

I used to iron more than I do now…my favorite clothing to wear are linens and cottons, so it is a requirement really.  Lately though, my favorite linen shirts have been missing in action, in a basket piled with items to iron.  Lola is just too busy — after all, in addition to other tasks, I have a blog to maintain now!

My younger sister —who hardly irons anymore and is also in favor of wrinkle free clothing– recently uttered a saying in tagalog I have not heard in ages. Hahabulin ka nang plantsa! One says this when a person –usually a close friend or a much-loved relative— is wearing something so obviously in need of ironing.

It translates to something like:  The iron is going to chase you! I don’t think I have heard an English version of this (let me know if you have), so I wonder if Filipinos are just more wrinkle-phobic.

Old iron – photo courtesy of Leonardo Roque

And talk about old school ironing…when we were little in the Philippines and living in the province with our Nanay Lucing, ironing was a major and hazardous undertaking.  Here is a photo of an iron from that looks just like the one we had.

As you can see, there is no electric plug. And it is called an iron…because its made of IRON.  In order to use this contraption, you must first make a fire to have charcoal.  You then load the iron with glowing hot charcoal and lock the lever on top shut.

Old Iron on Banana Leaves, photo courtesy of

One must plan this out as you would iron first the items that were thick and can take the “high heat” setting — actually make that the “hot as hell” setting.  And be super careful lest you scorch –no, actually BRAND yourself (forever)  if you accidentally let any part of the iron touch your skin.

I was too little to help in this chore thankfully, so my older sister and cousin had this responsibility. There was always a pile of fresh, cool banana leaves as a place to set the iron. Then too, there was the starch…oh my goodness.  Nice to have that stiff cardboard look!

The part of collecting the banana leaves —well, the smaller girls were allowed to do.  And we hung around to watch if anyone got burned, and to smell the banana leaves.  Scorched banana leaves always did smell so good to us, because banana leaves are used in Filipino desserts.

With all the new wash and wear, and “wrinkle-free” type textiles in these modern times and our busy lives, who really irons anymore?  Is this a generational thing and do you still iron — and what do you iron?

Lola Jane

Related Germany post:

McDonald’s Advertising in Tagalish (Tagalog + English)

I picked up a Philippine Newspaper (U.S. published) and saw this full-page ad from McDonald’s.   The ad features a hamburger, then 4 lines of text containing Filipino (Tagalog) and English words….Tagalish?

It is safe to say that almost all Filipinos speak English.  It is taught in school and is part of the language spoken in government, the media, the arts, etc.

Having been a colony of the United States after the Spanish-American War, American English is permanently embedded in the culture and language.

What is interesting to me in this ad is combining the two languages…is this done in other markets?

I understand ads in a specific language to target the demographic, but a combination in English?

When you see an ad for McDonalds, say in Spanish, do they just use Spanish text, or a sort of Spanglish like in this ad?

Perhaps this is how the Filipino language is now morphing or  spoken in the U.S.— this sort of Tagalish, or how the next generation is speaking Tagalog.

Is the ad saying LOOK, WE SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE (well actually, it is saying, we speak some of it and sort of).   After all, they do spend loads of money researching this stuff prior to doing ad campaigns right?

Here is the rest of the ad.  Curious on how they decided which words to use in English (buns, pure beef patties, everlasting joy).  Let me know what you think…

(Click here for a new post on this topic)

A Dog Named Tagpi…and how we name our pets

I knew a couple, an American man and a Filipina who adopted an adorable little dog.  He said, “you name him —- but please, name him anything but Spot.”  And so she named him Tagpi.

Great!  Except Tagpi is pretty close to translating the English dog name Spot to Filipino / Tagalog, though its literal translation is more of a word for Patch (as in to patch / cover breaks or tears).

His pronunciation for the name was a funny sounding Tag-Pee.  It is pronounced more like Tug-pee.

It is interesting what people name their pets.  The names of our last 3 dogs are also names of people—is this pet naming practice of people names more common now than say, 25 years ago?

Our dog now is a sweetheart Australian Shepherd (though also on the crazy side like most Aussies) — and his name is Tucker.

Baby Juns with Tucker

Our other dogs (now passed though still remembered often) were Sara, a lovable “little” 100 lb Newfoundland,  and Jake,  a gentle and handsome black lab-mix adopted from the animal shelter.

Gentle Jake and Little Sara

And remembering even further back with the dogs we had during our childhood in the Philippines, we had Angel (a ferociously loyal German Sheppard mix) and her all white puppy, who we named Devil.  We also had dogs named Peso and Dollar.

Grandson Jun’s teacher talked about antonyms / opposites during my classroom volunteer time yesterday.  Did we think we had to follow an antonym rule upon naming our pets back then?  Maybe that is what got me thinking of this topic…

How about your family’s pet names?  People names or other?

Ricky Cabalza, Photographer

My friend Ricky Cabalza is a photographer in the Monterey Bay Area.  He specializes in artful wedding, portrait, and fashion photography.  Click on the photo below or this link to his website.

~Lola Jane

Artful Photography

Japan Disaster: Radiation Risk in California?

Some nations neighboring Japan including the Philippines, are now inspecting food imported from Japan for radiation.  I did not give this immediate thought locally —-  we are 5,000 miles away after all.

But as usual, we are all connected.  Buried in the back of my newspaper is an article titled “California’s radiation risk small”. It stated that the threat to the public in U.S. territories is very low at this time.

However, the same article also mentions how “under the right conditions, recent research has shown tiny particles can —and regularly do— drift from Asia to the U.S.”  Further, “dust from sandstorms in China’s Gobi Desert has been found in California, and so has mercury burned in coal in Chinese power plants, as tiny particles drifted across the ocean, raining down in small amounts into San Francisco Bay”.

Some Bay Area residents are reportedly buying out potassium iodide tablets, which blocks the uptake of radioactive material to thyroid glands.

Read more of the article by Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News. What is also interesting are the comments to the article.  We don’t want to over react of course –but let us hope the state health officials will keep transparent any information we should be aware of.

Tsunami – 5,000 miles later

Yesterday morning Pacific Standard Time, and 5,000 miles later, the effects of the Tsunami originating in Japan continued to cause havoc.  Picture below from a harbor in California where 60 boats were sunk or damaged.  Had it been high tide, the results could have been much worse.

Photo of sailboats crashing against each other Friday morning from (DAN COYRO/Santa Cruz Sentinel)


Called sister again this morning…. no answer.  More worried, I make another call and spoke to my Brother-in-law’s co-worker.

My brother-in-law was on the way to Sulawesi, and en route got stranded in Japan.  He is safe, and so is my my sister, who it turns out was working in Haiti and going (to Indonesia) next week.  Lesson?  Communicate with your family members more often!  How can I let days go by without knowing where she is….

Ingat everyone….

Lola Jane


I woke up last night and heard about the horrific earthquakes and tsunami in Northern Japan.  The broadcast warned of other neighboring areas at risk, like the Philippines (being an archipelago nation of many islands, millions of people live on the coast) and I specifically heard mention of Sulawesi in Indonesia.    Half asleep, I remembered that my younger sister and her husband were supposed to be going to Sulawesi soon —  oh no, I could not remember when, are they there?  Why didn’t I talk to my sister this week!!!  I remember calling her yesterday and going straight to voice mail…did they leave???

Then the familiar and loud tone of the emergency broadcast system comes on with a Tsunami warning for the U.S. Western coast for the morning — including our county here in California.  Japan is over 5,000 miles away from us, and an earthquake there now affects our coast line.

At around 8:00 AM, the harbor nearest to us went from a quite, glassy stage to what looked like a river when water was pulling away.  The tide was supposed to be moving OUT, yet water was surging in.  This from a disaster 5,000 miles away.


Where’s the Rice?

So this rice field topic made me think about rice in general.  I don’t know anyone —at least not yet — who does not like rice.

The first time I remember that I actually missed eating rice was during Air Force training boot camp in San Antonio, Texas.  Because of the stress of boot camp, I think it was not until after a week when I thought, wow, I have not eaten rice all week!  Up to that point, and having lived in the Philippines all my life –and even after moving to the U.S., we ate rice EVERYDAY.  Sometimes for breakfast (there is a Filipino simple breakfast staple of Sinangag, leftover rice fried with garlic), and most definitely rice is served during lunch and dinner.

There are probably many hundreds of varieties of rice in the world.  I know there are red varieties, brown, purple, long, short, sticky types for deserts, but at that time, all I wanted was a plate of warm, pure white, fluffy rice.  Somehow meals did not seem complete without rice.

Eventually the chow hall did serve up rice—the parboiled, reconstituted type that we normally do not eat.  But for the moment I was so happy, ahhhh, RICE! And I felt ready to run and do whatever we had to do that day.

Having lived in the US for a long time now, we eat a variety of foods.  But still, I cannot go a week without eating rice —actually make that just a few days without rice.

Not quite sure how to make Filipino style garlic fried rice?  Here is a great website with a step by step recipe for cooking sinangag: Photo below courtesy of

Sinangag – Filipino Breakfast Staple of Garlic Fried Rice

If you are accustomed to regularly eating rice, please comment and tell us about a time and your experience when you did NOT eat rice….

champorado Filipino style

Champorado – chocolate rice porridge

And check out Lola Jane’s Filipino Food posts:

Hello World Indeed!


Well, hello to life on the Internet world at least.  It’s a little scary to do this and get on the blogitty blog highway, but here I go anyway!

Memories of growing up in the Philippines, with one foot in that culture and  the other in the United States, and creating a record for my American grandchildren are some of  the reasons why I decided to blog.  I’m sure more—topics and reasons that is—will spill out, and I hope that will be a fun process.

Newly planted blog, so here is a picture of a newly planted rice field.  I think rice fields, in all stages, are beautiful and I will post more on this next time.

Ingat palagi,

Lola Jane