Prayer Exchange

Before going into grad school, I used to be a Sunday School teacher and Bible Study leader. Once a week, I had devoted myself to attending and sometimes leading Bible Study groups, involving young adults like myself in the study and meditation of God’s word. On Sundays, I was also a Sunday School teacher for the youth of our church (and briefly, for the kids’ church), a task which I later realized would prepare me in handling my college students.

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With students for the TRUE LOVE WAITS seminar-workshop, circa 2006

During those years (my twenties), I had unknowingly amassed a variety of manuals, journals, study guides and teaching instruments, many of which stayed in storage the minute I had enrolled in graduate school. I only recently took notice of them again, realizing that the potential of these materials to bless others had once again been put to waste during their years of storage….but not anymore.

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My last stint as Sunday school teacher was in 2011, and that time, it was for the cutest little kids.

Enter my Milk Tea Exchange Project. Day 2 of my project involved the new pastor of our church, as I felt so strongly that he, or the youth or young adults in our church would find an entire bag of Bible study and teaching materials useful. Right after service, I made the “surprise” exchange, expecting nothing in return, not even my “milk tea” (He was not aware of the project and its “rules”.)

For my exchange, I was pleasantly rewarded with an immediate moment of prayer, an item which I feel holds much more value than the books and materials I was more than willing to part with.

Cheers to Day 2 of the Milk Tea Exchange Project!

The Milk Tea Exchange Project

After a decade of teaching (which includes seven years of grad school), I was finally able to find huge chunks of time to sort and clean out my piles of books, readings, teaching materials, cds, and other personal paraphernalia. Although I often try to do a regular semestral purge, the past few days have truly been an eye-opener for me: purging is emotional. Posessions, no matter how insignificant-looking, often hold emotional value. We keep some possessions for the memory of days gone by, we keep some for fear of needing them later, and some we keep just to fill a physical void.

In one day of uncluttering alone, I was able to haul out four medium-sized plastic bags filled with stuff I didn’t need—useless trash. In that single day, I also realized I owned (and kept in eternal useless storage) a lot of books and materials that were still in mint condition, but better off given to someone who would actually use them. I felt guilty realizing that all those years, I kept these things to myself, just putting them in storage when someone else could’ve been blessed by reading them, by using them, or by sharing them. I didn’ want to throw these things away now that I needed space for uncluttering. Nor did I want to include them in a garage sale our family holds every few years. I figured, finding a good home for my very useful, but often neglected possessions would be a good opportunity to reconnect with my friends and to bless them as well.

Hence, I unofficially launched the Milk Tea Exchange Project.

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Milk Tea Exchange with Ate Miles and Sam

The rules are simple: I’m giving away books, cds, trinkets, and other still-useful paraphernalia. If interested, let me know which genres (or types of trinkets) you need and I will try to find some for you. Then, we decide where and when you can meet me for an exchange: a cup of matcha red bean milk tea for the bag of books/cds/toys-trinkets (or a combination thereof) that I will give you. The bonus: hours of catching up.

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Sam

Why milk tea? Because milk tea is less expensive than specialty coffee, and because milk tea sounds much more casual than coffee is. By doing a simple exchange, I hope to be able to lessen my stash of unused belongings, bless a friend, and spend time building relationships. Since I started announcing my project, I’ve repackaged six recyclable bags (to give away to six different groups and individuals) and tonight was my first successful Milk Tea Exchange. I haven’t been able to spend quality time with Ate Miles and her daughter Sam in months, and today was just the perfect opportunity to give her a book for a collection I know she is still trying to complete.

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Bags packed for future exchanges.

In spite of the torrential late afternoon rain, we huddled together in a quiet tea shop and spent hours talking, laughing, and catching up. Ate Miles got her Left Behind book for her collection (and then some), and I got my milk tea with a bonus of pepper tofu and a special chauffer-driven ride back home! That was just beyond what I imagined my Milk Tea Exchange to be.

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Photos courtesy of Ate Miles

Next Saturday, I already have another Milk Tea Exchange scheduled! It will be a different adventure. I just hope that my exchanges will bless my friends, and that the things I have kept in storage for so long will finally be put to good use.

Whole wheat, brown rice burrito

Who doesn’t love burritos? They are made with the best spices, filled with savory beef, drizzled with sauces and cheese, and are so easy to pack for lunch or for a picnic. But burritos made in commercial establishments usually are also filled with bad carbs, sugary sauces, and very little vegetables. The solution: make my own.

Ingredients:

Whole wheat tortillas, 6 12-inch pieces
1/2 kilo lean ground beef
Tomato sauce
Cooked brown rice, three cups
Onions, garlic, and tomatoes
Spices
Hummus
Green pepper, diced
Lettuce or arugula
Vintage cheddar

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Healthy, brown rice, whole wheat burrito.

Procedure:

Saute beef in onions and grlic. Season to taste. Set aside.
Saute brown rice in onions and garlic. Add brown rice, then add tomato sauce enough to coat the rice but not make it soggy. Simmer and set aside.

Chop onions and tomatoes, and gren pepper. Arrange them in a serving platter with compartments.
Wash lettuce and cut cheese into thin strips. Set aside on a platter.

Begin assembling your burrito by laying 2 leaves of lettuce on a tortilla wrapper. Pile on 3-5 tablespoons tomato-rice, then add 2-3 tablespoons sauteed ground beef. Top with onions, tomatoes, peppers, hummus, and cheese. Roll halfway from one end, making sure that you fold the edges inward after half a roll. Continue rolling until burrito is snug as a bug. Bake for 5 minutes on low, then slice diagonally.

Enjoy!

The Ultimate Guide to Bike Safety

I remember the day I first took my sparkly pink bike for an errand. I had to brave the congested roads, riding beside trucks, and crossing intersections. It was terrifying. Seven months later, I feel much more confident on road, but I’m still learning. Here’s a good cheat sheet for road sharing, especially in the Philippines, where bikes and bikers are still considered 2nd class “motorists” on the road.

Be safe!

Healthy, Sugar-Free, Low-Carb, Flourless Brownies!

Disclaimer: If you’re not a health nut, this is not for you. If you are not into dark chocolate, then close your browser window. If you’re looking for a real sweet indulgence, then go elsewhere. This brownie is the kind of compromise I am most happy to do: I get my chocolate fix, nuts to munch on, without the nutrient-deficient carbs and unhealthy processed sugar.

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One bite is enough to satisfy me!

But really, these brownies are the best healthy indulgence I’ve made in weeks! Aside from my caveman bars, which were no-bake, this brownie recipe is the brownie recipe for those on a sugar-free diet, but who still want to chew on chocolatey stuff. I would personally add more dates next time, maybe half a cup more, and I’ll find a way to make the brownie a bit more gooey…maybe some applesauce for my next recipe will help? Any suggestions?

Nonetheless, I was surprised at how easy this recipe was…too easy that I had to double check for more steps after I had pulsed in the eggs and oil. That was it? Yup. Too easy. 20 minutes later, my brownies were cooling on the dining table as mom and I were making sushi, maki, and temaki. Wonderful.

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Mom and I were making dinner while the brownies were cooling. The recipe is that easy.

Here’s the recipe. Note, though, that I used baking powder instead of baking soda, and I used unsweetened cocoa powder instead of baking cocoa. I also used cashews instead of walnuts.

Have fun!

Beauty, Self-Acceptance, and Colbie Caillat’s “Try”

I’ve always loved Colbie Calliat and her songs. Her voice sounds so cheerful and positive, and the lyrics of her songs are often about living life simply, or about women being free to  express themselves. Although many of her songs still talk about love (sometimes unrequited), the overall vibe of her music is light, positive, and the type one would want to bring along to the beach or on a vacation. And if you’re like me, I wish everyday were a cheerful beach vacation.

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One of her album covers

When I watched this video, though, I found more respect for her, because this song is so empowering in itself…and the video, oh, it just beats so close to my alopecia-heart (see 1:31). Sure, the video was created to promote her new song, Try, but how many celebrities would dare to really take off their makeup and their hair extensions, and shoot a “naked” no make-up and limp hair video like the one you see here?

And the way that she used women of all ages, all sizes, all colors, all hair types—-all of them beautiful—-just makes my heart swell.

We are all beautiful beyond the standards of beauty we often hold ourselves up to. Just like the song says, “You don’t have to try so hard so they like you.” Do you like YOU?

I do.

Job Opening: Lifetime Partner


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A well-educated, cultured, and highly spiritual woman from the Philippines is now accepting applications for Lifetime Partner.

Qualifications must include: High EQ and IQ; kindness, compassion, and leadership skills; a love of nature, the outdoors, the beach, and lots of sunshine (or must at least be willing to suffer it). Must love reading literature and must enjoy playing geeky tabletop and party games with the woman’s equally geeky and quirky, but very lovable family. Must be willing to love and be loved immensely. Must have a high level of optimism, be a tough decision-maker, and must want to rear-up God-loving, God-fearing kids. No experience preferred.

Applicants who know their way around the kitchen and can whip up a mean pesto sauce or a batch of whole wheat pancakes will be given preference. Plus points also for applicants who can sport a higher degree without it getting into their heads, for applicants who are engaged in a healthy and active lifestyle, and most especially for applicants who display a sense of humility with regard to the Bible and spiritual understanding.

Compensation package includes: a woman who enjoys language and books and nature and gallivanting; a huge extended family; opportunities to expand ministries through church and missions involvement; intelligent debates over tea and yogurt concoctions, and evenings over wine and cheese. Cuddling and hugging are sure rewards for extended hours of service. Bonus movie and karaoke nights will also be awarded on occasion. Profit (and loss) sharing is to be expected as well. Expect long-term professional and personal development through decades of partnership and change, occasional arguments included.

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This opening is for a permanent position as sole lifetime partner. Applicants must consider that upon hiring, vacation leaves and resignation will not be allowed. Interested applicants should send their letter of intent along with a comprehensive resume that includes three character references. Short term applicants need not apply.

If shortlisted, applicants will go through a rigorous interview and internship process. Panel members for the interview will include the woman’s father, her brothers, and her mother. Applications are open until further notice.

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(Was joking around with my friend, Jackie (Jek), today. We were talking about my being single, and still waiting for the right person as I also continue to develop myself as the right person. If a lifetime partner were an actual job position (and it is, isn’t it?), this would be the ad I would post for the position that will be filled-in. We fill-in important organizational┬ápositions by filtering through a myriad of applicants. It makes sense that we also filter through applicants for the position of a lifetime partner. Jek, here’s the ad we were discussing! Hehehe. -S)

What is Beauty?

Standards of beauty are cultural, subjective, and, if I recall a scientific study I had read a while back, the universal standard is in fact a composite, a balance of the features we generally find pleasing in people. Noses have to be a certain height, eyes a certain size and color (with or without eyelid folds), skin color has to be (usually) light and blemish-free, hair long and shiny, legs without dimpled skin, a small hip-to-waist ratio, etc, etc, etc.

I find that looking at magazines, at media, at the world’s composite standard of beauty, it is impossible to be beautiful. There is always a flaw somewhere, a chink, something that makes us “less-beautiful” based on our self-imposed human standards. We have become too critical of ourselves and thus, we fail to appreciate the innate natural beauty that we have.

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Isn't acceptance the beginning of becoming beautiful?

This project of one journalist is proof that beauty means different things to different people, despite standards.

And yes, I am beautiful, as you also are. I decided a long time ago that I was beautiful. I am beautiful. With hair, without hair, over 130 pounds, or under 130 pounds, with a tan, without a tan, with red lips, or in pink lipstick, in a dress, in a bikini, or in pants; I am beautiful.

And for this, I quote Isabel Allende:

” I decided I was beautiful for the simple reason that I wanted to be.” -Eva Luna

The 1st Generation iPod Shuffle

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Given as a Christmas gift, circa 2005

It’s clean-up season for me and during the course of my hauling out odds and ends, this shows up: my old, well-loved iPod Shuffle. It brings warm memories of that Christmas when I excitedly held a small box, half-hoping yet not expecting that it was what I wanted; it was! I was in such a hurry to get back to my computer that evening and load up my new toy with music from my playlists…oh joy!

It’s quite bizaare to think that was almost a decade ago now, and the Shuffle has morphed and re-morphed into various new designs with larger memory capacity, and with a million dupes to the iconic mp3/music player of the early 2000s.

My shuffle is now long retired but the happy music memories remain. Grateful. So grateful.