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Monday, July 21, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Proper way to brew loose leaf green tea

I love green tea.  I usually buy the teabag type but when I visited Japan a couple of months back, I bought packs of green tea leaves - some to give away and I left a pack for myself to try.

I forgot all about it until today when I was scanning my cupboard on what I could eat while the power was out - which was useless since I couldn't boil water. :)

Anyway, when the power came back late this afternoon, I thought of brewing some.  The pack I got was green tea with fire-roasted rice.  I put some in the kettle, poured on water and let it boil.

When I tasted it, I thought it was bitter than my usual green tea.  So I quickly googled on how to brew loose green tea leaves and found out everything I did was wrong. Haha... I should have researched before brewing. :)

Anyway, here's how to properly brew loose leaf green tea:

1. Boil water to "first boil" (Please do not put the tea leaves yet when you boil water). "First boil" is literally when the water begins to boil (don't wait for it to start simmering). Bitter brew usually results from too high a temperature - now I know why my tea was bitter.

2. Put green tea leaves into your teapot - a large pinch of leaves per person or 1 tbsp per 16 ounces.   Please use a teapot made from ceramic, clay, china, glass, or stainless steel. Do not use something made from plastic or aluminium.

3. Pour the hot water. 

4.  Let it steep for 3 minutes (if you want a light flavor) or 5 minutes (if you want a robust flavor).  The longer the brewing time, the stronger the taste.  

As for the proper storage of loose leaf tea, store the tea leaves in an airtight, dark container (to prevent the evaporation of its aromatic oils) and put it in a cool spot. Finally, try to consume it within six months since green tea more than 6 months old is no longer considered fresh.

Happy brewing!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Body Clutter: How to read nutritional facts and food labels

When National Bookstore has a warehouse sale, it’s not easy to resist the temptation to hoard books.  Books sell for as low as Php15!

In the last 2 months, I had 4 trips to a warehouse sale and guess how many books I bought? A total of 48 books for only about Php2,800!  The cheapest book I got was Php15 and the most expensive was at Php250.  Some of them are bestsellers and some are lesser known titles but it’s ok.  There’s always something you can learn from a book. J

So for now, my kindle is taking a vacation as I prioritize my stash of physical books.  :) 

Anyway, here’s one book I bought from the warehouse sale to the tune of Php50!  Body Clutter by Marla Cilley and Leanne Ely talks about mindful eating.

Before taking a bite, the book suggests to ask the food you're about to eat the following questions:

Are you going to bless my body?
Do you fit into my healthy way of eating?
Is your taste worthy enough to go into my body?
Why do I want to eat you? 

Of course, the toughest question for me is the 3rd question - Is your taste worthy enough to go into my body? – because for sure, my answer is always YES! Hahahaha….

As for the 4th question, it tries to help you understand if you’re eating because you’re really hungry or it’s just emotional eating e.g. you’re lonely, tired, etc.   And that’s true because sometimes we eat even if we’re not hungry.  In my case, sometimes I eat (even when not hungry) because I know there’s food within arm’s reach (literally! Haha…).  Or sometimes, when colleagues mention a specific food they are craving, I easily get swayed and start craving it too so we end up ordering.  Low EQ.  Haha…

But I really need to work on mindful eating.  And in as much as I love food, I also need to practice portion control and eat like an average girl (Shhhh…).   Even if it’s not obvious that I eat a lot (thanks to my mom’s genes), I still need to start practicing portion control so as not to overwork my organs.  They’ve been working too hard for so long already. Haha…  

Anyway, my greatest takeaway from Body Clutter is learning how to understand the nutritional facts of the products we buy in the supermarket.  Here you go:

1.  Fats.   First of all, we have to remember that we need some fat to help our body digest nutrients.  But before you rejoice and start thinking on binging on a fat source like Crispy Pata, let's look at the 4 kinds of fats:

Saturated fat.  This mainly comes from animals like meat, milk, cheese and eggs, and also from plant oils like palm and coconut oil.  These fats are generally solid at room temperature like lard.  If you eat a lot of saturated fat, your bad cholesterol goes up and you clog your arteries.

Monounsaturated fat.  This comes from plants (olive oil, nuts, avocados) and it’s a good fat (when consumed in moderation).   Monounsaturated fat is good for your arteries and doesn’t increase your bad cholesterol. 

Polyunsaturated fat.  This comes from seafood (omega-3 and omega-6) and from vegetable oils like sesame, sunflower, soybean and corn oil.   There wasn't much discussion about this in the book though.  

Trans-fat or hydrogenated fat.  This started out as a good fat - fat that is liquid at room temperature - but its chemical molecular structure was changed so it becomes solid at room temperature.  This process was done to increase the food’s shelf life and so that it doesn't break down when frying.  This kind of fat has been linked to coronary heart disease and clogged arteries that's why a lot of products highlight this when they don't contain any trans-fat. 

As a rule of thumb, when you’re reading a food label and the level of fat is almost half of its calories (or contains trans-fat), the food may not be a good choice.   The book suggests no more than 30% fat.

The book also reminds us to always check the label for the serving size because usually, the calorie count or calories from fat is per serving (a package usually contains multiple servings).   I am so guilty of this.  I never bother checking on the serving sizes.  I consume whatever I can consume in one seating! Tsk…tsk…

2.  Cholesterol.   Did you know our liver already makes cholesterol and whatever we eat is added to the cholesterol our body is already making?  I just learned about this from the book.  Anyway, the book suggests no more than 300mg of cholesterol per day.  As a peg, the book cites that an egg yolk has 214mg.  Oh no, when I eat my favorite omelette, that’s automatically 2 eggs in just one meal.  Uh-oh….

Cheese string
3.  Sodium or salt.  If we eat too much salt, we start to retain water and get puffy fingers.  The book suggests 2,400mg/day – this means we need to spread  this over all our meals and snacks throughout the day.   To visualize this better, the book cites a string of cheese (please see photo but not sure how a string compares to a slice) has 280mg which is why we can’t eat 8 of them in one seating.   But in reality, if you're a cheese lover, consuming 8 of these is highly probable.

4. Carbohydrates.  We know all the carb sources - pasta, rice, bread, desserts.  In simplest term, it’s food we put into our body that gets converted into sugar.  If the label says that it has 24 grams of carbohydrates, that is the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar!  As a peg, a soft drink has about 40 grams of sugar or about 10 teaspoons. Whoa….  BTW, a teaspoon is 15 calories. 

5.  Fiber grams. Fiber grams reduce the carbs by the same amount because it slows down the absorption rate of the sugar by the body.   For example, if an apple has 24 grams of carbohydrates and 8 grams of fiber, subtract the fiber from carbs and you get the net carbs.  Thus, an apple has 16 net carbs (24 less 8).   See, I didn’t know this before.  All I knew about fiber before is it’s good for our bowel movement.  The book recommends 25grams of fiber/day.           

6.  Proteins.  This is needed to build muscle.  The book cites that adult women need 45 to 50 grams of protein per day.  Not sure though how much meat, fish or nuts is this but if you consumed it in one seating, the book suggests not to over-consume for the rest of your meals.  Which is tough because we eat fish or meat every breakfast, lunch or dinner! Wahaha….


Anyway, I have a long way to learn about nutrition and the food we feed our bodies.  But for now, I’m glad I learned a lot from this book.  Definitely worth more than Php50. J

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Between Heaven and Mirth and the Story of the Feather Pillow

“Between Heaven and Mirth” by Fr James Martin (a Jesuit priest) talks about the value of joy, humor and laughter in the spiritual life. The word “mirth” means joyfulness, glee or laughter. 

The book came about because when Fr. Martin was giving talks about the most influential saints in his life, he noticed that wherever he spoke – whether in schools, conferences, parishes or retreats – what people wanted to hear about the most was the way the saints were joyful people, how they enjoyed lives full of laughter and how their holiness led inevitably to joy.

There are a lot of funny anecdotes about saints in the book – how saints could make jokes at their own expense. I remember reading one about Saint Pope John XXIII. There was a time when he was speaking before an audience and suddenly his microphone went dead. He still kept on speaking even when there was no microphone. Finally, electricity went back and you know what he said to the audience? "Don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything important."  Haha...

Then there was this anecdote about Mother Teresa (this was at a time when Pope John Paul II became known as the pope who canonized the most number of saints). A nun asked Mother Teresa how she can be saint. One would expect that Mother Teresa would give an answer like “live a holy life, serve the poor, or pray frequently,” right? Instead, Mother Teresa laughed and said, “If you want to be saint, die now. The pope is canonizing everyone!”. Haha…

But Fr. Martin also cautions us about knowing where to draw the line – between being playful and offending someone. Playful, self-deprecating jokes may be the safest type of humor because we make fun of ourselves.  But he reminds us to stay away from making hurtful jokes/comments, engaging in gossip or spreading rumors.

Here’s a sermon attributed to St Jean Vianney (a 19th century French parish priest) which illustrates the great impact of gossip and spreading rumors:

A woman confesses to a priest that she has told a malicious lie about another person.

“Well,” says the priest, “here is your penance. Go to the top of your building with a feather pillow, slit it open with a knife, and throw all the feathers in the wind.”

The next week the woman returns to the confessional.

“Did you do what I asked,” says the priest.

“Yes,” she says.

“Now,” he says, “go back and pick up all the feathers.”

“Oh, but I can’t,” she says. “By now they’re everywhere!”

“And so are your lies,” says the priest.

Fr. Martin points out - “malicious humor can spread, with a life of its own, and reaches places you never would have imagined.” The internet and digital communication make this even more dangerous because it’s so easy to post a comment or spread a message.

As a final reminder, Fr. Martin reiterates why malicious humor is not good. Malicious humor fails to respect the dignity of the person… and if done behind a person’s back, it steals, in a sense, the person’s good name without giving the person the chance to defend it.

So the next time we’re tempted to blurt out or post a not-so-nice comment, think about the feather pillow. :)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What I learned from the Richest Man in the World

"What I learned from the Richest Man in the World" by Alan Cohen is a story written in the perspective of a young, ambitious man who got mentored by a successful, rich businessman.  The rich businessman, Mr Everit,  taught the young man important lessons in life.  There's a big revelation at the end of the story but I won't spoil it for you just in case you plan to read it. :) 

Anyway, one of my favorite parts of the book was when the businessman asked the young man to go to a nearby bridge.  The businessman didn't give any other instructions except to go to the bridge.  

When the young man reached the foot of the bridge, the only thing that he saw was a guy fishing.  Nevertheless, he decided to park his car and go down to observe.

The fisherman caught a small trout about seven inches long. He tossed the fish into a beat-up white plastic bucket and cast his line again. Five minutes later he reeled in another trout, considerably larger than the first. He studied the fish for a few moments, shook his head, and cast it back in the stream. 

The young man thought what the fisherman did was strange.  He continued to watch the fisherman for the next 30 minutes and during that time, the fisherman caught several more fishes. Oddly, the fisherman kept all the smaller trout and tossed the bigger ones back into the stream. It made no sense. 

Finally, the young man decided to approach the fisherman to ask.

“How’s it goin’?” the young man asked.

“Fair to middlin’” the fisherman answered in a monotone. “I come down here a couple times a week and fish for some dinner. I usually catch a bunch of trout and cook them up, but I’m still hungry. I’m doing the best I can.”

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?” the young man asked.

“Fire away,” the fisherman answered nonchalantly as he cast his line again.
I’ve been watching you from the bridge for a while, and I notice that you keep the little fish and throw the big ones back into the stream. Why is that?" the young man asked.

“Simple,” the fisherman answered. “I have this frying pan here that’s about 9 inches wide.” Still holding the fishing rod with his right hand, the fisherman leaned over, picked up a small cast-iron skillet, and held it up so I could see. “Only the little fish fit into the pan, so those are the ones I keep.”

The young man couldn't believe the fisherman's reasoning.  Just as when he was about to say to the fisherman, “Then why don’t you . . .",  he heard a police siren and remembered he didn't park properly so he rushed to leave.

After the encounter with the fisherman, he called up Mr Everit.

Mr. Everit asked “So you met the hungry fisherman?

“I sure did. What a weirdo! The guy was wasting his energy on small fish. He’d sure save himself a bunch of work and eat a lot better if he just got a bigger frying pan!”  the young man answered.

“Absolutely correct. Yet he’s no weirder than anyone else who’s hungry for money or anything,”
said Mr. Everit.
“What do you mean?” asked the young man.
“Remember you asked me why you don’t have everything you want, and how to get more?” said Mr Everit.  “Get a bigger frying pan.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” asked the young man.

“The frying pan is your mind. The fish represent your income, or anything you want more of. If you want to increase what you receive, first make a place for it in your mind. Think bigger thoughts; paint grander dreams. You can go to a gold mine with a tiny wheelbarrow or a huge one, and you will come away with as much gold as your container will hold.”  explained Mr. Everit.

Simple story with a great lesson. :)

Anyway, you might be wondering why Mr. Everit is considered the richest man in the world. Here's a conversation between the two men to understand why:

The newspaper did a survey asking highly successful people which came first: happiness or success?” Mr. Everit shared with the young man. “63% said they were successful because they were happy. 37% aid they were happy because they were successful.”

“And which category do you fit into, Mr. Everit?” the young man asked.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Mr Everit answered. “If your happiness depends on success, any little setback will plunge you into upset... People who decide to be happy no matter what the stock market is doing, find all kinds of things to feel successful about-- and attract more.”

Then Mr Everit continued, “I don’t need any more money . . . I have enough.”
The young man asked, "You’re really satisfied with what you have? Don’t you want to get richer?”

“I’m already rich. In fact, I’m the richest man in the world,” Mr Everit replied.

“Oh, come on, now, Mr. Everit, I know you have a few bucks in the bank, but you’re no Bill Gates or Oprah,” said the young man.

Mr. Everit smiled. “Of course I’m no billionaire. If you define riches by money, I’m just an average Joe. But if you consider the immense good in my life, I am loaded. I have a loving wife . . . a fulfilling job . . . friends I laugh with . . . magnificent sunsets . . . inspiring books . . . music that feeds my soul. Sure, I have my challenges, but they help me get stronger. If I start to go into a funk, I remember how blessed I am, and things shift... What more could any man ask for?”
Mr Everit continued to explain “’Enough’ is not a number or condition to be attained. It’s an attitude you cultivate. Most people go to great pains to decide how they will invest their money, but think little about how they are investing their thoughts, which are more crucial. They spend most of their attention on the one thing that went wrong, and overlook the thousand things that went right. They don’t realize that you get more of whatever you focus on.

Beautiful life lessons from the richest man in the world. :)

Personality Quiz: Know your personality type

Do you remember in high school or college, our school guidance counsellors asked us to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) exam to find out our personality traits - are we more extrovert or introvert, sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving?


If you remember your results before and took the quiz years after, you might be surprised that there may have been changes in some of your personality traits.

If you're curious to find out, you can take the online quiz.    It just takes about 12 to 15 minutes to answer all the questions.  At the end of the quiz, you'll get an in-depth analysis of your personality type and also a list of famous people who share the same personality type as you do.  Below is the link to the online quiz.  Have fun!

http://www.16personalities.com

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What are you waiting for?


I recently read "What are you waiting for?" by Kristen Moeller.  It talks about how sometimes we get wake-up calls that trigger us to re-evaluate our lives and live it better.  But slowly after some time, we slip back to status quo until the next wake-up call. 

Moeller calls this spiritual narcolepsy - when we forget who we are, what we are capable of and what is like to deeply, intensely and joyously alive.  She draws learnings from her experience of losing her house from a bush fire and how she was able to bounce back from it. 

But Moeller points out that we don't have to wait for something bigger to happen in our lives, or get another wake up call or wait for perfect conditions to happen.  If this really is our “one wild precious life,” what are we doing about that? she asks.   

Stop waiting, as she puts it, is we go forth anyway. "We go forth into our dreams, hopes, and fears. We live that dream we have tucked away for a rainy day. We take that leap we had always hoped to take even when we don’t know how it will turn out..."

This lesson on how we should stop waiting is best encapsulated by this quote featured in the book:
                  
“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon,
But that we wait so long to begin it.”  - W.M. Lewis

But beyond this core lesson, what actually struck me while reading the book is this story about this man the author met one day in a grocery.  The man at the counter relayed his story: 

Two years ago, I was in a car accident that almost killed me. I spent three months in a hospital in and out of a coma, slowly healing my broken body. I ran a six-figure business which quickly went down the tubes without me at the helm. My wife was distraught, having given up her career while we raised our children and being unable to make enough money to pay our bills. 

After I left the hospital, I still couldn’t return to work, and we fell further and further behind. The bank took my house, and then the repo men showed up and then carted away all our stuff. We now live with our kids—something I would never have considered before. 

I work at a hardware store where I make a third of what I used to make. I miss my life before the accident, and some nights, I toss and turn in disbelief about what we have lost, the changes that have happened and my fear about our future.

At sixty years old, I am not sure if I will ever make it back to where I was before. Some days I wish I could,  and other days, I just plain don’t want to work that hard. 

Living with our kids gives us daily time with my grandkids—whom I almost never saw. Working here at this counter, at a store where I once breezed through the aisles on my way back to my busy life, I get to meet new people everyday. As I pause to say hello, or to help someone find something they need, I can see the pain in some people’s eyes and the joy in others’. Some people stop for a chat and others rush by. For me, everything has slowed down—and sometimes, I thank God for the accident and a second chance at life.


Beautiful realizations from a heart-tugging story.  :)  

Yummy combination: Cheese and honey

If you're a fan of the sweet and salty combination, you may want to try cheese with honey. Just dip the cheese in honey and that's it.   Super yum!

We were so curious to taste it in the office after one of my colleagues told us about the combination. So I got honey from my fridge, bought ordinary cheese from a nearby MiniStop and opened a bottle of wine we got last Christmas. Instant wine and cheese in the office. Haha...  


Where to have dessert at SM Aura: Todd English Food Hall

We wanted to try lunch at the Todd English and we were trying to book 4 days in advance but their weekends are just packed.  But we were able to drop by for dessert. Among the desserts we tried,  I liked their OMG cake the best.  It's like a lava cake with ice cream topping.  It's one of the richest chocolate cakes I have ever tasted.  Yum!


What to do when your Yahoo mail is hacked

My brother's yahoo email account was hacked shortly after coming from an overseas trip.  The usual emergency email asking for money was sent to his email contacts and as soon as some of us got the overly dramatic message, he was alerted and his password was immediately changed.

However, after the email account was hacked, there were still some unusual occurrences even after the password change:
- the yahoo account is able send out emails but the sent folder remains empty
- when contacts reply to the emails, the replies are never received
- since the time the account was hacked, the account stopped receiving new email messages in the inbox
- there were a few mails which got through but the new messages directly went to the trash folder

Anyway, I researched about it and it took me more than an hour to fix the account.  Apparently, hackers usually do several things to your account.
- they auto-forward messages to another email address (They create a new email address which closely resembles your existing email address.  In my brother's case, they created a hotmail version of his username.)
- they use the newly-created email as a "reply to" address so when your recipients reply to your email, it goes to their email address.  But your contacts won't find it suspicious because the email address is similar to your original one.
- they uncheck the option to save "sent" messages that's why your sent folder remains empty even if you keep on sending out messages
- they create an invisible filter so the few new messages that get through are filtered and thus, directly go to the trash folder

So when your yahoo mail account is hacked, it takes more than just resetting your password.  Sharing with you the most useful link I found on how to deal with a hacked yahoo mail account. This one has screenshots so you can easily follow the instructions.  The screenshot on uncovering the invisible filters is very helpful.

http://the-it-wonders.blogspot.com/2014/03/yahoo-emailsmails-going-to-trash-yahoo.html