One-Dish Dinners: Doable, Delicious Paella

I wouldn’t exchange my childhood in the Philippines for anything. The whole family sat down to supper just about every night: my grandparents, mom, dad, and my two brothers. But every Sunday, all my mother’s brothers and their families would arrive in the afternoon and stay till late into the night. Those suppers were extra special. Sunday suppers meant not just fiesta-worthy food (and lots of it!); they also meant hide-and-seek or capture-the-flag games that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Yes, Monday was a school day, but we didn’t care. We would have played until the sun came up if the grownups let us. (They sometimes did.) Continue reading One-Dish Dinners: Doable, Delicious Paella

Lessons Learned

It’s been seven weeks since the fire and while progress has been made, some things are stuck at a standstill. We finally got the go-signal to begin demolition and cleanup, after weeks of failed attempts to figure out the cause of the fire. It will be a relief to drive up to the property without having to see the pile of rubble. The recent severe weather here, however, has pushed back our demolition plans. I am both eager to get it done and dreading it. But I continue to remind myself that every day is one day closer to being back home again.

The fire has taught us many things. Valuable things, both practical and life-changing. We have learned volumes about the depth of love that exists in friendship, the kindness of strangers, and how easy it is to make that leap from stranger to friend. Many people have told us how strong we are, how resilient. But we can’t take credit for that. What we are inside, we owe to our faith, and where we fall short, the people around us—both far and near—bolster us up, lifting us higher than we can stand on our own. Continue reading Lessons Learned

Biko (Filipino Sweet Sticky Rice)

Biko is my all-time favorite Filipino dessert or merienda (snack) item. It uses only 4 ingredients—which, in a pinch, can even be cut down to 3—and is so simple to make and requires no special tools or pans, which makes it an easy endeavor for someone who doesn’t yet have a properly-equipped kitchen.

Last week, I wanted to make something sweet for my son Tim. His favorite: cookies. Then I looked at my favorite recipe and realized that I needed to get every single item in the ingredient list. Chocolate chips. Vanilla. Flour. Butter. Sugar. Eggs. Nuts. A whisk. A mixing bowl. Cookie sheets. Maybe a cookie scoop too, since there is this strange pain in the fingers of my right hand that could use the help. Continue reading Biko (Filipino Sweet Sticky Rice)


Happiness is having a loaner camera and lens to use, which makes it possible for me to share this short photo list with you.

It’s realizing I sent the photo above, along with the rest of her wedding pictures, to a bride in record time—a mere 3 weeks after her wedding, and only a few days before the fire took all my image files. Continue reading Happiness


It’s been less than two weeks since the fire, but it feels much longer. Our days are spent trying to take care of the most important tasks, like replacing our identification documents, purchasing the essentials, and coordinating with our insurance agent and the State Farm adjuster so that we can continue moving forward. They gave us a few addresses to check out, places we could move into for the 10-12 months it might take to rebuild our house. Continue reading Thankful


This is a post about loss and riches. About tears despite immense gratitude. And about the kind of love for neighbor that binds us all together.

But first, let me tell you a story of how four little girls made a grown woman cry. It was two days after the fire, and Tom and I were on the way to the house—or what’s left of our house—to pick up our mail. On our way there, we passed our neighbor’s house, and his daughters had a cute little lemonade stand in front of their house. Continue reading Family

In an instant

Last night, my head was preoccupied with last-minute work on a special project and putting the finishing touches on a post. My husband Tom and I had also been discussing the logistics of possibly attending BlogHer Food 2010 in San Francisco. These were the things that weighed on my mind.

A mere hour or so later—an instant, really—we were outside, in our shirts and shorts, watching our house crumble as it was engulfed in flames. I’ll never forget that hissing and crackling noise as my husband’s home of almost 30 years practically disintegrated before our eyes. Continue reading In an instant

Welcome to the Ivory Hut. No, it is not made of soap.