Saturday, August 1, 2020

What Have You Done to Keep Yourself Sane During This Pandemic?

Memories of being at Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, Australia back in 2019 that I cherish especially right now!
Let's face it: we're all having difficulties adjusting to the new norm of living life during lockdown. The coronavirus outbreak has cost us our loved ones, our past lifestyles, and possibly our sanity. This global pandemic has led us to reflect on what we need to do moving forward. Things are probably not gonna be the same in the coming future. We are constantly sanitizing ourselves, wearing facemasks, and practicing social distancing from others. This may or not drive you crazy, but without a doubt, it has impacted everyone else's lives, one way or another. Many have lost their jobs or have been laid off due to this impact. Many are struggling financially due to unemployment and have us worrying what this pandemic will be moving forward. Our nightlife has been greatly impacted. Just a simple thing like going to the supermarket, getting a haircut or just going to work has been difficult and scary to do because of the lockdown. So many places have closed and gone out of business as well.
Poured my heart and soul into making pastries that others will enjoy like these cream cheese brownies!
Some have gone into depression, and it has greatly affected their mental health. Many have found other outlets just to keep themselves sane. Some have even taken their businesses online, and finding new ways to get themselves more involved on social media. Some have taken a break, and have finally focused on their well being. Whether or not you're learning or earning during this pandemic, know this, whatever you're doing is valid. Just make sure you're keeping yourself sane, and you're wearing facemasks, constantly sanitizing, washing your hands, and avoiding crowds. So now I ask this: What have you done to keep yourself sane during this pandemic?
Making cakes for clients has shown me how much I missed being in the kitchen, especially since lockdown started.
Whether or not you're learning or earning during this pandemic, know this: IT'S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY. Acknowledge your weaknesses. Take a break. Reflect on what you've accomplished. Pursue something you've always wanted to do, but haven't done due to you being busy previously. Find something or do something that sparks joy in your life. If you're struggling financially, it's okay to reach out to people and ask for help. Don't be embarrassed because one way or another, we are all struggling and facing problems that might not be so different from yours. It's important to talk about problems you're facing, and it's also important to be open minded and accepting towards people's different problems and situations, and not be so judgmental about it!

My client was Japanese, and I wanted to show my skills of writing with chocolate with this special occasion!
We live in a society that's often harsh, cruel, judgmental, materialistic, unforgiving, and inconsiderate to different people's struggles and situations. This pandemic should teach you to be more caring, understanding, open minded, and accepting. We can't get through this pandemic without each others love and support. Send good vibes, and stop being such a complainer about petty issues in your life. Find groups of people to voice out your opinions. Find people who validate you and support you, regardless of whether or not they come from the same school, company or social class as you. During this time, learn to be patient with certain things. If there are certain people who make you feel like crap constantly and are making your mental health worse, then there is nothing wrong with cutting them out of your life. Everyone has to be more open minded and accepting these days.

I will forever be thankful for the online dance classes the studio and dance teachers provided for me! So much happiness!

So one thing I've been doing this whole time during lockdown was focusing on what makes ME happy. What sparks joy in my life within my abilities. Four things are constant in my life, and have always made me very happy, patient, and positive: cook/bake, dance, travel and going out to meet with friends. Since I'm not able to do the last two due to lockdown and the pandemic, I decided to focus my energy on the first two. It's the least I can do for myself to keep me sane during lockdown. Luckily because of internet and wifi, I am still able to keep myself busy and active through online dance classes as well as watching Youtube vids about baking, cooking, and pretty much anything I enjoy or makes me laugh and smile.

I'm happy I was able to brighten up someone's day with these red velvet cupcakes. I wanted them to experience it!
You need that to keep yourself sane because being stuck indoors with no exploring, going out, social distancing from others as well as majority of the places in the city closed, you need to be creative with how to find happiness whether it's with family or online. Thankfully, dance classes as well as one on one dance sessions with teachers have kept me active and fulfilled. One thing that this coronavirus outbreak has taught me was to make sure I know what's important in my life, and that's my physical and mental health, as well as be thankful for the family and friends that I have. Practicing social distancing, wearing facemasks, and constantly sanitizing and washing your hands may be the new normal in the coming future. But that doesn't mean you can't be happy. You just need to be creative with how you approach it.

These cookies were definitely the ones that started it all! The cookies that me fall in love with baking!
Lately, this lockdown has taught me to use my abilities of cooking and baking to make people happy by being more active in making products and selling them out there. Thankfully, my friends have been so loving and supportive towards purchasing and even advertising what I make to other people. I constantly want to thank them for all their feedback as well as never ending support. Cooking and especially baking has been one of the things I have been able to do since I was a kid. I grew up in a household where cuisines were limited. I wanted to taste the world and not just be locked down into one cuisine. Thankfully when I was a kid, my brother's wife, back when she was his girlfriend, introduced me to various desserts and cuisines. I loved it so much, but I knew that it wasn't always gonna be made for me, so I knew I had to learn to make a lot of it, so that I could enjoy it whenever I wanted. That love for food goes with sharing it to others as well. I wanted to show and share to people that good food and pastries take time and effort, but the taste makes all the difference!

Looking at the moon at night or the sunset in the afternoon made me appreciate the beauty of life!
During this lockdown, I hope you have reflected on what you have done with your life, where you have gone and explored, what your relationship with people are, and maybe unlocked a new skill as well. This pandemic has shown us how short life is, and that as much as possible, try to live each day by doing as much as you can to make yourself happy and fulfilled, regardless of what that is. Do a dance class that you've always wanted because you thought it looked fun and exciting. So what if you can't dance. If it's your first time, it's completely fine. Being able to develop a new skill takes time and effort so just learn to be patient. YOU ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS.

Thankful for my friends who have been helpful, loving and supportive even if just online!
Wonderful moments! Chatting with friends online has made me laugh and be full of excitement even late at night at 3am!
With rates of people positive for coronavirus constantly rising, I'm just thankful to be alive and that my family and friends are all safe as well. The pandemic has shown the many flaws our government has, and how inconsiderate many people have been. It has also shown just how important our medical workers are, and that they deserve the most respect, better pay and benefits since they are one of the most essential workers out there, risking their lives to help save those patients who are infected. When will this end though? The future remains unclear. All I can think about is trying to keep myself safe and sane by constantly expressing gratitude, and avoid going outdoors with lots of people too much. Keep praying and hoping that a vaccine will be found soon. I still have high hopes for the future. I'm hoping when all this is done, you would pursue the dreams you've always had, and never have second thoughts with going to the dream destination you've always wanted to go to. If anything, this pandemic has shown us how short life is. Keep motivated, count your blessings, and be thankful for everything you have. The future may be unclear now, but know that we'll be able to survive this.

Me at Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, Japan. Last trip before the pandemic started. I am hopeful for a better future now.
*My Instagram profiles are @yrwinty for my day to day life and experiences and @cremedelayrwin for my pastries provided! Be safe out there, and we'll survive this. Cheers!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

My Attempt at Making Salvadoran Pupusas from Tasty

Burst of flavors and textures right here! I love how intense it looked and tasted!
I love tasting new things from around the world! Growing up, I didn't get much chances to try different kinds of food since I had parents that were traditional and always liked eating mostly Asian cuisine at home. I wanted to taste the world since I grew up surrounded by people of all nationalities. I wanted to try all kinds of cuisines as well as products from particular countries. When I lived in US for a year, I encountered so many kinds of cuisines since US is so diverse. Mexican food was so popular that it became a comfort food for me. I got access to other latino and south american dishes from my boss who was Peruvian. I loved the zesty, citrusy, intense and flavorful dishes they had! It was tangy and refreshing without being too greasy, oily or bitter like many dishes I have tried in Filipino, American, Chinese or other cuisines. 
Some people prefer it without the refried beans, so you can do without it. It's a flexible recipe!
When I moved from Nashville, Tennessee to San Francisco, California for a month before moving back to Manila, I wanted to maximize my time in California by trying out all kinds of dishes that I wouldn't normally get back at home. From French Soul Food to Mexican to Asian fusion to Brazilian and even Salvadoran food, I had the chance to taste the world at the palm of my hands! I had so many memorable moments that I could relate it to a certain dish or cuisine I have tried! I encountered this dish called Pupusas from a friend I met who had Salvadoran relatives. It's a flatbread made from masa harina or ground cornmeal with several fillings inside. It gave me great excitement when I saw it being opened, and the gooey, stretchy cheese just expanded from the inside! The flavors and textures it had gave me so much happiness, that it motivated me to make it myself because there aren't any places in Philippines that offers this type of cuisine. 
I kind of burned my fingers trying to open this up because I wanted to see the cheese stretch!
I always believed that if you want a certain type of dish, you should learn how to make it yourself. I always have attempted to try making certain dishes at home if I have certain cravings because it makes me try new things. I wanted to let my family see things that I tried abroad, and hopefully would enjoy themselves. Some of the things that were frustrating were lack of ingredients but thankfully, places like Amazon or even Healthy Options had certain ingredients that were difficult to find! My whole motivation with cooking since the beginning has always been because I wanted to make dishes that I actually enjoyed eating. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

10 Reasons Why You Should Go To Hokkaido, Japan

This snow sculpture right here was more than enough reason for me to go to Hokkaido!
Hey world. I hope everyone is okay despite the coronavirus situations going on. I took a long break from writing for many reasons apart from just traveling and exploring. I went back to dancing more often last 2019, and started taking dance classes again. It took up a lot of time that I normally used for watching random Youtube videos, sleeping, as well as hanging out with friends partying or exercising. Now normally, a lot of people try to exercise during Christmas season or diet before pigging out and going all out on eating at Christmas eve. Food during Christmas eve or also known as "Noche Buena" is one of the traits that happens here during Christmas season. Filipinos love Christmas season. They start celebrating it as soon as the "ber months" begin (September, October, etc.) We try to mimic a lot of Christmas traditions here which other countries (especially in Asia) would find weird. One Christmas thing that Philippines can't get due to its geographic location is snow. Unlike the northern parts of Asia, Philippines doesn't get cold much. We're a tropical country so it's mostly sun and rain we have here. I know a lot of people in Philippines would like to experience a white Christmas or Christmas where we see snow so delicate and white, but since it's not possible to experience it in this country, I would definitely make a suggestion to try out a city that has snowy seasons, but isn't as far away from Philippines like US and Canada is. That city is Sapporo in Hokkaido prefecture, Japan!

Otaru Canal! So much beauty all around it! Go to Otaru Saint Germain near the train station for some amazing pastries!
Without a doubt, Japan is my favorite country in Asia, and maybe even the world! I have explored probably more places in Japan than most people I know! So when I went to Hokkaido, it was not only beautiful, but really life changing! Japan has such varied landscapes. Hokkaido is Japan's northernmost island. It is well known for its culinary culture, beautiful city life and amazing natural beauty! Every season has special events such as the Sapporo Winter Festival in Odori Park or the Ice Festival in Biei! It may be completely different weather from the tropical climate I'm used to in Philippines, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to explore this amazing and unique part of Japan! So here are 10 reason why you should go to Hokkaido, Japan!

When going to Asahikawa, make sure to stop by Ramen Aoba for their delicious ramen!
1. The Sapporo Winter Festival!

I cannot tell you enough how much this event changed my perception of perfection in Japan! This annual festival features snow sculptures from all over the world, and my goodness the works of art there showed me just how amazing not only the snow sculptures are, but also the people behind the works of art! It is really perfection brought to life! Some examples include a life size statue of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, a fully detailed Japanese temple with a projector animation included, and several popular cartoon characters brought to life like Pokemon, Star Wars and even Youtube sensations like Pineapple Pen! It may not sound appealing through writing, but once you look at the photos of the Winter Festival, as well as the videos, you will see why I fell in love with Hokkaido! That event alone should be the main reason why you should go there! They got activities, performances as well as super delicious food being sold everywhere there!

During the Sapporo Snow Festival, they set this man made snow slope for you to go snowboarding at!
There are even several foreign souvenirs being sold there, depending on the theme such as Russian dolls or Finnish handcrafts! I had an amazing time just walking around, and seeing the amazing works of art! They even add animation to some of the works of art there using a projector screen! The music performances during the night as well as the music applied to the snow sculptures make it an incredible experience! If there's any reason to come to Hokkaido, this would be the number one reason! I cannot wait until I have the chance to make it there again!

This is a Chirashi don with everything on it! When you go to Hakodate morning market, make sure to try their food!

2. Some of the best seafood and fish in all of Japan!

A friend of mine once told me that the colder the region is, the tastier and more savory the fish will be! Hokkaido is no exception! You want the best seafood in all of Japan?! Most likely Hokkaido has it for you! Based on my experience, seafood in Japan tastes so fresh and amazing, without that fishy or in Tagalog "malansa" after taste. Most of the travelers I have met have said that Japan is seafood heaven, and that some of the best tasting fish comes here! Buttery, fatty, melting, and heavenly goodness. The typical Japanese diet is heavily seafood based, which is no surprise since Japan is surrounded by seas all over its island. Other places that offer very tasty seafood are the prefectures of Sendai and Aomori, which is also known for their top quality tuna! Remember: when in the northern parts of Japan, do not miss out on the seafood!

This Otoru fatty tuna belly sushi makes all the language and cultural barriers worth it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Follow Your Heart, Do What Makes You Happy

Kiyomizu dera in Kyoto, Japan, 2020. Felt so much peace and happiness there!
Hi there. I haven't done much write ups lately because I been out and around exploring or just not having the motivation to stay put and write something. I wanted to say something: this life moves at such a fast pace. One day, your life will just come flashing at you in an instant, and next thing you know, the people you may know and love may not be there anymore. Aside from that, the chances you had to travel or explore anywhere may not be there as well. I take each day as a day to do things that make me happy and feel good because when you are feeling good, it's easier to be nicer and kinder to others. What makes me happy lately? Well: cooking, baking, dancing, traveling, partying, making friends from all over the world, trying out new stuff. The list goes on!
Not everybody gets to experience Sydney, Australia. So when you're at Sydney Opera House, just appreciate it!
So when your heart is calling for something, you follow it right? A lot of us don't really pursue our ultimate bucket list because of many reasons such as budget, finances, priorities and as well as other obligations that prevent you from doing what you really want to do! It's time you start doing more of what feels good for you, despite other people's opinions about it. One step at a time. Save up by getting rid of things that don't spark joy in your life. Cut certain people out of your life who bring out the stress in you, and not the best in you. I know we live in a society that gets jealous easily and likes to compare ourselves to other people, as well as judge others. We even do that towards others, too. We also tend to be very materialistic, but we have to learn to let go of those things, and focus on doing what makes you happy. Even if it means having to do it by yourself.
Certain cities will make an impact in your life. They will make you feel a sense of belonging like Melbourne did!
My hobbies aren't the typical watching movies, playing basketball or badminton, or even watching basketball live or on TV, or playing video games. They include things like taking dance classes, learning languages, going out and partying with people from everywhere, and even just relaxing at a park. Funny thing is: I feel more at home in places like Japan or Brazil sometimes than in my own home country, Philippines! Maybe it's the weather, the food, or not having to prove to anyone anything. And I love that. I love being at places where you can be yourself, and where you can just go and not have to worry about people voicing their opinions about you. It may seem weird to others that I surround myself with people so foreign to me, and yet love them just as much as my own, but to me, I feel like I can be friendly towards anyone who is approachable and willing to talk to me.
When you are away from the hustle and bustle of the city, places like Arashiyama Bamboo Forest really relaxes you!
"Enjoy, travel, enjoy your journeys, see new places, give yourself the pleasures you deserve. Allow dogs to get closer. Don’t put away the fine glassware. Utilize the new dinnerware; don’t save your favorite perfume, use it to go out with yourself; wear out your favorite sport shoes; repeat your favorite clothes." I saw this at a social media post titled as "Gentle Reminder by Pope Francis". Although I'm not sure this post was actually said or written by him, the whole entire message was very uplifting and encouraging for me. I could quote many of them more here, but the point is: you need to stop depriving yourself of certain happiness or pleasures in your life, and start living your life the way you want to! *Link to the full quote will be posted down below.
Learn to appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer. Like these Sakura Cherry Blossom flowers in Hiroshima, Japan! 
Personally for me, I don't do local or domestic travel so much cause I feel like I am young. I have the energy, physical and mental capacity to surround myself with new places and new cultures. I can do local travel when I'm much older like 40 or 50 years old. Traffic is such a big factor for me. I simply lose the will to go explore anywhere local simply cause of the unbearable traffic going to certain places. Hence why I haven't been to certain places locally like Baguio or even Bicol. I enjoy beaches no doubt, but I enjoy beaches that are accessible just by a quick road trip, and not one where you have to fly out and spend a lot at an expensive resort to enjoy. Colder weather is also a preference for me, such as experiencing some snow or feeling windy breeze. I like getting unique experiences that I can't get at my home country. It's just my personal preference to go explore the great big world around me, which to me is worth it.
Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia! Invest in breathtaking moments and experiences. Those memories stay with you!
So far in my life, I have applied for visas so much to the point that it's become routine for me. It would be nice to have a better passport, but so far, getting those visas has been worth it for me. One of the things I learn when I travel really far and go on long haul flights is to be patient. I know people who can't stand to wait, and want things instantly in front of them. And I know many of them aren't happy cause they haven't gotten what they want because they are unwilling to be patient and unwilling to compromise as well! I have learned that certain places are worth waiting for, which is why you need to be patient, and just keep learning and growing as a person. You want to go to a certain country that needs a visa? Then do your research, find out the things that you need, and take that huge risk to go out and get those visas to see the world! We're only in this world for such a short amount of time, so you shouldn't waste it doing the same things, and surrounding yourself with people who don't make you feel good and don't help you to become a better person. Don't waste your energy trying to please others who wouldn't even lift a finger for you.
Unique experiences like taking a selfie with a deer just roaming around Nara, Japan are really special for me!
I am very thankful for the friends that I currently have in my life, as well as the family that doesn't judge me, and just accepts me as I am. My friends may not be people I went to school with in high school or college, but the friends I have now are friends that I feel like are family to me as well. We may not come from the same backgrounds, but I think that's part of the beauty of growing as a person. Especially during this lockdown and quarantine time due to coronavirus, you really learn to appreciate who your real friends are, as well as the family you talk to. I use this time to look back at all the things I've done, and all the places I have been to. I think I've done pretty good exploring this great big world around us. Live life with no regrets. The bad moments you had can be used to learn and become a better person. They can be used to appreciate all the great moments you had, making them even more special. Having meaningful friends and family during times like this really help with getting through tough times. Learn to surround yourself with people who make you feel good.
Learn to make friends who truly care about you, and who actually make the effort to meet and spend time with you.

After this lockdown, I really hope that you can learn to stop delaying things you've always wanted to go, and just do them! I am no longer doubting and having second thoughts about where I want to go, and what I want to do. Being in this lockdown made me appreciate the brave people who go out there, who clean and provide services for us, those who provide food, necessities, and healthcare for us, and those who keep uplifting us and motivating us to persevere during these tough times. Work your way into pursuing your goals, ambitions, and dream destinations. I no longer want to hear but I'm too afraid to do it on my own, or I'm not good enough. This lockdown reminds us all that we need to stop doubting ourselves, delaying our passions, and start just doing it. Take that first step!
Brighton Bathing Boxes in Melbourne, Australia. Appreciate the creative artist who made this!
I would like to end this post with another quote I got from the "Gentle Reminder by Pope Francis": "So what? That’s not bad. Why not now? Why not pray now instead of waiting until before you sleep? Why not call now? Why not forgive now? We wait so long for Christmas; for Friday; for Reunions; for another year; for when I have money; for love to come; when everything is perfect… look… Everything perfect doesn’t exist. Human beings can’t accomplish this because it simply was not intended to be completed here. Here is an opportunity to learn." Have the courage to be yourself, and to pursue what really makes you happy in life. May you go out there, discover, explore, and live the life you've always wanted.
Fushimi Inari Shrines, Kyoto, Japan. Some places just makes you feel peaceful and happy like this place did for me!
*Here is the link to the full message of the "Gentle Reminder":
Did Pope Francis Write the ‘Gentle Reminder’ Message?

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Why I Was Gone in 2019, But Now Back This 2020

My life in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! Honestly an amazing experience right here!
I deeply apologize for being away for more than a year from writing. It's not that I didn't care, but rather because I was busy doing things that didn't involve me sitting down on my laptop all day or at least for a couple of hours, typing and writing up stories. Believe me, I have sooo much to say with unwritten stories, all in my head! You see, this 2019 was a revelation for me. A revelation that I need to stop wasting time doing things people think I should do, and I do what I actually love to do instead, despite other people's opinions about it. It's not just traveling, but also involving hobbies I just missed doing as well as getting rid of things that don't spark joy for me anymore, and is possibly toxic in my life! I keep telling myself that people come into your life for two reasons: one is a blessing, and the other is a lesson.
Dance has taken up so much of my life, and has made me so much more happy and confident as well!
So a little story telling about my year 2019: I had a goal of going to a different country every year, or if I am going back to a certain country, go to a city or certain area that I have never been to. I decided to go back to one of my favorite countries in the world, YET AGAIN: Japan! But however, I went to different cities at the beginning of the year in Hokkaido at Shikotsu and Asahikawa, and to Hiroshima prefecture as well! And another achievement off my bucket list as well: to make it to Australia! This is my 15th country that I've technically set foot on, as well as the second to the last continent that I've set foot on (the last one I haven't been to is Antarctica). And another thing that I went back into that took over a big chunk of my life: dancing!
The dance lessons I took here, made me so much more comfortable with myself because of the love and support!
You see, I was dancing for a while now since 16 years old. I'm turning 30 this year 2020! It started out by accident, but it ended up being something that I just loved to do because it gave me a outlet where I could express my weirdness, as well as feelings that I just kept to myself. I took classes, did recitals, and even did street jams where I would just dance in public with a boom box or just simple speakers with friends. However in 2013, I left Philippines for a year to live in United States to do my internship as a culinary arts student. That took up a big chunk of my life, and the only times I got to have dance sessions were when I would dance with my roommates at the gym during day off or after work, with my Peruvian boss who introduced me all these styles like bachata or latin ballroom (hence why I love a lot of Latino food, culture, and things), and at the club where my friends and I would just go out and celebrate having a great time! 
Seeing Machu Picchu in person makes you very appreciative with life. I am so lucky to be alive and healthy to explore Peru!
So when I got back to Philippines after being gone for a year, I decided to go back into dancing again, even though the dance studio was pretty far from my home because I was waiting for my graduation ceremony from college. I took up the dance style popping since that's one of the first dance styles that I actually took seriously, apart from contemporary in high school, and hip hop in college. After doing lessons and the recital, I left again for Japan. I traveled, explored, fell in love with the country, and had the time of my life. But when I got back, reality hit me. I needed to start working. Family business, kitchen life, etc. The dance studio I went to a lot was all the way in Tandang Sora, Quezon City, and my work was in Makati City, which is considerably far from each other (around 2 hours drive, given the unbearable traffic in Manila). So I had to give that up for a bit. I did take dance classes sometimes, but it was more of the dance workouts like Zumba or 360 Body Jam.
Hokkaido, Japan during the snow festival season was such an amazing experience for all!
So working and then falling in love with traveling from 2014 to 2018, I completely forgot about taking dance classes because most of the great dance studios are far away from me. I did have moments where I did take up some dance sessions at certain events, but not one where I was consistent at it. I got into the Couchsurfing community in 2018. The friends I made there have been so amazing, loving, and supportive, and they are part of the reason towards why I decided to go do the things I wanted to do. They complemented me, and just encouraged me. While I was traveling from Europe, to Japan, to all the way to South America in Brazil and Peru, I saw many street dancers there. Performing just randomly on the streets with a boom box. I kept thinking to myself: I really miss dancing, jamming and taking dance lessons and classes. Should I go back? I'm sure the people I met would still accept me back, and go back again. So getting back into Manila, I decided to take one dance class, and the teachers were surprised cause I knew some of them. I realized that I should go back because it just kept sparking joy into my life!
Experiencing Fushimi Inari orange shrines in Kyoto, Japan is a must for all travelers and explorers!
Fast forward to 2019, a friend of mine in the dance community that I took classes with said that there is a dance studio opening up in Makati, which is not too far away from where I am working. I took up the pop up class randomly, and fell in love with the classes so much. I decided to go back, use majority of my Saturdays to go and have fun there, and try doing more things that spark joy in my life. Forget what other people would say, and forget what negative people and complainers have to say about it. This is what made me happy, and this is what I wanted to keep doing because it made me happy. Cut out and ignore those people who think it's a waste of time, and it won't go anywhere. They don't spark joy, and not everything you do has to be something that will make you rich. How about doing something just solely just because of the fact that it makes you happy, right?
The Twelve Apostles in Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, Australia was so breathtaking for me! Absolutely incredible!
So throughout 2019, I did dance classes every week most of the time or hang out with my Couchsurfing friends at least twice a week! I did a lot of soul searching, finding out what really makes me happy instead of doing what I think others would expect me to do. Being back at dance life, I became more comfy with myself. I have met some amazing people through dance, and through having that kind of lifestyle, I have decided that this is something that I would like to keep doing for now because of how happy it's made me. These two things made me so comfortable to be okay with myself, as well as to forget those who think otherwise. Even in other countries, I would like to keep on dancing, and keep on being more and more myself. That may have kept me from writing and posting new content here, but there are more outlets where I could express my life experiences online such as Instagram*! I have come to realize that I shouldn't be so hard on myself, and that I need to surround myself more often with people who spark joy into my life, even though they are not my classmates in high school or college or even the same race! So maybe this 2019, it was all about being able to do more of what makes me happy, and learning to love myself more. 
Appreciate the smell and appearance of mother nature like these flowers in Hiroshima, Japan during Cherry Blossom season!
So far at the current condition of 2020, it's not exactly been the most happiest or the most positive experience, given the situations going on in my country Philippines, as well as the whole world (Bush fires, death of an amazing icon, Coronavirus, etc.) But I realize one thing: life goes on. And you can choose to either keep looking back the past and dwell on it, or appreciate the little beautiful things in life, and hopefully have a positive outlook in life for a better future. It's really difficult to be positive in a city where traffic takes up almost half of your life, and you constantly hear complainers and toxic people everywhere. But having those outlets such as dance, travel, friends through the community  of exploring and dancing for me makes life so much more worth living! I hope that you find what sparks joy in your life, pursue it, and hopefully inspire others to do the same!
Looking at the amazing view of Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, Japan! Admire and appreciate the beautiful nature!
*To see my travel pics, special moments, or just my day to day life, follow me on Instagram @yrwinty.  Please and thank you so much!

Monday, December 3, 2018

One of My Most Favorite Mochi Ever: Ichigo Daifuku (いちご 大福)


Without a doubt, Japan is one of my favorite countries that I have travelled to so far in my life! So many things about it make me fall in love with the country: food, architecture, nature, people, etc! I could go on, but my best advice is to actually go there and experience it yourself! The people I have met and gotten to know there are just so adorable and cute. The politeness and kindness of everybody just motivates me and just constantly reminds me that there are good people in this world that constantly reminds us of how dangerous it can be as well. Also, once you try the food, it will immediately make you realize Japan's food is unlike any other country in this world! One of the snacks I enjoyed every time I am in Japan is mochi! Almost all kinds of mochi I love, whether it would be plain, filled with anko red bean paste, or even flavored with sweet soy sauce topping!
Mochiko flour (like this one here) or Shiratamako flour works the best to make this mochi!
I just love the chewiness of the rice cake and dumplings! So satisfying! Several foods that have that chewy texture that I look for are in tapioca pearls (also known as sago or bubbles), Filipino kakanin (sticky rice treats) like sapin-sapin or palitaw and Brazilian pão de queijo (cheese bread). Most of these wonderful call for specific ingredients: Glutinous rice flour or cassava flour or tapioca starch. These ingredients are essential in producing that chewy, bouncy texture that I know and love in these treats and especially mochi! Luckily, these ingredients are generally inexpensive and accessible in most countries. Whenever I travel to a specific country, there are certain things I want to learn to make so that I could try making it back at home whenever I crave for it! To me, food is such a big part of a country's culture, and is also a way to share connections with people from around the world! Whenever I am in Japan, these strawberry daifuku mochi treats are almost everywhere, depending on the season! From autumn to spring during the Sakura cherry blossom seasons, these treats are being sold on almost every city in Japan! With a little patience and lots of love, this treat can be made by you in your own home!
This is the mochi all mixed together and heated to make it into this! Tough part is kneading and shaping this stickyness!
Now here are my tips for making this wonderful treat: try to make sure that the rice flour you are using to make this is Glutinous rice flour! Local Filipino glutinous rice flour or even Thai glutinous rice flour can work for this but of course, the Japanese mochiko rice flour or shiratamako rice flour works best to make this because it's less sticky and easier to mix. This rice flour can be purchased at most Asian or Japanese markets where you are and even online! This can be said for anko red bean paste as well. Now for the strawberries: make sure the strawberries you get are generally larger than average and sweet: this is the main focus of this refreshing and delicious treat! Strawberries are in season in some countries all year round. Where I am from (Philippines), it's only in season during certain months (November to May), similar to Japan so take advantage of that! 
It helps to weigh the dough out and then divide it to get equal amounts! That way, you can cover the fruits better!


ICHIGO DAIFUKU (Strawberry Filled Mochi)
Recipe courtesy of Nami from Just One Cookbook
Prep time: 40 mins
Cook time: 3 mins
Yield: 6 Strawberry Daifuku
*I highly recommend to invest in a digital scale to weigh out the ingredients and portions. This is very useful in producing consistent food products! 

INGREDIENTS:
  • 6 Large Strawberries (the sweeter, the better!)
  • 150g anko red bean paste (approx. 5.30 oz) This is available at most Japanese/Asian markets
  • 100g Shiratamako/Mochiko Flour (Glutinous rice flour/Sweet rice flour) Also available at most Japanese/Asian markets
  • 20g granulated sugar (approx. 2 tbsp.)
  • 150 ml water (lukewarm)
Preparing the strawberries and the red bean paste helps you work faster and quicker for beautiful appearance! Remember: aim for larger and sweeter strawberries. They really shine in this dessert!
INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Rinse, dry and chop the top part with the stems of the strawberries. Set aside on a chopping board. Divide the anko red bean paste into 6 even pieces (25g each piece). The paste is sticky so make sure to wash your hands and dry them up before handling them.
  2. Slightly flatten the anko paste with your hands and wrap the strawberry around with it. Leave the tip of the strawberry uncovered.
  3. In a medium microwave-safe glass bowl, mix shiratamako or mochiko rice flour and granulated sugar with a whisk.
  4. Using a silicone spatula, add the water slowly in 3 parts, and mix until it has a thick consistency. Cover with plastic wrap, but just loosely.
  5. Put in a microwave at 1200W or watts for 1 minute. Mix well with a wet silicone spatula. The mixture will be slightly thicker and still have a grainy appearance.
  6. Microwave for a second time for 1 minute, and mix again with the wet silicone spatula. It will look more like mochi now, but still slightly wet and grainy.
  7. One last time, microwave the mixture but only for 30 seconds. By this time, the mochi should look translucent or almost see through. Remove the plastic wrap.
  8. Sift potato starch or cornstarch on a tray or glass dish, and put the mochi on top.
  9. With a silicone spatula or pastry scraper, fold the mochi mixture in half once, so that it won't be so sticky to handle and then divide into 6 equal pieces. *SEE NOTES
  10. After dividing, put some potato starch or corn starch on your hands, and flatten and stretch the mochi out into 3 inch round or square shape. Then put the anko covered strawberry on top, with the tip facing down.
  11. Cover the strawberry from all sides, and use your thumbs to hold the mochi on top. Work as fast and as neat as you can because mochi is very sticky and delicate. It can break if you touch it too much so always keep your hands floured! *SEE NOTES
  12. Once all the sides of the mochi meet on top, twist it and close. Hold the mochi with both hands and form into a nice round shape. Do the same with the rest of the azuki red bean paste covered strawberries.
  13. Serve at room temperature as soon as possible. They must be eaten within 2 days.
You must work fast and be gentle if you want your mochi to come out smooth and be able to cover up the entire strawberry and red bean paste!

RECIPE NOTES:

  • To divide the mochi into 6 almost equal pieces, I use my digital scale to weigh out the entire mochi dough first. I then calculate the total amount and divide into 6 equal pieces. That way, you more or less get the same amount of mochi to cover up the strawberries. I do this with the azuki red bean paste as well!
  • This mochi mixture is very sticky so it's important to have cornstarch or potato starch ready on your hands and table to handle the sticky mixture! It's also very important to work very fast if you want the mochi to come out smooth to cover the entire strawberry. But no worries if it doesn't look perfect! It will still taste chewy, refreshing and delicious!


Once you get used to making these, they can be addicting to eat! Share them with your loved ones, and let them experience this popular Japanese sweet!






Sunday, May 20, 2018

My Daily Reminder: Why I Must Live My Life

Even though you're no longer with us, I'm glad to have spent time with you Michelle (far left).
We get it: life is sooo damn short! One day, you may wake up and realize that your days are numbered. You may also realize that you may or may not have done everything that you have wanted to do with your life. Be it spend time with someone, fulfill your passion, or travel somewhere, or tell someone how much you love them. So when someone significant in your life passes away suddenly, it makes you contemplate with what you have done with your life. Have you done everything that you've wanted to do with your life? Have you traveled to the places you've wanted to go to? And if not yet, why not? What's stopping or hindering you from doing what you want with your life? Is it money or personal life problem? I recently heard a quote on Facebook: Travel. Money returns. Time DOESN'T.

Stop letting people manipulate where you should go and travel to, or what you do with your life career-wise. Even love life, you shouldn't let anyone control whom you should date or fall in love with. Don't let people telling you "Oh ang yaman mo, dami mong pera pang biyahe, etc." (Oh you're rich, you have a lot of money to travel, etc.) make you feel guilty about where you want to go to, even if they are close friends or relatives of yours! Your life, your choice as I would always say. If they hinder you from doing something that genuinely makes you happy, then they don't deserve to be part of your life.
Michelle going out with us in the streets of Barcelona, Spain! It was nice to go out with you!
Let me tell you about a close family friend of mine: Her name is Michelle. She may have had the privilege and opportunity to study at very good schools, and travel to many countries, but I have to say: she was nice, generous, giving, and very approachable. Her life may have been cut short, but I have to say: she lived her life very well for someone her age. She travelled to many countries that I can only imagine at such a young age and was very career-oriented. I completely idolize people who are able to travel to many countries and places because it shows how open-minded and fearless they are! I was glad to have experienced traveling with Michelle once in my life because that is a memory that I will truly cherish for the rest of my life, which was going to Europe for the first time ever!
We enjoyed food whenever we travelled. Food is such a big part of why we travel! Always different when you have it there!
Michelle was a close friend of my older brother and his wife (his high school girlfriend at that time). They were all classmates in high school. Growing up, I remembered Michelle spending LOTS of time with my brother and his wife. They would socialize, go out together, and talk about almost anything! I wish I had some people like that to spend time with growing up because most of the people I went to school with moved to another country, or I am not close to due to not sharing the same interests. I remembered getting many advices when I was younger from her such as "Screw those who think that you're weird. Don't be afraid to be yourself because it's your life."

So growing up with my siblings, I constantly saw her hanging out with us and listening to her stories. I was always the type of person that constantly met people from all around the world because they came to Philippines. This time however, I wanted to be the one to go to their countries and meet locals while actually immersing myself in the food and culture. I don't miss my childhood so much because I never had the opportunity to really go out there and explore by myself until my adult life! Right now is the time where I have more freedom and opportunity to explore than I can imagine. So after attempting to stay long term in Taiwan and Japan as well as living in US for 1 year, I decided to try out Europe for the first time ever! I went with family such as my sister, sister in law, and of course our close family friend: Michelle!
It seems like yesterday we were just enjoying ourselves on the streets of Paris, France!
We were all together throughout the whole process from booking the flights, to planning the itinerary, deciding which countries and cities to go to as well as the toughest part ever: fixing the visas and the interviews and submissions. So during this entire process, I got to see a big part of Michelle's life from her past and current problems to her dreams and aspirations as well. Who knew that just about two years later, we wouldn't have her around to chat about our precious memories. :'( Spending time with her that much not only in Philippines, but abroad as well made us feel closer to her than ever. Yes she may have just been a friend, but she was also family to us.

You knew how to live life, and I'm glad to have spent time with you because you showed me to live my life!
While we were in Europe, I got to see how well traveled Michelle was because of all the stamps she had on her passport. She loved shopping and spent a big chunk of her time shopping wherever we went especially in Paris! It's the life every girl can possibly dream of! So after spending several weeks with Michelle in Europe, and having an amazing time at that, we thought about when the next one will be! Who knew that Euro trip would be the last time that we would spent a significant amount of time with Michelle. My sis in law, Janee, along with her husband or my brother would still constantly see each other whenever they could before that tragic event happened.
Michelle with one of her adorable sons! She really did her best to be the mama that she was!
The very last time I ever saw Michelle was around August of 2017 at a hotel restaurant where my brother celebrated his birthday, as well as do a family photo shoot for my other sister's wedding at the start of the year. I only spoke to her briefly but at that time I got to meet her husband as well as her two sons who are only 4 and 7 years old at that time. As I feel the sudden hit of sadness and grief while writing this, I begin to look back into my life and see how little I have accomplished compared to Michelle. I saw the innocence in her kids who had smiles on their faces that could brighten up the sky. I'm sure Michelle never thought to leave them so soon. In fact, I don't think any one of us expected to witness what would happen to her later on. It just makes you realize how short and shocking life can be, and that you shouldn't take anything for granted.
Thank you for everything that you've done for everyone, Michelle. Someday, we will meet again!
So at the beginning of 2018, a week after my sister's wedding, my sis in law, Janee, got a sudden phone call alerting her that Michelle was in a coma! It shocked me because she didn't show any signs or symptoms that she had a bad feeling apparently. My brother and Janee rushed to the hospital where Michelle was checked in to see what exactly happened. Michelle's husband was there explaining that she all of a sudden didn't wake up and after several CT scans, they found out that she had a brain tumor, which infected her and caused her to go into a coma. As they were suggesting to have her operated on, they realized that it was too late, and she officially passed around 2 days later. I felt a huge amount of pain knowing that I spent so much time with her from doing photo shoots in London, Paris, and Barcelona to shopping with her for pans and other food to make paella, as well as accompanying her whenever there were people who couldn't speak English, and I could help translate when I had the chance. Those moments I appreciate even more now that she's no longer with us.

A couple weeks later, her wake began. I saw Michelle's husband, her grieving mother and other family members. I even got to see her oldest son sending out pamphlets to us during the eulogy and mass of the pastor. Her son was just smiling and looking all innocent, not being fully aware I guess of what was happening. I just felt so much heartache for him and his brother because of the fact that they lost their mama at such a young age. They probably couldn't fully grasp it at that age. I remembered Michelle telling us her struggle with having the kids, as well as feeding them when they were toddlers and taking care of them along with their yaya or helper. Though she wasn't perfect, she was genuine and lived life in the best possible way that she could. At the wake, I got to see some of my brother and sis in law's classmates from high school. It's been years since I saw any of them, and I hardly recognize them let alone remember their names. As we approached the coffin, I see her face all beautiful and gorgeous with a look of peace, love, and happiness.
I hope to explore and travel as much as you did. We enjoyed being with you!
I begin to reflect on my life, and how it pales in comparison to what she has achieved. She may not have lived that long, but let me tell you she probably lived her life as best as she could, and probably better than anyone else. She spent time traveling and exploring with the ones that she loved as well as did things that felt good for her. Her way of life is the epitome of what most of us should strive for: making the most out of our regular, everyday lives. That type of life motivates me to live a life like that as well. When someone meaningful like that passes away all of a sudden (such as my cousin Annika, who passed at just 13), it just reminds you from that point on just how fragile life is. The people whom you love may not be around here anymore, and also the opportunities to see and explore the world may not be there as well.

We will all age and leave this earth at some point in our lives. THAT'S A FACT OF LIFE. Make the most out of it! Tell the ones you love just how much you love them. Appreciate their time, care and effort. See and explore this world, and meet as much people as you possibly can because it just makes you a better person in the end. Material things come and go, but shared memories and experiences are things that you will appreciate and cherish for the rest of your life! Live your life everyday, and do more of what makes you happy. It may not be perfect, but at least you can say that it's that life that YOU wanted. And really with Michelle's life, living that type of life and surrounding herself with loving and caring people are what really mattered the most. I hope that someday, we will meet again. Thank you for all the beautiful and meaningful moments that you shared with us. And that shows just how fragile and delicate life is. Love your life and keep on living it!
One of Michelle's special moments on her birthday with her family. Your family and all of us love you!