Back To Running & Cooking! (Pasta Recipe Included, Too)

Last Tuesday, I started running again! It felt so good to wear my running shoes and run ’till I sweat, pant, and can’t talk no more. 🙂 Next to meeting God, running a few kilometers in a garden in the middle of the Makati Central Business District (CBD) is one of the few reasons I look forward to waking up in the early morn.

I ran at 7 AM and unfortunately, didn’t get to see the sunrise. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed my 30-minute run. However, since I was on hiatus for several months (only with running, not exercise), my body cried for an adjustment phase that it may recall my former running stride, if I had any. =))

Then last Thursday, I cooked a healthy, low-cost pasta dish! Now that I have all the time in the world I can run and continue enhancing my cooking skills. This dish I adapted from Women’s Health Whole-Wheat Spaghetti With Sweet Peppers and Chicken Sausage recipe. As usual, I lacked the exact ingredients stated in the recipe so I tweaked the dish using  ingredients available at home. Thankfully, my Dad brought home a few cans of Spam so I used that instead of chicken sausage. It turned out swell! Everyone at home enjoyed the dish.

Spaghetti With Spam, Bell Peppers, and Basil

Makes 6-8 servings

  • 500 g pasta noodles (spaghetti, fettuccine, or linguine)
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 can Spam lite, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 tsps dried basil leaves or 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 4 large assorted bell peppers
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add Spam and brown lightly on both sides, about 7 minutes. Transfer cooked sausage to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Wipe out the pan.
  2. Add remaining oil to the skillet. Saute garlic over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add peppers and saute until shiny, about 1 minute. Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until peppers are soft but not mushy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add Spam and basil to pan, and mix gently.
  3. Cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain in a colander, leaving a little water in the pot. Pour the pasta back into the pot and toss to prevent sticking, then add it to the pan with the sauce and combine. Divide among  plates, garnish with fresh basil, and serve.

Voila!

I know it’s not the most appealing photo of a supposedly delicious pasta (but really, it’s good), but I don’t exactly have a very good camera (or photography skills). My Dad wasn’t home when I cooked this so I had no one to take good photos with an excellent camera. At least I tried!

By the way, if you’re a runner and you’re searching for a playlist that could help fire up your albeit monotonous run, then I suggest you update your playlist with these songs emailed to me by Chris Lawhorn of Run Hundred.

Tim Berg – Seek Bromance (Avicii Vocal Edit) – 127 BPM

Katy Perry – The One That Got Away – 135 BPM

Alexandra Stan – Mr. Saxobeat (Maan Studio Remix) – 126 BPM

Flo Rida – Good Feeling – 129 BPM

Wolfgang Gartner & Will.I.Am – Forever – 128 BPM

Hot Chelle Rae – Tonight Tonight (Goldstein Remix) – 118 BPM

Taio Cruz & Flo Rida – Hangover – 129 BPM

Enrique Iglesias, Pitbull & The WAV.s – I Like How It Feels – 129 BPM

Kaskade & Skrillex – Lick It – 128 BPM (I did not use this, though, The title turned me off. haha)

Kelly Clarkson – What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger) – 117 BPM

I also suggest ending your playlist with Israel Houghton’s, “We Have Overcome.” It’ll seal your hard work! 🙂

Until my next run and dish! 😀

“I Don’t Need Easy; I Just Need Possible.”

Bethany Hamilton not only said that; she lived it.

Yesterday, my family and I watched Soul Surfer, an autobiography on the victorious and inspirational life of professional surfer and Christian Bethany Hamilton (played by Annasophia Robb). While surfing off Kauai’s North Shore back in October 31, 2003, Bethany encountered the beast that changed her life forever: a 14-foot tiger shark attacked her, leaving her left arm severed and causing her to lose 60% of her blood.*  In spite the near-death situation she faced (literally caught in the jaws of death), Bethany survived the shark attack and lived to proclaim the hope, love, mercy, provision, joy, and care she received from her Savior, Jesus Christ.

God couldn’t be anything but timely when He allowed me to watch the film (Malacanang suspended classes yesterday).  I have been very complacent with my physique, prayer life, studies, writing (especially that novel that is soon to be born), and serving others.  If my life were a game, I was living the life of an easy-goer, an amateur–not exactly the plan God had in mind. The Christian life is anything but mediocre; in fact, it is impossible. Nevertheless it is possible because of the God Who can make all things possible. Since I wasted a lot of time in the valley of complacency, my passion for all things Heavenly slowly eroded. God was not impatient, but He had to jolt me out of my lethally dangerous lifestyle. I am so thankful He did and did so without costing me anything. At least for now.

To say that  Bethany Hamilton is tough is an understatement. She is a living, breathing example of living by faith and not by sight. Like most, if not all, Christians who have encountered ferocious “shark attacks” that left an area of them severed, Bethany questioned God’s plan for her life. After all, how could God have made her for surfing then take away a part of her that enabled her to surf excellently? Any person in her shoes would conclude that way from a “zoomed in” perspective. As explained in the movie, you don’t appreciate a photo when you look at it too close; however, once you step back and see the picture as a whole, what you saw as unattractive or vague you now consider beautiful or at the very least, understand completely. The same principle applies to life. We tend to be disappointed with God because we don’t see life as He does. God’s eyes are “zoomed out;” He sees the picture as a whole. Sometimes we really won’t see the big picture, and for this reason, we are to trust God. Bethany Hamilton trusted the Lord to carry her day by day, and He kept true to His Word. Until today, Bethany inspires young men and women, handicapped and otherwise, all over the world that God “knows the plans He has for them, plans to prosper them, plans to give them a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I want to thank Bethany Hamilton for allowing herself to be used by God to inspire people with her testimony including me. 🙂 I quote God’s Words to me after watching Soul Surfer:

“Just like I used surfing and a shark attack in Bethany Hamilton’s life to help her know me better and inspire people to have faith in Me, so I will use your dexterity in writing, knowledge, dystonia, personality, temperament–YOU–to bring honor and glory to My Name as well as to bring people to My presence.” 

God can work with people who only has an arm, a leg, or none at all! Easy is a dangerous word; it kills the passion innate in every person. Don’t settle for easy. Plunge in the impossible that is possible only because of JESUS CHRIST. 🙂 

Check out photos of Bethany Hamilton in action! 🙂 (c/o of Google Images)

* taken from Bethany’s website

By the way, this is my 160th post! 🙂

 

 

Kung Fu Panda 2: Jam Packed With Morals

WARNING! Spoiler-inducing details of an awesome, awesome movie ahead.

Yesternight’s movie premiere of Kung Fu Panda 2 provided me lots of hearty laughs and insightful lessons to apply. 🙂 Compared to the first film, the sequel of awesomeness involved more drama and lasted for only an hour and 35 minutes. Nevertheless it was….

awesome! 🙂

For me, Po is the best superhero among all animated characters. Why? He is an epitome of what a true warrior and gentleman is like. He respects every person he meets, discarding all stereotypes; never backs down on a tough challenge; is not afraid to show his real self; cooks great Chinese food; and is undeniably hilarious (in a good way). Sure, his abs are preceded by a big fat F, but I think he wouldn’t be as charming and amiable as he is without them. Being a person who would love to chew, nibble and swallow for a living, I think Po and I would make excellent buddies. This year’s sequel of the film reveals a character in Po that I admire the most: a feisty conqueror.

I have warned you earlier, so don’t report me as spam (if that is even possible here) when I tell you that Po’s childhood–his adoption and how he was separated from his parents–was dramatically revealed in part 2. I say dramatic because almost all of the sentimental moments of the movie revolved around Po’s uneventful beginning. Like any adopted kid who hungers to know of his past, Po stumbled over sad realities regarding his parents: why they were killed, who killed them, why he was left inside a boxful of radish only to be picked up by a goose and how he should face his newly discovered weakness with “inner peace.” I realized that in every person there is an inner warrior destined to escape the walls of fear and shame and fight for justice and truth. The gastronomic lifestyle that Po mastered so well was meant to be his training ground and the life of a warrior his diving board to destiny.

As one gains strength, wisdom and experience, his struggles and weaknesses vary and increase in strength as well. Fear of the unknown haunted Po in part 1; in part 2 it is fear of the past. I learned that hero’s kryptonite is not his nemesis or some external evil force annihilating anyone who gets in its way, but his own imperfections and flaws combined with uneventful circumstances in the present, past or both. No wonder Master Shifu’s next lesson for Po was inner peace. Many times I think that I can fully maximize my potential if the environment I live in would change–achieve permanent peace, uphold justice, etc–but I’m mistaken. Transformation ought to take place within me. Often times we work our way to change others when we should be changing ourselves.

Apparently I’m the serious side of the movie after doing all the metaphorical and philosophical analysis. :)))) Seriousness aside, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a must-see for those kids at heart who are yearning for much-needed hearty crack-ups and of course, insightful morals. Other delightful findings aside from these things and Po’s portly, bouncy stomach would be Tigress’ elegant, hardcore voice (which only Ms. Jolie can deliver), the peacock’s, Shen’s, unique design, baby Po and the peanut ampao that I munched even though doing so ruined my diet. With a character like Po kung fuing his way to your heart and stomach, there is no room for diets to pervade and conquer. 🙂

cuteness overload!! 🙂

More Powerful Than Hercules

About two hours ago (it is now 11 PM), I watched Hercules on Disney. The scene that greeted me when I switched on the TV was the part where Phil (Philoctetes, Hercules’ trainer), Pegasus and Hercules went (or should I say, flew) to the city of Thebes hoping that Hercules could snag a heroic job. The ‘Thebians,’ having survived repercussions of natural disasters, laughed at Hercules and turned down his sincere offer. One of the citizens, a tall, portly guy whose teeth seemed to have been washed away in the shores for having been mistaken as chipped seashells, asked Hercules this question:

“Can you reverse natural disasters?”

You don’t have to be a meteorologist to answer this question. I bet the guy wasn’t even expecting Hercules to answer; he probably intended to expose the inadequacy of the prominent Greek god.

About five minutes later, the same portly guy who mocked Hercules’ heroic capabilities gave him a hero’s parade after defeating the Hydra that Hades, Hercules’ uncle, sent along his nephew’s way. A momentary victory that involved no reversing of natural disasters whatsoever deterred a man’s views on heroism.

This scene from an animated film–one of my favorite Disney classics, I must say–led me to 2 realizations:

  1. The ultimate hero is the one guy who can reverse natural disasters. Man can somehow control and escape famine, crime, persecution and war, but he can never flee the perils of raging waters and throbbing tectonic plates.
  2. We tend to focus on the momentary acts of chivalry so that we could at least be free–even for a while–from the seemingly permanent troubles that surround us. Even if they don’t make up for half of our problems.

The real hero is one who delivers us from our deepest struggles. From situations where you have no way out, and all you can do is sit around and wait for someone to help you. Thankfully, there is a Man who passed the criteria. I think you know Who I’m talking about.

In case you don’t have the slightest clue, His Name is Jesus. If, by any chance you heard the names Wonderful, Counselor, Good Shepherd, Messiah, Son of God, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, Lamb of God, Man of Sufferings, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, you just heard some of His many other beautiful Names.

Several minutes later–when Meg resigned from being Hades’ toy–a question formed in my head.

“If God is the ultimate authentic hero who can reverse natural disasters, why did He allow Japan to suffer 3 consecutive beatings from Nature?”

The truth is, I don’t know. I know God read the question written all over my head, but He did not answer it. He has His reasons–good, purposeful reasons. But for now, I’m not in the position to know them.

All I know is that there is an even deeper problem than tsunamis and earthquakes that God has indeed addressed. And that is man’s eternal state. (for more info on salvation, go here) God is the Hero Who majors on the majors. Unlike human superheroes, God does not try way too hard to solve life’s problems. He does not need to save every damsel in distress to prove His power. Yet, He does.

Okay…where am I taking this? Well by God’s grace my deepest problem–my sin problem–has already been solved so I’m relieved. That means I won’t be justified as a sinner any longer. When God sees me, He sees Jesus’ blood and so He calls me daughter. Princess. Child.

Right now, however, I have a problem. Well it’s more of the aftermath of a problem. I have a confession to make: I became complacent in my last semester of my 1st year in college. And the consequence?

I won’t be seeing my name on the dean’s list this year. Or ever in UA&P because there’s a 99.99% chance I won’t be studying there again. (More juicy details on that soon)

Call me whatever you like–nerd, grades-obsessed, geek–but I love school. Two of the things I hold dearly in life I can be cultivate in any educational institution: learning and relationships. For this reason, school rocks. However, I sometimes fail to show my love for him (I usually call things and places ‘him’ so that I can easily use similes and metaphors). I tend to be the unfaithful wife who commits adultery with my many lovers, namely, Tumblr, Facebook, CSI, Glee and extended eating times. Thankfully, I have a gracious and loving God to back me up (He is my real husband, btw). He never–ever–fails to lead me back to the right track. Back to where I chose studying for a Chem exam even if it was 3 days away over watching an episode of CSI New York. Back to where I read my readings, not skipping a line, instead of my newly bought book.

I am telling you this now because I just saw my grades online a few hours ago. Right now, my biggest struggle is how I’ll tell my parents and how they will respond.

My parents are not type of parents who tracked every academic record of their children–even the 5-item quiz–just so they could be assured that they’re afloat and even walking on water. They do require three of us–me, Josh and James–to succeed and excel in our studies because it’s their greatest pamana (inheritance) to us. By God’s amazing goodness, my parents sent me to a prestigious and undoubtedly expensive university. Add to that the daily allowance, food expenses, chauffering to various school projects and requirements and the undying support especially during the times I was down. They don’t deserve this.

But then again, they don’t deserve anything either! We all do! This reality made alive by God’s grace which was expressed so vividly on the cross somehow comforted me, but only a little. I will do better next time. I will study harder especially that I am in college. I. am. a. college. student.

The incessant struggle with “educational adultery” haunts me to this day, but I know I have a Hero who would immediately sweep me away from stumbling as soon as I call out to Him. Let this Hero save you. Cause He can. And He will. 😀

unSHACKled

Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?

Countless people ask this question. Some find answers, some don’t. Maybe they do, but they choose to reject the truth because they think it is too unbearable, too painful to simply accept it.

Mackenzie Allen Phillips asked the same question and felt the same way. He was on vacation with his family when his youngest daughter, Missy, went missing. As time and search progressed, evidence found in an abandoned shack in the Oregon wilderness suggested that Missy may have been brutally murdered. Four years later, in the midst of his “Great Sadness,” Mack receives a mysterious note in his mailbox that invited him to revisit the shack for the weekend. Apparently, the note came from God.

Desire won over Mack’s better judgement. Thus, on one wintry afternoon, Mack left home and revisited the shack where all the pain inside him stemmed from. The succeeding events inside that shack will change his life forever.

Let me be the nth person to say it: This novel is a magnum opus of Jesus– next to the Bible, of course :D. He used W.M. Paul Young, the author, to intelligently and wisely connect the dots of the plot, match the right words and create an extraordinary masterpiece. His working in Mack’s life is an encouragement to all His other children especially those who harbor pain, grief and independence in their hearts.

Mack’s story made me smile, think and shed a tear. Although it’s not and never will be as perfect as the Bible, it somehow corrected my wrong notions of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s a mystery I have been trying to solve for months, but after reading the book, I decided to just leave it at that. When there is no mystery, thrill does not exist. And who does not love thrills? Okay, maybe you don’t, but I certainly do!

This book is for everyone–Christian or not, in pain or in joy. Never neglect the divine revelation of God–the Bible–but also do not belittle the wisdom and spiritual truths explained in this novel. As I flipped the pages and comprehended every paragraph, I understood the nature of God; His unexplainable and overflowing love, grace, compassion, patience, forgiveness and provision for me and all His children. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are overwhelming but amazing. There is no regret in choosing to trust them. In fact, it’s the only key to understanding the essence of human existence. Depending on Jesus is the first key to being truly human.

Dear friend, as you near the end of this review, I encourage you to go to your nearest bookstore as soon as possible and purchase a copy of The Shack. In the Philippines it’s quite an expensive book compared to other Christian books, but I tell you, it’s definitely worth the buy.

As you read, there will be times wherein you have to stop and think about a statement or principle mentioned in the book. You may not agree with it or find it too difficult to comprehend. It’s okay; I experienced the same thing. You do not have to agree with everything the author says since he has his own values and morals, but as with any other Christian book, The Shack has one main objective: that you get to know Jesus better and in a more personal way. He is the Source of heartwarming, life-changing stories that turns the world upside down.

The Shack. Buy it. Read it.

And may our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ unshackle you from your suffering and pain! 🙂