Eating Out

It is officially summertime in our area. Summer solstice was June 21, so our days are long and hot. Time for picnics and grilling outside.

A couple of days ago, I came home early and my wife asked me to accompany her to the grocery store. She said she’s going to prepare a special dinner and needed to buy some items.  She saw in the internet this “summer dish” and wanted to try it.

After we got home and after some time and much loving effort, our dinner was ready. The new dish my wife prepared is called the Italian grilled vegetable salad. I am not a food blogger, so I’m not enumerating the ingredients needed to make this dish nor would I pretend that I know how to prepare it. Though I think some of you can figure it out just by looking at the photo below.

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I know it’s a deviation from our usual Filipino food we have at home. Where’s the pancit? Where’s the adobo?

It rained heavily early that afternoon so it cooled down a bit. The temperature outside was very comfortable and did not feel like an oven. We checked the forecast too and there should be no more rain the rest of the day.

So to make it a perfect summer dinner we decided that we should eat out too. No, not eat out in a restaurant. I mean eat out, outdoor in our deck.

The earlier downpour plus the strong winds also drove the insects away. Many times there are lots of flies around that you can’t eat out without having a fly swatter in hand. Besides, the rain already washed our outdoor table and chairs clean.

Eating outdoor is popular during summer time. Even fancy restaurants here have patio outside where you can dine. However, I still feel uneasy sometimes when the tables outside the restaurant is near a street where people passing by can see your every bite or can even grab your food. Maybe it’s just me.

After elaborate preparation – setting our table and taking all the food out, we were ready to eat. Of course we took a photo first before we chomp down the food (photo below).

IMG_6707.jpgNote how presentable and artful our table was. It was Instagram worthy. For you readers, I want to let you know that we usually don’t dine like this. Most of the time we scoop our food to our plate directly from the pots and pans. And knife and table napkins, who need those? Please also note the tomatoes, not on the table but on the planter near the table. They are not ripe yet though.

After saying grace and after we literally took our first bite, the rain started falling. Yes, rain! Darn! Can’t trust those weather forecasters.

We hurried back and carried all the food inside. We ended up eating inside our home just like we do everyday. Our “perfect” outdoor dinner was ruined by the rain. Though it would take more than rain to ruin our evening or break our spirits. We remain thankful, after all, it was still a very satisfying dinner.

At least we can claim we ate outside. Even for one bite.

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(*photos taken with an iPhone)

View Through a Battle Shield

I sat quietly surveying my field of vision like a pilot of a battle tank. And I realized that I was looking at a killing field. It mostly happened last night, but it was veiled in the darkness. I had no idea that it was this vicious, until I saw it in the morning light.

In front of my eyes lay several casualties. Perhaps in the hundreds. They were all dead. Crushed and mangled. Their innards scattered on the battle field.

Life is short. I know for them it is shorter. And it just become even shorter. Life can be unfair sometimes.

All they want is freedom. Freedom to live. Freedom to propagate. Freedom to roam on a beautiful warm summer’s night.

But I want my freedom too. And my freedom to roam clashed with theirs.

I don’t like it. Nor did I plan it. It was not my intention to annihilate them. No, not at all! They were just in the wrong place, and in the wrong time. Or was it me that was in the wrong place and in the wrong time?

Dang it! My windshield is splattered with dead bugs again!

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(*photo taken with an iPhone)

Doorhenge

If you live near the equator, the time of the sunrise is almost the same throughout the year. When I was living in Manila, the earliest sunrise is about 5:30 in the morning, and the latest will be at 6:30. The more distance you live above or below the equator, the more the difference in the times of sunrises and sunsets through the year.

Where I live now here in Iowa, the earliest sunrise is at 4:40 (Standard time) in June, but due to Daylight Saving Time from March to November, so the adjusted time is 5:40 in the morning. We have about 15 hours of daylight at this time. Then the latest sunrise is at 7:40 in December, and have only 9 hours of daylight.

Have you also noticed that the sunrises and sunsets are not in the same spot on the horizon all year? This is due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis of rotation, which is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees (sorry, I’m such a nerd). As a result, at some points in the orbit of Earth, the north pole is tilted towards the sun, and at other points it is tilted away from the sun, making the location of sunrises and sunsets different depending on the time of year.

By the way, that specific tilt of 23.5 degrees of Earth is also the reason for the different seasons of the year. But that is a subject of discussion perhaps for another time.

With regards to viewing sunrises, one enigma of our civilization is the ancient structure, the Stonehenge. One theory is that it was built as a celestial observatory. Though it could be an altar or some kind of sacred monument as well. In any case, it is built to have been perfectly arranged to face the midsummer sunrise, and midwinter sunset. So if you stand in just the right place inside the Stonehenge monument on the day of the northern summer solstice, you’ll see the sunrise align through those pillars.

A similar phenomenon also happens in New York City, when the setting of the sun aligns perfectly with the grid-pattern streets of Manhattan, which happens twice a year, typically in May and July. This is also known as the Manhattanhenge.

Interestingly, I have a similar event in my house here in Iowa. That is on a certain time of the year, the sunrise perfectly aligns with my front door and shines directly through the corridor and into our living room.

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When this happen, I know that we are halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Or this is just time to let the sunshine in and start a new day.

Have a good day everyone!

(*photo taken last weekend with an iPhone)

 

 

 

September Sunrise

It’s been more than a couple of weeks that we have returned from our trip to the Philippines.

I have fully recovered from the jet-lag. My tracks of the mosquito bites were all gone. My sunburn have healed. The stash of the butong pakwan (watermelon seed) that we brought back is almost gone. And all that I have left are the sweet memories of home.

I miss the Philippines.

As September rolls in, heralding the end of summer, we brace for the coming cold season. Yet waking up to this beautiful morning, is not bad at all. Not at all.

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(*photo taken in our neighborhood, with an iPhone)

Bite Me

Summer breeze is now blowing here in the northern hemisphere. Yesterday, we had our first 90-degree-Fahrenheit day for the season, and it is predicted that it will be the same today. Summer has arrived in our neck of the woods.

I went out for a run in our neighborhood this morning. Just my usual 2-3 miler run. Nothing extraordinary.

With the warmer air, I felt it was harder to run. Though I am not fond of the cold, I will admit, that running in the colder weather can be better. Personally, I feel that 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature to run, especially when doing longer distances.

As I was struggling this morning on a steep uphill climb, but was nearing the top, suddenly a fierce-looking black bulldog came out from a neighbor’s yard.

The dog was not barking. It was just charging towards me!

They say that there are two ways to react when faced with danger. The first response is flight.  But as I said, it was uphill, and it would be very difficult to sprint ala-Usain Bolt. Plus I am not sure I can outrun a charging bulldog.

The second response is to fight. Me fighting a menacing-looking bulldog? But I don’t have my Black Ninja sword with me. Would my Kung-Fu deter this attack dog?

Confronted with danger or in an excited state, the flight or fight hormones (adrenalin and the like) will be secreted by our body. With these body juices rushing, individuals can do extreme feats, like carrying a refrigerator all alone during a fire evacuation, or clearing a high fence on a single bound when being chased by a vengeful lover.

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Fight or Flight (as in flying!) response

Well, some people say that there’s another response in facing danger. That is to freeze. Like a deer caught in a bright headlight.

Scientists say that standing still or playing dead is a real mode of defense mechanism. It is employed by many creatures in the animal kingdom. Best known is the opossum. They freeze not just because they are gripped with fear, but rather they are using nature’s way of self-preservation.

And that’s what I did. I stopped running and stood still.

But the bulldog did not stop on his charge. It was rampaging straight for my legs! I saw it open its mean snout……

And then it licked my leg! No bite. Just a friendly lick.

I must be like Kentucky Fried Chicken to that bulldog. Finger-licking, ah, er, leg-licking good!

(*photo from the internet)

Summer is Gone

I woke up this morning to the sound of howling winds. I may have left one of the windows open. It rained all day yesterday and most through the night. At least the rain had stopped. But it was still overcast. It was a gloomy day.

The temperature also plummeted to 45º F (7º C) this morning and did not rise much above 50º F today. Though I heard it was above 100º F today in Los Angeles. But this is Iowa.

Tomorrow the forecast is that we will be in the 30’sº F in the early morning. This probably would be our first frost of the season. Time to bring in the outside pets and potted plants. Time to bring out the jackets. Maybe we also need to throw a blanket over our tomato plants in our garden tonight, which still is producing a lot of fruits, so it would not freeze.

We had a good summer though, and for the past few weeks we have experienced warm weather, even if it was already September. So we really cannot complain.

In fact last weekend my son went camping with other scouts, and he grumbled that he should have packed shorts instead of thick pants for it was hot. He said it was warm inside their tent that he did not zipped up his sleeping bag when he slept.

But it is October now. Almost overnight, the summer ended. Cold autumn is here to stay and bone-chilling winter is not very far behind.

The cold winds have blown off most of the leaves in our trees, and our yard is a scattered mess. Is it time for a fall clean up as well? Yet, I must confess that my kids like raking leaves and playing in the pile of leaves that they have gathered.

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my son raking leaves (taken 2 autumns ago)

Fall can be a beautiful season though. With the bursting colors of the trees’ foliage, people wearing fashionable jackets and trendy boots, the farmers enjoying their bountiful harvest, and with the much celebrated Thanksgiving holiday and feasting, it is not hard to imagine why this time of year is the favorite of many people. Not to mention, it is also time for many bargain sales.

But not for me. I am kind of summer guy. I like wearing shorts and t-shirts. I may complain about the heat, but I can bear it. I grew up in a tropical country, for crying out loud!

Yes, I know that summer is gone. Yet in one last act of defiance, I refused to wear my jacket when I went out today.

Of course I was cold!

 

 

A Perfect Day

I was on-call last weekend. It was not particularly busy that I was drowning in work, but enough to keep me occupied in the hospital most of the days during the weekend. I had more toxic calls before, so I really cannot complain.

I was making my rounds in the hospital and making headway on my long list of patients to see. I have seen all the ICU patients and working on the rest of the patients in the hospital. On my way to the other side of the hospital, I passed the crossway that overlooks the center garden of the hospital.

I stopped for a while and gazed longingly at the garden.

our hospital's central garden

our hospital’s central garden

It was already early in the afternoon. It was sunny, but the temperature outside was not hot, nor was it cold. It was just right. It was early September after all, when summer and autumn are in their crossroads.

It was a perfect day to be outside.

I could have been outside. I could have been sitting outside in that garden with the beautiful flowers in bloom. I could have been outside shooting hoops with my son. Or could have been outside having barbecue with my friends. Or could have been outside riding my bike on some engaging bike trail. Or could have been outside just lying on a hammock under a tree. I could have been outside……

Instead, I was inside the hospital walls. Working.

The next stop on my rounds was the Oncology floor. I entered the room of our patient who has history of rectal cancer and was treated several years ago. But now found to have his cancer come back with vengeance, spreading to his lungs. I was suddenly reminded of my mother who has the same circumstances.

My patient was having difficulty breathing. It was quite obvious that even with high flow oxygen he was struggling. Every movement was an effort. He has been hospitalized for some time now, with no clear indication of when he can go home. Or will he ever?

As I entered his room, he was looking at the window. He was looking at the same central garden that I was looking at, a little while ago. Perhaps he had the same thoughts that I had: I could have been outside enjoying this beautiful day.

But he can’t. And perhaps he never will.

That’s when a thought dawned on me. There’s a reason why I am not outside. I was placed here inside these hospital walls, for a sacred duty to care and give comfort for people who cannot enjoy a beautiful day outside, just like today.

It was a perfect day indeed.

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(*photo taken with an iPhone)

 

Crazy Weather

Exactly one week ago, I posted this photo.

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It was taken right after a light shower, with a visible rainbow in an almost complete arc. The brown grass was starting to turn green, and the empty branches were beginning to show their buds. Spring was on its way.

Then two days ago, our temperature went way up to the 80’s Fahrenheit. We put away our heavy coats into the closet. Me and my son played hoops in our driveway basketball court in our t-shirt and shorts. That night it was hot enough that I was tempted to turn on the air conditioner. Did summer arrived already and altogether skipped spring?

Yesterday the heavy rains came and it was gloomy all day. But it was alright, for we badly need the rain. Besides, the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.”

But this morning I woke up to this.

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Snow? No! The temperature dipped below freezing again. Needless to say, our heater was on once more, and our winter coats were out of the closet again.

Crazy Iowa weather!

 

Last Hurrah for Summer

September is here, heralding that the days of summer are numbered. At least here in the northern hemisphere.

This past Labor Day weekend, which is the unofficial mark for the end of the summer (Labor Day in the US is the first Monday of September), our family went out for a picnic. We also took the opportunity to take pictures for our family portrait. It may be our last hurrah for this summer.

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We did not go far, but simply went to the communal picnic area of our housing development. It was basically in our backyard. It was a perfect day though for a picnic. And for a photo shoot.

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To celebrate the end of summer, we all wore all-white. It was my wife’s idea actually. You know that there is an unofficial fashion rule that you cannot wear all-white anymore after Labor Day, right? I don’t know where that moratorium came from, but I suppose people associate white clothing, only for the summer.

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I can say that we did have fun picnicking, taking photos, and just frolicking in the warmth of the sun. We stayed in the park until it got dark and watched as the summer sun disappeared in the horizon.

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This morning, I passed by the picnic area. The day was breaking. But it was cold and foggy.

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Is summer gone already?

(*family photos taken with self-timer)

Of Goslings and Ducklings

June has rolled in upon us. The entry of this month heralds that spring will be officially transitioning into summer here in the northern part of the hemisphere. Born and raised in a tropical country, where there is eternal summer, I can’t wait for the summer to come, after experiencing a harsh winter here in Iowa. Come to think of it, we even had a snowstorm in May this year!

Another thing that June is known for is weddings. This month is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage, and that may be the reason why it is the most popular month to tie the knot. Many couples will take the plunge this June and start their own little family.

Speaking of family, it’s not just humans who raise their little family this time of year. I can see mother deer and their fawns, as well as big and little rabbits frolicking in our yard, much to the dismay of my wife, as they eat her flowers.

A few mornings ago while I was running, I saw a family of geese swimming in the pond near our place.

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A couple of weeks ago, we also came face to face with a family of ducks, while we were dining in a restaurant that is beside a man-made pond.

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Like the seasons, with spring turning into summer, then into autumn, and finally into winter – these little goslings and ducklings will grow and mature, and then not too long after, they will become parents and will have little critters of their own.

It was spring last year when we learned that my wife was pregnant with our third child. And it was also spring last year that we lost our supposed to be third child in an early termination of pregnancy.

Few nights ago, my wife commented that we could have been holding our 5-month old baby right now. Yeah, that’s an endearing thought.

But we don’t dwell on the “what ifs” and “could have been.” We have long accepted that it was not meant to be. Besides we have two “older” children that are constant source of joy and inspiration for my wife and I.

Being a parent, I believe, is the greatest privilege that our Creator have endowed us.

For all the parents out there who have little ones right now, can you please hug your babies a little tighter, for our sake. May you all have a beautiful summer.

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