“Jollibee Night” at Lolo and Lola

Last night, I took the family to Lolo and Lola, a popular Filipino restaurant here in Canberra. It was “Jollibee Night” for us, and the owners were serving up their spin on some of Jollibee’s most-loved classics, including Chickenjoy and Burger Steak.

It was the first time for my wife and me to take our kids, and we were concerned they wouldn’t appreciate this Fil-Aussie take on their favourite foods. But our fears were completely unfounded, because they enjoyed it immensely!

The regular-sized order of “Burger Steak” featured three large patties of delicious Australian beef cooked in a rich, thick mushroom sauce. Served with shallots atop the dish, Lolo and Lola‘s Burger Steak was a big hit with Nathan, who wolfed down two of the three patties.

This Canberra Filipino restaurant did its best to replicate the famous Chickenjoy fried chicken. The flavour was quite similar, not exactly the same, but very good. The regular-sized order had about eight drumsticks, of which about half were taken by Nicola, can you imagine?

Finally, a trip to Lolo and Lola wouldn’t be complete without their signature crispy bagnet. What makes theirs different from pretty much any other bagnet I’ve had is the brilliant skin, which expands to chicharon-size proportions. Crispy and delicious, this is always the highlight of our trips to this Filipino restaurant in Canberra.

The total meal cost us less than AUD60, not too shabby for a family of four, with several leftovers for takeaway. We’ve always enjoyed our time at Lolo and Lola’s, and highly recommend them for anyone in Canberra looking for a taste of Filipino cuisine at its homiest and most delicious.

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Lolo and Lola is located at 3 Watson Place, Watson ACT 2602. They don’t accept bookings, lol.

Kid-friendly tuna salad sushi

For my son’s lunch the other, I made tuna salad sushi. It was so easy to make, and a joy to watch him devour! LOL

Step 1. Prepare the sushi rice. Cook a cup of uncooked rice according to instructions. (I prefer one cup of uncooked rice to two cups of water.) While the rice is cooking, dissolve a tablespoon of sugar and a dash of salt in a third-cup of rice vinegar. Once the rice is cooked, transfer to a large bowl, and stir the vinegar into the rice until fully combined.

Step 2. Prepare the other ingredients. Combine canned tuna and mayonnaise to taste. Other ingredients in this sushi are shredded imitation crabsticks, basil leaves, chopped cucumbers, and cheese slices, cut into strips. Also, in a ramekin, combine soy sauce and a small amount of prepared wasabi paste, for dipping afterward.

Step 3. Assemble the sushi. On top of a sushi rolling mat (you can see it under the plate in the picture), lay a sheet of nori (Japanese seaweed). Imagine dividing your nori into three horizontal rectangles, and spread a thin layer of rice over the lower two-thirds. At the bottom of the nori, working your way up, layer the ingredients in a horizontal pattern. (I did mine: basil, tuna, cucumber, crabsticks, cheese.)

Step 4. Roll with it! Using the mat, start to roll the nori upwards, moving the mat underneath so it doesn’t fold with the sushi.

Step 5. Nomnom time! Dip in the soy-wasabi and enjoy!

Caprese salad hors d’oeuvres

The other day, I saw this beautiful picture from Jeremiah Bishop, and y’all, I was trigged.

I love me any good tomato dish, and the fresher the dish, the deeper the love.

I’d seen caprese salad work before, but the mozzarella that Jeremiah put atop his salad was ridiculous.

So I said to myself, I wanna make that.

Problem was, I didn’t have any large tomatoes. (As of this blog, though, Caths and I got some truss tomatoes, and I am STOKED.) All I had on the countertop where we store our veggies in winter was a box of cherry tomatoes.

So inspiration struck. I’ma make myself some hors d’oeuvres as a snack. Monica Geller and the French call ’em “amuse bouche,” which roughly translates “amuses the mouth,” into and trust me, my palate was tickled.

So what went into this caprese salad?

Cherry tomatoes, salami, feta, and capers!

That simple! Chopped up the tomatoes, layered the salami, feta, and capers, and topped with with buds of thyme. I rather liked it!

Mandisa, “Good News”

Contemporary Christian singer Mandisa has released the latest single from her album, “Out of the Dark.” Titled “Good News,” the song was birthed from Mandisa’s experience of sharing with the world the acceptance of Jesus Christ by her brother John as the latter’s personal Lord and Saviour.

The joy experienced by Mandisa is captured well in this ebullient praise party jam, written by the singer with AJ Prius and Matthew West. One of the outstanding tracks off Mandisa’s latest release, “Good News” bodes well for another Top 10 hit for the former American Idol alum.


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…and it’s been three weeks

Tomorrow, June 25, will mark three weeks since my kids and I flew into Canberra, Australia, to join my wife and start four years here while she pursues her second PhD (at the Australian National University).

In three weeks, here’s what I have learned about Australian life thus far:

1. Australian winters are brutal for islanders accustomed to tropical temperatures. When we arrived, it was a brisk 14 degrees Celsius; I awoke up this morning to -5 degrees. I knew it would be cold, but this is cold that I have never experienced in my life. Not even close. I mean, Seoul in 2012 gave us 4 degrees at its coldest. Even as I type this at around 1:30 p.m., it’s 11 degrees, while it’s 30 degrees in Manila, and I’m bundled up in a coat and thermal underwear.

For a Filipino used to 34 degrees, it’s rough. I feel my fat solidifying in my joints. My kids are adjusting well, but every day, my wife and I are bundled up in several layers of winter wear. It’s not the best recipe for staying incognito; most other Canberrans are lightly dressed while I do a Filipino version of The Mummy.

There are times when I miss the heat of the islands.

2. Getting around is a dream. The buses are on time and the city’s idea of traffic is a five- to six-car buildup. Between the accuracy of the transportation system–already fantastic, and a light rail transit will be operational by year’s end!–and the efficiency of reloading tickets, it’s fantastic, to be honest.

Also, about a week ago, we also secured ourselves a quality second-hand car. I like to believe that I’m a responsible driver, so upon thoroughly reviewing the ACT Road Rules Handbook, it took me a few minutes to get the hang of driving on the left side of the road and the right side of the car. I don’t do it often, but when I do, it’s such a pleasure to drive because the roads are level and the other drivers so considerate.

3. The city seems so clean and dust-free. I have to tell you that one of the best things about being here is how clean the city is. I look at the white buildings and I marvel at how they’re so white, with none of the unsightly streaks that often come with rain. I look at the sides of the roads and see no oil marks on the rain drains that often come with pollution. It’s shocking.

4. They really do shut down early here. A few friends told me that a lot of the shops close early, and they were right. By 6:00 p.m., most of the stores at the Canberra City Centre (a major shopping mall) were closed; the Canberra coffee shop I like to frequent closes at 2:30… in the afternoon. What this means is more time to do what we love, often with the people we love.

5. We love our home. For the past three weeks, and for the next three weeks, we’ll be staying at this lovely place in Watson, a district of the city. It’s so pretty. The picture at the start of this blog post is a pic of the backyard, where it’s just a great place to relax and enjoy time with your family or God. I love it.

Phil Wickham, “Great Things”

Contemporary Christian singer and songwriter Phil Wickham has released his new digital single, “Great Things.” In the past ten years, Wickham has consistently made singalong pop anthems that speak life to his fan base, including the number one hit, “This is Amazing Grace,” and his last carrier single, “Your Love Awakens Me” (off the album “Children of God.”

With “Great Things,” Wickham has crafted yet another catchy, radio-friendly praise track that sings of the great things Jesus has done. Easily singable and almost skillfully designed for congregational use in churches, “Great Things” continues to broaden Wickham’s crossover appeal, and is yet again another example why this journeyman remains to be one of Contemporary Christian music’s finest, if not underappreciated, male vocalists of his generation.

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Sanctus Real, “Confidence”

Contemporary Christian pop/rock band Sanctus Real has returned with its new single, “Confidence,” featuring new lead singer Dustin Lolli, who replaces the now-solo-artist Matt Hammitt. Written by Lolli with Ethan Hulse, Matthew Armstrong, and Chris Rohman, “Confidence” is an explicitly biblical track on how God is the source of our strength and confidence, citing several heroes in the Bible who were known for accomplishing great feats, thanks to their God-given strength and faith.

Vocally, I think Lolli and Hammitt are as different as night and later that night. However, long-time fans of the band who understand Hammitt’s reasons for leaving may be comforted by the knowledge that he was replaced by a singer who can match Matt’s vocal chops and then some. I think “Confidence” is a fantastic track, and ushers in a remarkable new direction for the band’s new chapter.

CONFIDENCE Lyrics
Sanctus Real

I’m not a warrior
I’m too afraid to lose
I feel unqualified for what you’re calling me to
But Lord with your strength
I’ve got no excuse
Cause broken people are exactly who you use.

So give me faith like Daniel in the lion’s den
Give me hope like Moses in the wilderness
Give me a heart like David, Lord be my defense
So I can face my giants with confidence

You took a shepherd boy
And made him a King
So I’m gonna trust you and give you everything
I’ll be a conquerer
Cause you fight for me
I’ll be a champion claiming your victory

So give me faith like Daniel in the lion’s den
Give me hope like Moses in the wilderness
Give me a heart like David, Lord be my defense
So I can face my giants with confidence

I’m gonna sing and shout and shake the walls
I won’t stop until I see them fall
Gonna stand up, step out when you call
Jesus, Jesus
I’m gonna sing and shout and shake the walls
I won’t stop until I see them fall
Gonna stand up, step out when you call
Jesus

Give me faith like Daniel in the lion’s den
Give me hope like Moses in the wilderness
Give me a heart like David, Lord be my defense
So I can face my giants with confidence
Give me faith like Daniel in the lion’s den
Give me hope like Moses in the wilderness
Give me a heart like David, Lord be my defense
So I can face my giants with confidence
I’ll face my giants with confidence