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pavlov and us

There’s a good reason why I haven’t watched Snowdogs or Marley and Me, otherwise well-reviewed, excellent-themed movies. But I heard that a dog dies in each of these films, so I opted never to watch them. I don’t think my heart can take it. I easily mentally substitute dogs in film to the ones my sister and I have.

Cherie and I have four. Or rather had four, because we lost one yesterday — our eldest, Pavlov. He died of kidney failure, at a little past 9 in the evening, Philippine time. This handsome Japanese spitz was part of our family for twelve years. He celebrated his last birthday in May.

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When I moved to Sweden two years ago, I feared then, yet hoped otherwise, that I won’t see him again, so I kissed and hugged him for a longer time than I did the other dogs. Yesterday as he lay dying, my sister put the phone near his ears and I cried my final goodbye. I could write about him now, when the tug at my heart doesn’t feel as heavy as yesterday. I pity my sister, who faithfully cared for our sick dog, and who wasn’t spared from the pain of watching him slowly die. I admire her devotion and strength, that she endured to stay with him, for hours and hours, until the end.

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Pavlov was a gift from my father’s best friend’s family. They named him after the Russian psychologist who used dogs to prove the “conditioning” phenomenon. Before he was given to us, he had his first brush with death when a large trunk fell on him. He was just a few weeks old then. He miraculously survived but was left with an uncontrollable shaking of the head. We are grateful that this gradually disappeared over the years, and would manifest only when he got excited or focused on something.

When Pavlov was a few months old, before he could be vaccinated, he got sick of parvo. I really thought we would lose him then, but Cherie did not lose hope. One night, she made us lay our hands on him and ask the Lord for healing. We got our second miracle. The next morning, his health immediately improved. We became more careful after that and took him — and later, the younger dogs — to the doctor for regular care. Pavlov stayed healthy and gave us years of wonderful memories.

We will most miss him:

  • shaking his head when he’s focused on something;
  • pushing the food tray with his nose before he eats;
  • drinking his milk in the morning;
  • sept16-014greedily eating sweet bread in the afternoon;
  • running up and down the stairs;
  • sitting always at our feet during meal times;
  • getting “violently” excited over car trips
    and sticking his head out of the window;
  • gnarling at Yayay when it’s time for his bath
    yet becoming overly-playful immediately after she dries him;
  • barking loudly at anyone who arrives;
  • scratching at the door, and would not stop until you let him in;
  • jumping onto beds
    and trying to jump back again after you push him away
    or giving you that intent look, asking that he be allowed back on the bed;
  • January 15 2005 023licking our faces to greet us good morning;
  • standing by the ac and letting the cold wind blow on his face;
  • getting angry when we pretend to attack Cherie;
  • coming over to us when we pretend to talk behind his back;
  • happily hopping on the grass in the school campus;
  • lying contentedly while the younger dogs lick his ears;
  • chewing on toilet paper cartons;
  • playing hide-and-seek;
  • following us everywhere in the house;
  • and welcoming all of us, with that uber-excited wag on his tail, every time we come home.

Pavlov wasn’t merely our “dog”, he was our “baby”. Mine and Cherie’s. But it was very evident that he was more hers than mine. He was loyal and fiercely protective of her. I had his attention only when Cherie was absent. He loved her more because it was she who loved him most.

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We thank God for the gift of loving a dog. Pavlov made our memories even happier and moments even sweeter. He brought my sister and I closer, and brought out kindness and compassion from those who loved him.

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Good boy, Paffy.

Mommies love you.


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It is said that “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

When I moved here in August 2007, one of my earliest observations of Swedish culture was that when in Sweden, learn to make cinnamon buns!”

After two years, I finally did it.

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A big thanks to Joy for her recipe and Angie for her instruction.

It felt like the middle of summer on that Sunday afternoon. The heat of the sun beat down on us as we sat on the open grounds of Sturmsgården during the ecumenical service of Lutherans, Baptists and Pentecostals. But though it felt like summer wasn’t going away very soon, the reality of the changing of seasons was staring right at us.

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The leaves of the beautiful maple were showing hints of yellow.

Autumn was approaching.

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That week, we also noticed another sign of the beginning of fall: the abundance of locally grown apples. We were lucky to have gone apple-picking last year because our former apartment had apple trees in the backyard. This year, we resorted to getting them from the supermarket.

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I find that our Swedish apples are not as sweet as the imported ones from Belgium, France or Spain. Thus, they are meant more for cooking than for eating fresh. And for folks up here, the popular way of enjoying them is by making apple pie, apple juice, apple purée and apple crumble.

We recently received this postcard ad from the local newspaper…

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…and Jaakko made it a good excuse to pester me in finally making apple crumble. His charm won me over.

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We modified the recipe just a little bit and this is how it turned out.

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1,5 dl white flour ♦ 1 dl oatmeal
150 g butter ♦ 0,75 dl sugar
0,5 dl honey
Mix the above ingredients with a fork. Oil the pie form with butter. Slice 5 apples thinly and arrange them in the form. Add the oatmeal dough. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon powder all over the top. Bake in a 200° oven. The pie is done when the top is golden brown and the apples are soft.


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I also made vanilla sauce to complement the apple crumble: 1 dl butter and 0,75 dl white flour into the heated pan; add 1,5 dl cream, 2 Tbsp white sugar and 3 Tbsp vanilla sugar; mix until the sauce thickens. Regular recipes require eggs and the richer flavor of vanilla in a pod, but we didn’t have those in the pantry. Nonetheless, I think it turned out rather well.

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Mmm…the blend of flavor and aroma of apple, cinnamon and vanilla. Sweet, mushy, creamy. I hate to brag, but it was really delicious.

Then again, there is always room for improvement. Next time, I think I’ll add more oats.

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When the residents of Ljusdal crave for better shopping options, they drive 60 km east to the nearby coastal city of Hudiksvall. It is usually a 40-minute drive by car.

Jaakko and I have never been to the outskirts of Hudiksvall’s town center, so last weekend, to escape the heat in the flat, we decided to check out a certain “tourist site” that we found on the town’s website.

Kuggören is a quiet, charming fishing village occupying an entire tiny peninsula protruding from a larger peninsula (Hornslandet) protruding from Hudik’s coast. The boats find haven in a natural inlet conveniently opening west towards the mainland, away from the Baltic Sea.

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The first thing we noticed when we got out the car was the familiar smell of the sea. It’s amazing how certain smells instantly remind you of places and experiences you associate it with. For a moment I was taken back to the salt farms and fish ponds of Leganes, a town in Iloilo, a place that holds a lot of happy memories with family.

The beaches, both rocky and sandy, and red wooden houses are common sights around the dozens of lakes and rivers we have driven through in Sweden and Finland. But ah, the distinct smell of saltwater in the air — that made all the difference! That made the village especially attractive to me.

While looking out to the Baltic sea and listening to the noisy rush of the waves, I told Jaakko that this was our “end of summer surprise”.

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P1000983ooh, a wedding reception!

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Yesterday, two sweet ladies invited me to join their “Annual Raspberry Picking Day” at the property of a friend in a nearby village.

We arrived just before noon.

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Britt and Rakel set up our lunch boxes in the porch. We couldn’t go in because the house was abandoned three years ago. Berta, the owner, became too weak to take care of this large property all by herself. She now lives in an apartment in the town center.

We began the “work” before lunch.

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The containers must be tied around the hips, so both hands are free to fend off the bushes and pick the berries.

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This is the bush that we raided. It continues on behind the barn.

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Some raspberries could be plucked easily when they are found along the perimeter.

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But most of the time, we had to “wade” through thick and thorny bushes. And then there were the occasional pestering nettles, which “burned” our hands.

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The berries were sweet and in the beginning, I think I ate as much as I saved in the box.

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Oh, lookie! There were red currants…

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…and gooseberries, too! (Both aren’t very tasty though.)

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I was able to fill up just one puny box (excuse: I was mostly taking photos)…

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…while Britt and Rakel took home two containers each. Good work, ladies!

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After lunch, we picked more raspberries to share with Berta, as a gesture of thanks for allowing us to harvest in her land.

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I knew exactly what to do with these berries!

Inspired by Joy’s blueberry picking and subsequent pie, I decided to bake a raspberry version. Here is the recipe that I followed, albeit unfaithfully, replacing the 1 dl of white flour to graham’s flour, which made the dough rather sticky, which discouraged me from rolling the last third of the dough to lay on top of the pie.

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As expected, the filling had a seedy texture, but as not expected, it was a bit sour (they tasted sweet when fresh). The redeeming thing is that when one eats it with the thick crust, the sourness is neutralized. Altogether, with whipped cream and vanilla sugar on top, this should make for a good dessert.

Now the raspberry isn’t really my favorite fruit for a pie, nor am I an avid fan of any pie. But I relish in the fact that this is the product of my first serious try at berry-picking and more so, wonderful fellowship with two kind, faithful souls.

So the best part of yesterday wasn’t the pie, really, but rather the picking.

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And now for another chicken recipe, I give you the world-renowned (hmm, I think so) Filipino dish — the adobo! Wikipedia states that adobo is actually the Spanish word for “seasoning” or “marinade”. But when the Spaniards colonized the Philippines, they named this indigenous vinegar-based stew as adobo, and it has stuck ever since.

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In high heat, sauté the chopped garlic in olive oil until they brown.

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Lower the heat to medium and place all the chicken cutlets*
(5 drumsticks + 5 thighs) in the pan. Sprinkle with black pepper.

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Let it brown on both sides.
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Add 3 dl water, 2 dl soy sauce, 1 dl applecider vinegar and 1 dl white sugar.

After much trial and error, we have settled on this proportion. It is rather easy to remember and with this determined ratio, I don’t have to keep taste-testing the mixture until I get the proper flavor.P1000837

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Drop some peppercorns and dried bay leaves.

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Cover and slow boil for an hour.

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Serve it with white rice that has been fried in the adobo liquid.

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This dish, with its distinct sour-salty-sweet flavor absorbed well into the very tender chicken meat, is a consistent winner. Jaakko once commented to his parents: I bet you haven’t tasted chicken this tasty, huh?

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*The common alternative is pork, or one can even have both types of meat in the recipe.

Before today, we have been using chicken legs 99% of the time for our chicken meals. Our use of chicken breasts has been limited (only for arroz caldo and curry, which we hardly ever eat) because neither of us has found a recipe that could transform this bland meat into, well, something tasty, at the very least.

But then…enter Jamie Oliver and his Ministry of Food! A few months ago, we watched some episodes in this series where he became teacher and mentor to inexperienced-in-the-kitchen Brits, and they promised to pass on their cooking skills to their similarly inexperienced friends.

One of the first easy recipes he taught them was this fried chicken breast with parmesan and prosciutto. He made them pound on the meat with all the toppings, and I thought that was a rather cool idea to get the chicken breasts well flavored. I knew then that I must try it some time. And that “some time” came today.

So in the spirit of Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food, here’s “passing it on” to you.

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I decided to make the chicken breasts thinner by slicing them in half, into 1 cm thick fillets.

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Sprinkle black pepper and lemon juice. There is no need to put salt at all because the prosciutto later on is already salty enough.

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Top with fresh parsley leaves (or one can use dried ones). Jamie Oliver used thyme, though.

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Add shredded parmigiano-reggiano.

We did not check the price of the cheese before we bought it because we thought, “a little bit of cheese won’t cost so much, right?” We were soooo wrong. I looked at our bill and was shocked! ___ kronor for 300 grams of this?! Oh my goodness! I can’t even say how much it was because it’s too embarrassing. I wanted to return it but was too embarrassed to do that. So we just charged it to experience: Never ever buy parmigiano-reggiano again…(and Jaakko adds)…unless we become obscenely wealthy.

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Top with the “posh ham”, prosciutto.

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Cover with a clingfilm and pound on it with any convenient tool until the toppings are meshed/smashed well into the meat. And fry in medium heat, with the ham side down first.

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Thank you, Mr. Oliver!