Wednesday, July 29, 2015

You know you want a grilled cheese donut .... so I am giving some away!

One of my favorite shows to watch is Shark Tank. I cannot begin to tell you the thrill I feel when I see a clever problem-solving idea or a unique gift that I can give to someone I love.

Since most of you know I love food discoveries more than anything else in this world -- this is the best part of watching the show. I have been known to be a sucker for unique culinary concoctions.

I first learned about TOM+CHEE through Shark Tank. I thought the idea of a grilled cheese donut was brilliant! That salty and sweet goodness in every bite sounded PERFECT. 

And everybody say "Amen!"

When I moved to Omaha back in the fall, I learned that there were plans to open up a TOM+CHEE franchise in the city. Greats new for this adventurous food-loving kid!

I had the pleasure of going to a 'taste party' in the company of several lovely Omaha food bloggers at TOM+CHEE recently. While the iconic grilled cheese donut will always have a special place in my heart, it was wonderful to discover all the other yummy stuff TOM+CHEE had to offer.

Photo Credit: Ashley Nicole Dickes

Let's talk about my favorite fancy grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu.

The bestselling FLYING PIG.
Roasted Turkey + Bacon + Pickle + Smoked Gouda
(The pickle adds a perfect kick to the flavor!)

Roasted Turkey + Pesto + Mozzarella
(The pesto is nut-free people!)

Barbecue Sauce + Bacon + American Cheese
(All-American goodness!)

The personal favorite GRILLED MAC+CHEESE
Mac & Cheese + Cheddar
(Dunk it into their Creamy Tomato Basil Soup -- yum!)

The classic TOM+CHEE and Tomato Soup Combo
Diced Tomato + Garlic Seasoning + Mozzarella
(You can't go wrong with classic comfort food!

Now let's talk grilled cheese donuts. TOM+CHEE is famous for these and if you are on the fence right now -- c'mon, just go ahead and try one. Live a little, play a little, and you won't regret taking that adventurous step!

Cheddar Cheese + Glazed Donut
(You can pick another cheese or throw in some bacon -- you're welcome!)

Fresh Strawberries + Lemon Mascarpone + Graham Cracker + Glazed Donut
(The perfect summer dessert and my personal favorite -- you must!)

Surprise addition to the menu: Healthy Salads! I would never think of ordering salads in a grilled cheese donut shop but I was really impressed when I tried these. Really solid choices as sides to the sandwiches. Something to be truly considered.

Creamy Goat Cheese + Dried Cranberries + Toasted Almonds + Mixed Greens + White Balsamic Vinaigrette

Sliced Tomato + Fresh Mozarella + Basil + Mixed Greens + Balsamic Vinaigrette

I work with children full-time and I always say "Sharing is caring." So -- it would be cruel to share all these mouth-watering photos and not give away some, right?

So I am giving away two (2) sets of vouchers worth $25 each. One way to win these vouchers is to leave a comment on this blog post. All comments will be drawn in a raffle and I will pick a winner on August 8th at noon.

Another way to win is to head over to my Instagram Account (@happysammy25), "Like" it or "Comment" on it. All likes and comments will be drawn in a raffle and I will pick a winner on August 8th at noon.

(Important Reminder: These vouchers are valid in TOM+CHEE Omaha only.)

And it doesn't stop here. These vouchers are being given away on these other blogs and you are invited to participate as well!

Bakes in Slippers

TOM+CHEE is located in 14513 W Maple Rd, Omaha, NE 68116. Hours are 10am - 9pm.

Update: The voucher goes to Ms. Candi!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A profound life-change

Let me tell how you how my life has radically changed in the past 8 months. 

After living in Nashville, TN for almost 5 years, my husband and I moved to Omaha, NE early fall of last year. This decision was a result of a lot of conversation, processing of thoughts, counsel, and praying for God's will.

All I knew back then was Rob and I were about to work alongside a non-profit organization called ABIDE. It has a crazy, wonderful vision that one day, in Omaha, NE -- there will be no inner city. I was not sure how it would look like, but (after a lot of hesitation) I decided to jump in with all the faith I've got (not a lot but there was a little something in there).

I think the most reasonable question after hearing such a grand vision is "How?" My quickest response to this question is: "One neighborhood at a time."

Abide's approach that focuses on developing healthy neighborhoods through four main areas: community building, family support programs, housing and partnerships. It takes an amazing group of people to execute all of these programs but I am happy to share with you one of these areas that we are directly involved in.

Rob and I get to oversee and implement several of the programs targeted to reach the children and youth. We get the blessing of seeing first-hand how these programs give hope to many young people who, by default, have been led to believe that the life set up for them will be either impacted with a dropout, an addiction, an unplanned pregnancy, broken family dynamics, or a crime.

Everyday, God presents us opportunities to usher these kids into a transformed mindset and newer level of faith. As we do everything we can to help change lives, I truly believe it is our lives that have been changed in the most incredible way possible.

Every week, I get to experience the joy of being with adorable, precious, honest, crazy cute children and share the love of Jesus with them. Every week, I find myself blown away by the incredible group of volunteers that I get to call my teammates. Rob has also many stories to share on the thrill of getting to play his role and do his part in making a difference in many young peoples' lives.

I do not want to be anywhere else but here, exactly where we are, today. God has put me in a place where I am humbled, disciplined, and changed every day. It is such a beautiful position to be in.

Today, something really exciting is happening in the city of Omaha. There is a 24-hour online giving campaign organized by the Omaha Community Foundation to inspire a philantrophic community within this growing city.

I am so thrilled that ABIDE is one of the non-profits that can benefit from this effort. I am writing this blog post today to present an opportunity that you can be a part of.

You are invited to give $10 to this campaign today! I am directly affected by your generosity to ABIDE because I get the funding I need to run an amazing Sunday School program for 75-100 kids every week.

It is super easy. Just click on the link below and you will see ABIDE on the list. Once you hit 'GIVE' it will take you to a couple of more steps.

Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post. I believe that today spells a couple of breakthroughs:

(1) I am able to share the joy of what God has been doing in our lives since we moved.
(2) I am inspired to write again and revive the amazing community I once had (and loved!) on this platform.

You read. You listened. I am grateful.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Link Love: Instagram Prints, DSLR Camera Bag Shopping, Art, and Recipes

Here are some interesting reads/products/opinions that I have bookmarked on the web recently. Read through and enjoy! 

Kanvess. Do you want a print out of your perfectly square Instagram photos? Go to this website for only 25 cents a print! I like keeping these on top of a tray or decorated box for guests to go through.

Jo Totes. I am so wanting the Siena Leather Camera Bag for my Canon Rebel T3i.

The Bossi Bag. Another DSLR camera bag that I can't stop looking at. Only caveat: hefty price tag!

Kelly Boy. And another camera bag. I am in love with the lush caramel color!

Narrow Paths to Higher Places. A beautiful mom from Oregon named Alia Joy. She is a talented and honest storyteller.

Puerto Galera Sunset. I want a huge print of this photograph. This is the place and the scene where my husband and I first fell in love.

Easy Potato Salad Recipe. Followed this recipe and it was so good! Now that it's warmer, I can't wait to bring this to a picnic.

Chocolate Rice Pudding Recipe. I call this "champorado" in my native language. Giada's version is just as divine!

Top 10 Pastor Podcasts. Looking for new messages to listen to? These suggestions by Dave Ramsey might help.

Tidy Mom. One of my favorite blogs on home management, food, and photography. Packed with new tips every day!

Nicole's Classes. This photography website has been bookmarked on my laptop for a long time. Photography is one hobby I want to spend more time on and get better at. Planning to take a couple of classes in May.

How about you? Any exciting stuff you found on the web lately? Share it on the comments section.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Conversation with my 18-Year-Old Self

I turned 38 exactly a month ago. I was asked several times leading up to it if I am comfortable revealing my age to the world.

Taken on my 38th birthday with the love of my life.

I can honestly say that I am able declare my true age because it tells a beautiful, complicated history. A life that has been THROUGH A LOT. It tells stories of celebrated successes, painful messes, and all of my failed attempts at personal greatness.

However, there is one thing that I have that shows I am 38 and am living to tell it: a long list of hard-earned lessons that have shaped me to be the person that I am today. Along with these life lessons came wisdom.

I still have so much to learn and be mature about but I am hoping that today, I can share some important life lessons with you.

Let's look back to February 25, 1994. Green Day just released their legendary album "Dookie," Bill Clinton did his first State of the Union, the Dallas Cowboys are basking in their Super Bowl victory, Bosnia was in the process of finally finding resolution, and headlines alternated among these scandals: Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding, the Menendez Brothers, and Lorena Bobbitt.

I was 18, on my 8th month as a college freshman. A boy came over to see me on my birthday but it was real awkward because I wasn't sure what he wanted.  I was not even sure what I wanted. 

I had a terrible first semester: underwhelming grades, and forcing myself to stay up all night, study, and hopefully have a stellar second semester. But here's the problem. I had a fantastic group of friends. It seemed like all I wanted was to be done with school so I can spend more time with them.

In fact, I may have missed some classes because I lived in downtown Manila and everything that was happening in the city was much more exciting than being locked up in a classroom. I loved grunge, tried to look legit with the way I dressed, but my (very uncool) private agony was wondering why Shannen Doherty was fired from Beverly Hills 90210. That show is nothing without Brenda Walsh. I also thought it was really weird that Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley were dating.

I was looking at two people my age: a golf phenomenon named Tiger Woods and Rashida Jones (who I share the same exact birthday with). Wondering why they were so self-assured, determined on changing the world at 18, and I still had a long way to go.

That was 20 years ago. The truth is, I don't want to go back and change the course of events that led me to who I am today.

Yes, I made many mistakes and regrets came with it. But how I survived many choices may be a lesson to some of you today.

As you read further, you will see that I am having real talk with my 18-year-old self. 

1) You're 18. You want to be sure of yourself and let everyone know that you have a pretty good sense of where to want to go. The truth is, this college thing is so much harder than you thought it would be. Academic excellence always came naturally to you in high school. Now you feel unworthy to even be among these ultra-smart people. You're terrified. You just getting through the day. You really want to be around your friends all the time. The good news is: it is OKAY to not have it all figured out yet. Embrace the uncertainty and not be ashamed of it. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable with a couple of friends that you trust, you will experience a beautiful sense of freedom.

2) Let's talk about your anxiety over boys. You're frustrated because this pattern seems to happen over and over again: the boys you like never seem to know you exist, and the boys who like you are nothing more than male buddies to you. And you are questioning what is so unattractive about you. Everyone else around you seems to have more exciting things going on when it comes to matters of the heart. All I can say is: enjoy this season. In a couple of years, you will be in your first serious relationship. It will be life-changing, but it will also be very difficult. Friendships are the best way to go now.

3) Now that I mentioned that first serious relationship, I promise you that it is going to be lovely -- at first. It will only be a matter of weeks when you start seeing how you bring out the worst in each other. Making up is so sweet that you forget how bad it was. Then it becomes a pattern. I know this will be painful to hear, but it's for your own good: have the courage to cut it off. You think that when you make up, you have the power to make this relationship better. The truth is, you are better people apart. Don't let it endure for 4 years. It's too long to be invested in something that was not good for you to begin with. Love yourself more, move on, get to know as many people as you can, and learn.

4) It's great that you are opening yourself up to new genres in music. However, you desperately want to immerse yourself in these indie rock bands because you want the appearance of a young woman with sophisticated taste in music. The more obscure, the better. When no one is looking, Ace of Base's "The Sign" is on repeat. You dance non-stop to it. You also know "Regulate" by heart. "Reality Bites" just came out a week earlier and it wrecked your world. You told everyone that Ethan Hawke was your guy when deep down you thought this dorky guy Ben Stiller was cuter. My point: stop putting so much value on looking cool. Pretentiousness can be sniffed by many a mile away.

5) Let's talk about that unibrow and the fact that you don't care about makeup at all. While I love that you give "inner beauty" much more importance, you will see that a little upkeep here and there will give you a boost of confidence. A little trimming, mascara, blush, and lip gloss can enhance what you already got. On the bright side: at least you are wearing sunblock everyday. Since I am on the subject of the physical, explore the unfamiliar world of exercise and healthy eating. Your body is probably not telling you anything right now but you will -- I promise this -- feel the amazing benefits of it 20 years later. Care for your body. Enough of that beer and greasy food. It's going to be worth your while.

6) The next years will be interesting for you. You will start meeting students fresh out of high school and will go through what you have been through. Don't think you're too cool to get to know them. And don't even consider for a second that you are better than them. Friendships that will last for years will be the result of a little humility and compassion on your part. Trust me, these friends are going to be an irreplaceable part of your life.

7) Now there are those people who have gone before you. It does not matter if they lived life a days older or a bazillion years more -- you can learn something from them.  I know you like this new adult status a whole lot. You want to be able to talk to your parents, professors, older family members, and bosses as if they are your peers. There is a much better route: speak to them with reverence and honor. Have the humility to acknowledge the great things they are doing in your life. What it will do to your work ethic, attitude, and long-term relational manners will set you up for long-term success. It will speak volumes on the kind of person that you are. You will earn respect not because you assumed you are of the same stature as these wonderful people. You will receive respect if you wholeheartedly give it.

8) Remember that one friend in your freshman year who talked to you about Jesus and how it changed her life? You loved her friendship. But you thought she was kind of weird. Sometimes a real party pooper. The source of all guilt-ridden statements even though she was not trying to make you feel bad. Girlfriend, don't be so quick to dismiss what she stands for. Deep down you wonder why she is not afraid to make unpopular choices. You kind of admire that about her. Go ask her why. Give her a chance. Her answer might just make sense.

If you talked to your 18-year-old self today, what would you say?


Saturday, January 4, 2014

One Word 2014: Wisdom

Midnight struck and my phone said it was January 1, 2014. I wish I can tell you that I did something fabulous when the date shifted but I peacefully slept through it. 

{Note: Once a upon a time, we celebrated New Year's Eve in my favorite beach in the world -- with golden skin and a pretty sundress. We did this every year. Oh how I miss it!} 

While I will still love a more exciting way of welcoming the new year, there was something absolutely beautiful about a quiet taking in of a fresh calendar. It was a more fitting declaration of how I was ready to face 2014. 

The times spent with my Father in the last few days of December have produced a clear prompting of what He would like me to pursue in the coming year. 

I have been studying the book of James recently. As I read through his teachings, I was completely stuck in Chapter 3, Verse 7, and it says: 

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 

I loved how James words' challenged me on what it meant to be truly wise. 

One huge question comes to mind: 
Do I desire true wisdom or am I only interested in being praised for what I know? 

Oh the danger of wanting the latter. To want to be called an "expert" at something. The temptation to show it off on all possible ways -- which today makes it so easy because of technology. To follow every written law and scoff at the ones who don't. To take pride on being the source of all information. 

The Scripture explains a different picture of wisdom and I completely fell in love with it. 

Big emphasis that the words "first of all" preceded it. 
Am I willing to start with a pure heart?
(The last time I checked, my heart was really stinky.)

Am I willing to encourage love (and not strife) in my community? 
(When I see discord, I run the opposite way.)

Am I willing to give way to others because it means bring glory to God and not to me?
(Ask my husband, I can be really selfish.)

Am I willing to value the wisdom of those who came before me? 
Am I willing to open myself up to learning from the younger generation?
(Sometimes I think I know everything. Once again, you can ask Robert.)

Full of Mercy
Am I willing to be moved by compassion, empathy, and grace and make these my default emotional response to every human being?
(The garbage man was very mean to me the other night. Although I showed kindness on the outside, my insides kept on saying "What a jerk.")

Good Fruit
Love. Joy. Peace. Forbearance. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control.
Am I willing to pay the price for moral transformation that can only come from the Holy Spirit?
(I wish I can just drink all of these in a 9 Fruits Smoothie.)

Am I willing to love everyone unconditionally?
(I have a tendency to be nicer to those who are nice to me first. To those who have not been nice to my husband? I've had a history of throwing a couple of punches. True story. Not proud of it but it did happen. To be a little fair to myself, I don't normally do that.)

Am I willing to flush out every seed of hypocrisy in my life?
(Oh dear. I have some work to do.)

This is the time I humbly ask for your prayers. To my readers who see me frequently in person, I welcome your accountability. I know it will not be easy, and when I do fail, I hope to get to write it in often, expose it to you, and we can, together, experience the beauty of His grace all over again.

I do not want to treat this verse as a checklist. That is why I don't do resolutions in the first place. 
{Note: I am not against resolutions. I just know how I can be with when I make them.}

I truly just want to go deeper in my knowledge of Him. I want daily encounters with my Father.
And as a result, I will have WISDOM and my life will show it.

All to give Him glory.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking Back to 2013

I thought about how to recap this past year in so many different ways but I always went back to  
that has been going on for many years.

2013 was a beautiful, difficult year for me and my husband, especially in terms of ministry. 
Difficult does not mean terrible but it did take us to the rawest spiritual places that we have never ventured before. These questions present a valuable reflection of God's unceasing faithfulness in my life through the 2013's ups and downs.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
Traveled through Europe! We trekked seven cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, and Amsterdam for 30 days. I spent quality time with my family and found rest from a busy life in Nashville.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for 2014?

I consider myself an organized, goal-oriented person. However, I don't care much for resolutions. I need entire blog post just for this!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

I have two cousins who live in Atlanta. I grew up with them in the Philippines so they are like brother and sister to me. Nick has twins Noah and Nina. Cathy has Logan. I am hoping to finally meet them this year!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My Abuelita (grandmother) passed away in March. This was one of the hardest personal times this past year. I was really close to her. She had dementia the last few years of her life. It was heartbreaking losing her even before her death.

5. What countries did you visit?
Look at my answer to question #1: Spain, Italy, France, and Netherlands.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
I would really like to have my writing voice back. I felt like words that have been spoken to me have been used by the enemy of my soul to silence me. Once again, this feels like it deserves an entire blog post. I am finding my way back to freedom.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
January 17, 2013. The day we moved to Franklin. It's been wonderful living in this city and having people over all the time!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I was able to close my eyes with a smile and feel His utmost peace even in the most trying times. To be able to pursue joy regardless of circumstances. I lost my job of 9+ years in the summer and managed to praise Him and His ways. I cannot really own this "achievement" because I know this was done not on my own strength. 

9. What was your biggest failure?
Missing singing but not having the desire to use that gift again. I continue to struggle with it. I pray that I will just go and do it.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I was very sick while in Disneyworld! Pictures don't show it but no voice was coming out on roller coaster rides.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I did not buy anything significant but my amazing husband gave a DSLR for my 37th birthday!

12. Where did most of your money go?
Rent. Electric. Utilities. Internet. Gas. Food. Debt. Sowing. You know, the usual.

13. What did you get really excited about?
I was excited about it for weeks and when I did see it, it did not disappoint. I want a ticket back. And I will get really excited all over again.

14. What song will always remind you of 2013?
"Oceans" by Hillsong UNITED. A close runner-up:"Love Me Again" by John Newman.

15. Compared to this time last year, I am:

More calm.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Making time to be mentored by a wiser, older woman.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Being intimidated to ask a wiser, older woman to mentor me.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
Had Christmas Eve lunch with close friends. Went to our church's candlelight service. Then spent it quietly with the love of my life! Our first Christmas alone EVER. While I still believe in family time for the holidays, I know we needed to be alone this time. I enjoyed every minute of it!

19. What was your favorite TV program?
Parks and Recreation. Nothing else comes close.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
I loved books such as David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. But my favorite goes to Tullian Tchividjian's One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. Not only was it a pleasurable read, it was necessary.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

Emeli Sande's Our Version of Events album.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
Zero Dark Thirty was released in December 2012 but saw it in 2013. Sadly, I have not seen any excellent feature film since then.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
My husband invited close friends over and surprised me with cake and ice cream for my 37th birthday! I felt really loved and appreciated.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I look back to 2013 with contentment.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
I don't have a single personal style. But I do go for comfort at all times.

26. What kept you sane? 
Knowing that Jesus died for me and I am living today because of God's grace.

27. Share a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

My God is faithful. Always.