Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Eve Rituals

Back in the Philippines, our family, as most Filipino families, religiously follow a set of traditions during New Year's Eve. Since dots or circular patterns are believed to bring more fortune and more money, my mother would have already sewed or bought for us clothes with polka dotted patterns that we should wear during that day.

Other things that we believe would bring us luck and money would be collecting at least 12 different rounded fruits that we would be displayed on the kitchen table; having loads of coins in your pockets, making loud noises (we usually have our pots and pans for this) and spending money on firecrackers, and opening all the doors and windows to invite more good fortune (not really done anymore as it invites the crooks!); and I did this more than once, I jumped high when the clock striked midnight, hoping it would help me grow taller :D

Here in Germany, there are also rituals being practiced during the New Year's Eve. Most family stays at home to celebrate the coming of the New Year. There would be champagne or sekt and usually, fondue or Raclette on the table.

There is the German Custom of Bleigiessen:

A candle is lit, and small chunks of lead are melted in a spoon held over the candle. Because of the low melting temperature of lead, this process does not take long. The molten lead is then quickly poured from the spoon into a bucket of cold water, where it hardens almost immediately. Each person tries to determine what he or she "sees" in the hardened lead figure, much like children see sheep, etc. in fluffy clouds. Often the lead figure is held up to a candle or other light, and the shape of the shadow it casts aids in this important decision. The shape of the lead determines the future of that person for the year to come. Nowadays, Silvesterblei sets can be purchased in most department stores in Germany. These kits come complete with lead figures, a spoon, and a list of possible shapes and their meanings. Read here for more.
Here's a sample lead kit.
And dont forget to watch the comedy skit Dinner for One on the television while waiting for the clock to strike midnight. Even the phrase from the skit 'the same procedure as last year' has became a popular catch phrase in Germany.

The sketch presents the 90th birthday of elderly upper-class Englishwoman Miss Sophie, who hosts a dinner every year for her close friends Mr Pommeroy, Mr Winterbottom, Sir Toby, and Admiral von Schneider to celebrate the occasion. (Note that the plot has nothing to do with New Year's Eve, as is often incorrectly stated. There is a "Happy new year" toast, but this is purely a reference to Miss Sophie's anniversary.) The problem is that given Miss Sophie's considerable age, she has outlived all of her friends, and so her equally aged butler James makes his way around the table, impersonating each of the guests in turn.

Of course, the fireworks and firecrackers. These would be available at stores from the 28th of December. There would be table fireworks and confetti spray for kids and those fireworks and firecrackers that would light up the night. People would usually celebrate inside the house and just look out the windows when the fireworks start; there would be a handful who would brave the cold to go outside and light up and even those who would stay outside to enjoy the display.
This would be our contribution for this year!
What's with our combination of Philippine and German tradition? We usually have at least nine different circular fruits displayed in the kitchen table; we create noise with the kids using the pots and pans; we have fireworks, table fireworks and confetti spray; we make sure we have money in our wallets :D; we tend to have raclette for dinner, we skip 'Dinner for One' because the kids wanted to watch the musicals; and we would be trying our luck with bleigiessen for the first time.
Do you also follow a certain ritual during New Year's Eve?

Happy New Year to all!

Our New Year's Healthy Resolution

Our stationary bike wont be lonely anymore :

I have never had a New Year's resolution list, thus, why am I starting now?

Just because I wanted to enjoy a healthy life with my family. I guess that's good enough reason to start a workable, healthy New Year's resolution. The attack of sickness during the end of this year that brought the whole family down for a long time; made me realize how important being healthy and staying healthy is.

And because I wanted to live a long and happy life with my family, I am ready to work for it. My husband is also keen on meeting his goal for this year, and his list appeals to me because it also focuses on health.

What's in my list?
1. Regularly attend the aerobics session every Wednesday night aside from staying on as trainer for gymnastics for little kids during Wednesday afternoons.
2. Maintain a 15-30 minute work out at home at least three times a week, by using the stationary bike, the hulahoops, the skipping rope, and by dancing with the kids.
3. Walk the kids to kindergarten and walk the long way back home.
4. Be more choosy when it comes to meals being served at home. Limit the sweets and instead serve more fruits and raw veggies for in between snacks.

And what's in my husband's list?
1. Swim for an hour every Monday night.
2. Stationary bike and/or brisk walking at least three times a week for an hour.
3. Regulated diet

So you see, my husband and I have more or less the same goal for next year, focus on our health. Because then we would feel good about ourselves. And then we could give better love because we do love ourselves. And then we would only be showing optimism in life because we are having more fun. I am looking forward to more loving, of course!

Instead of just complaining about how our body is quitting on us and how we are being pulled down by sickness; we are working on how to conquer our body and bring more energy to it. I think our goals are workable enough. And nope, we wont start in 2008, we have already started it as soon as we have listed down our goals.

Because if you really want to do something, then you better start doing it as soon as possible. Today is always the best time. Do you have a workable New Year's resolution, too?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

'Tis the Season...

Now, what to do after the 'good' chaos of Christmas? A lot. Here's my list:

1. Return those gifts that are not working. I cant believe we would be joining the throng returning gifts. IC's pony just wont function as stated in the description. And before the end of Christmas day, it simply stopped working. And the microphone, it needs to repaired. Both gifts were returned and we were lucky that they have the same stocks of toys in the store. IC wasnt so disappointed anymore. Her pony came back healthy, after a short visit to the 'hospital.'

2. Do the laundry. Our laundry basket was overflowing. I had to start washing at 8 am and I finished at 8 pm, whew! Now, got to do the folding.

3. Clean the house. Oh yeah, we wanted to welcome the new year with a clean house, of course.

4. Check the medicine cabinet. We simply had to throw some old medicines. If you want to know how to properly dispose of them, read here.

5. Check the ref. Do you know what's inside your ref? Reach deep and you'll find old and expired sauce bottles, tubes, etc. Throw them out!

6. Do an inventory of your kitchen supply. Ask yourself what you usually need: tomato sauce, flour, sugar, salt, etc. List them down and fill them up.

7. Sorted out toys and clothes for charity. With the help of the kids, we filled up one big box with toys and clothes to be sent to one orphanage in the Philippines.

8. Start shopping for Easter Oh yeah, I need to do this as early as now. Aside from taking advantage of those discounts, I really need to have this taken cared of because we would be on a long vacation, for six weeks, and would be arriving home during Black Saturday. Thus, no more time to shop for Easter.

9. Have a workable New Year's resolution ready :D Need I say more?

What about you? What's keeping you busy now?

Our First and Second Christmas Days

Don't you know that there are two Christmas days here in Germany?

December 25th is known as the "First day of Christmas" (der erste Weihnachtsfeiertag) and, in comparison with 24th December, is a quiet day, often spent either visiting or being visited by relatives. Goose is still widely served for the main meal, but is by no means as obligatory a Christmas dinner as e.g. turkey in Britain.

December 26th, the "Second day of Christmas" (der zweite Weihnachtsfeiertag) also known as St. Stephan's Day, has much the same function as the day before, being a public holiday and a day of family reunions or outings. Read more here.

And so, we already have our ritual here. On the 24th of December, we celebrated at home. And the first day of Christmas (Dec. 25), we gather at the place of my sister in law, to exchange gifts with the whole family and to have a great hearty meal together.

This would be the chance for the kids to play with everybody: their cousins, the oma and opa, and the aunt and uncle. This would be a chance for them to show off their gifts which they received during Christmas Eve. This would be another chance to bond, again, with the extended family. The highlight, of course, would be the exchange gift. And the expression of thanks.

How do we show our appreciation when we receive gifts? You say thank you. You open the gift in front of everybody. And then you say thank you again to the person who gave you the gift, with a quick kiss or a hug. It is always a sweet chaos whenever the exchange gift started. We always start with the kids first, who else!

We had some canapes and cheered each other with glasses of sekt (sparking wine) while the real Christmas dinner is still cooking. What was dinner? We started with a mouthwatering squash soup. Let me tell you, my sister in law whips the best squash soup I have ever tasted!

The soup was followed by a salad plate combined with smoked fish; the main dish is chicken casserole with rice and salad. Tasty! Even the kids asked for two servings!

Dessert was my brother in law's surprise treat: a rum-filled cupcake with ice cream. The kids got their without rum, of course. I did asked him for the recipe, so I could share this delicious treat.

I think opa said it right when he uttered, 'it is always a great feeling to be with the whole family.' I agree.

What was the second day of Christmas to us then? We wanted to take a stroll, to kick the effects of some of those heavy binges, the kids wanted to stay at home to play with their toys. We won because after our late breakfast, it started to snow. Our first snow this winter. The kids were ready in no time at all and got to wait outside for us. They wanted to savor the moment.
When we started our hike, IC suddenly realized that we would be walking for sometime and wanted to go back home. It was a big drama, with her crying, until Papa decided to give her a piggy ride. Our route was dictated by MC who is a real hiking enthusiast. We rounded the curve going to the mountain and IC, who was by then walking, started protesting again. She dont want to walk for a long time. Good thing I had some sweets with me, which I dangled to her. She would get those sweets, if she'd walk.

Well, as expected, she walked and hiked. I think the sweets gave her the energy and the good mood to go on. Because after that, she was happily leading the way. MC decided to bring us to the path going to oma and opa's house because she needed a drink. IC loved it because she know she would get more sweets there.
We had fun up in the mountain trying to locate our house. I have been up in that mountain for how many times, and I have been trying to locate our house since then, it was only that time that I finally found it from up there. Whew. Thanks to the kids, who decided to point out the colors of the houses first. I got the best clue from them.
Back home, the kids played with their new toys, I got to update some files and documents, while Papa got busy trying to grab us a ticket for Holiday on Ice this coming February. After hours of searching on the net and loads of discussions about the best place, we got our tickets.

And oh, our dinner was chilli con carne with pasta :D

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Our 24th of December : A Photo Story

Up at 8 a.m., we must buy our Christmas Eve dinner and it would be a one hour drive from our place. Yes, we went to a fish pond and got our forellen; the photo shows the fish pond where they catch the fish depending on the order. The best seller were the carps. A man stands within the pond, uses his hands to catch the fish, asks the costumer if he approves and brings it inside to be cleaned! What a job especially it is freezing outside and I dont want to imagine how cold the water is. Here in Germany, aside from goose and wild meat, the most popular Christmas dinner would be fish.

Getting bored in their car seats for almost two hours, the kids wanted to stretch their legs. After bringing the fish home and in the ref, we decided to drive to the mountain and have our traditional Christmas stroll. The kids are happy that they could play outside.
Since the mountain is along the way to oma and opa's house, we passed by for a short visit and to wish them a Merry Christmas. Of course, we must not forget the grandparents who lives alone. I am sure they are also looking forward to visits from their family at this time.
A short break at home before going to the church. In which the kids enjoyed hearing and watching the story about the Baby Jesus. And all kids present each got a blessed candle to bring home.
After the mass, I quickly walked back home while the kids with papa took the long way home. I needed to create a Christmas atmosphere before they come. Actually, I turned on the CD player for Christmas carols, turned on the Christmas tree lights, lighted the Christmas wreath candles and wrote the names on the gifts. The Christkind already left when the kids arrived home. They saw the gifts, but as tradition goes, they had to sing Chrismas carols before they opened their gifts (see above photo).
And here's our Christmas Eve's Menu:
Appetizer: Raw veggies such as bell pepper, carrots, cucumber and cocktail tomatoes with cheese dip
Main dish: Baked forellen fish filled with mushrooms, peas, lemons and carrots (see photo)
Side dish: Boiled potatoes with parsley and butter; rice
Dessert: Lemon cake with Straciatella ice cream
We opened a bottle of red wine and sekt (sparkling wine) to share between my husband and I. The kids got their apple juice as sekt in a sekt glass, too and their water.
It was a full day but we had fun. The kids got to play with their new toys before going to bed at 9:30 pm. And for the first time after so many years, my husband and I got to stay up late to watch tv. Actually, what we enjoyed more is that we got to relax and talk comfortably with each other without being interrupted by the kids. I guess, that's another special gift from the kids, to us :D

Sunday, December 23, 2007


On the 24th of December, the Christkind goes around different houses to distribute gifts to children here in Germany. Yes, it is not the Santa Claus who gives the gifts, as the tradition with other countries. Here, the Santa Claus, or the St. Nicholas arrives earlier, on the 6th of December.

As tradition goes, they usually trim the trees on the 23th of December and the gifts would be left under the tree on the 24th of December.

Who is the Christkind? The Christkind is the representation of the Baby Jesus.

According to

In German lore, the Christkind, or Christmas Angel leaves presents under the tree on Christmas Eve.

The Christkind was originally introduced in the 16th century by religious reformer Martin Luther; until then, it was always Saint Nicholas who brought gifts on December 6th. But as Protestants can’t have saints, Luther needed a new Christmas tradition for his followers. Luther wanted to move the gift-giving away from the Catholic holiday on December 6th, so he reinvented the tradition for Protestants by moving it to Christmas Eve and making the Christkind – really, the baby Jesus – the person who brought the gifts.

It was under the rule of the National Socialists that the image of today’s Christkind was ultimately anchored in the collective German mind. They built on Nuremberg’s tradition of producing tinsel angels, and in 1933, had a young girl in an angel costume open the city’s Christmas Market for the first time. After the Second World War, Nuremberg’s tinsel angels became simply the Nuremberg Christkind, and the figures were sold nation-wide.

The kids dont usually see the Christkind because the gifts are simply sneaked as quietly as possible into the house and placed under the Christmas tree. In our household, the Papa goes out with the kids for a stroll outside while I bring out all the gifts. This year, after the Christmas mass, I walked home quickly while Papa and the kids take the long route. Back home, as the tradition goes, we sang some Christmas carols first before exchanging gifts. The kids had time to play with their gifts before Christmas dinner, of course.

Merry Christmas to All!

Today is the 4th Sunday of Advent, meaning, this is the last Sunday before Christmas. Christmas is very near!
Advent is the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the Western
tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the
Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas
Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with
Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown. Read more here.

And so, here's wishing you a Merry Christmas!

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
I wish for peace in the whole world
love and understanding
a better world for all of us
and especially for my homeland, the Philippines...
I wish for almost a miracle
for better lives to the Filipino people
and real people power in the government.
Love and blessings to all of you!

One Great Gift

I already have Christmas in my heart because I got one great gift since last week. I found a long lost friend, L. She's been a good friend way back in high school, hmm, more than 20 years!

We still havent met but we have been talking almost everyday on the phone; burning telephone lines.

The last time we got to talk was in the late 90s, when we gave me call. She's already in Germany and happily married and with a small baby boy. But before that, we have already lost touch. We havent seen each other for more than five years. I only learned that she's in Germany after visiting their house, with another friend. I got her address in Germany and sent her a letter. Thus the call.

And then my wallet, where all my contact infos are tucked in, were stolen after a short Baguio trip. I lost her address. After a short time, I also left Manila to work in Thailand. And then in 2001, my trip to Germany. I tried to find her. I even asked the Philippine embassies and consulates, but they cannot give me any information. We even checked the telephone directories, hoping to read her name! You see, I wanted her to be my special guest on my wedding day!

We didnt find her, despite some efforts from my family and close friends in Manila to locate her family. And then last week, a common friend called me saying she knows where L is. She gave me an email address, which bounced. Arrgh, that was a real disappointment. And then she gave me the email address of L's sister. I immediately sent L's sister an email which she answered after a few hours! Yipeee!

Of course, the email I got didnt work, again! But I got a phone number. I called the number, nobody answered. Arrgh, I was getting frustrated. But after a few minutes, I tried the same number again and somebody answered on the other line. Since I just lost my voice at that time, I know L would not recognize me. But I persisted...

After a few seconds of some unbelieving questions, L finally realized that it was me on the phone. She cant believe that I have been living in Germany for a long time and she doesnt even know. Ohhh, it was great to hear her voice again. We talked for a long time, trying to update and fill in the long years of absence. Of course, it's not enough; what's enough is that we found each other again.

We have been talking on the phone, almost everyday since then. We know we need to meet soon. But for now, I am glad to have this great gift of her. Christmas is happier because I found a long lost friend and she's only a few hours drive away!

Now we need to find another long lost friend, G. I hope we'll find her soon, too.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy 80th Birthday, Tante Inge

The kids with Tante Inge.

She is younger the sister of the Opa and she is lovingly called Tante Inge by the whole family, even the kids. And she is celebrating her 80th birthday, today!

Would you know her age if you'll look at her? I would think not. She is still a very independent woman. In fact, she's decided to leave the family home and bought herself a small apartment in the city. She said she wanted to be near all the necessary places: the supermarkets, the shopping areas, her friends, etc. Who could blame her? She lives alone and yet she still enjoys going out and meeting friends. She is enjoying life as she sees it.

And like oma, she is growing old gracefully. She's got a very open minded thoughts about life and she looks forward to everyday with optimism. That would be the main reason why she's still walking with some spring on her steps.

We cant reach her over the phone, I guess she's partying it out with her son and her daughter in law. But with this post, I want her to know that she is loved, too.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Ate Chacha

Ate Chacha singing with Jollibee

Oh well, I could I have missed my first niece's birthday, which is also today, on oma's birthday? It was the full day of preparation. We were up at 6 am to prepare MC for her visit to the hospital. They need to leave home before 7 am, to be the first in line; knowing that most last minutes check ups would happen this Friday, before Christmas.

And then as I was getting ready to go back to bed at 7 am; IC woke up and excitedly asked if today is oma's birthday. Nope, I missed a few precious minutes of mommy time! Had to get up and get ready for the trek to oma and opa's house and do all errands and celebrate. We just actually got home, at 10 pm, tonight. We had to go home, IC was already making up excuses to go home. She is too tired and too sleepy already. A long day.

And then I realized, although I told oma early today about it, I forgot to even send a text message to my niece; who's also celebrating her birthday today! Oooops. I immediately grabbed my handy phone and flicked a message. Although in the Philippines is already the 22nd, it is still the 21st here in Germany. I still am on time :D

So here's to Ate Chacha. I am calling her ate (big sister), because that is how MC and IC call her. I never would have thought you would be the athletic one in the family. Imagine, you are winning the badminton national league. You are even coaching the badminton team in your high school now, wow! Applause! And another thing, that you would loose your shyness and would love to sing in front of big audiences, that really amazes me. I know you could hold a tune, that runs in the family, if I am allowed to say, hehehe. I mean, you are up on stage, singing and dancing, almost everytime there's a special occasion in school on in any other special activities. Another round of applause for you.

Sad to say, I cant remember how old you are. Twelve or thirteen years old? I am getting old or I simply dont want to accept the fact that you are a teen ager now. I can still recall when you were a wee babe. I wanted to keep you in my arms, making believe you are my own baby, too! Grabe, you're the first baby in the family. And I enjoyed seeing you grow. I just cant believe that you are now taller than me. Where did the time go?

I love it that you wear my discards. Does that mean, you love my fashion style or you just wear those if I am there, hehe! Dont worry, you can tell me the truth, even though it would hurt a bit :D

MC always admires your long, gorgeous hair. In fact, I wasnt allowed to touch her hair now because she wanted to win as the one with the longest hair when we fly to Manila this February. Now, I cant wait to see who's got the longest hair between all of you girls.

I also watched how you act as real ate (big sister) to your siblings of three. I admire you for being so responsible, for being a good example to them. I love, too, how you patiently play with MC and IC, despite the fact that my two girls are sometimes too much! But you see, you manage to keep your big sister attitude without being too pushy, I love that about you. I guess, your mama and papa are so proud to have a daughter like you. I know, I am proud to have a niece like you! MC and IC also extend much love to you.

I hope you had a great birthday celebration early today. I am looking forward to the stories, expect a call this weekend.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy 85th Birthday, Oma!

Today we are celebrating a birthday highlight, my mother in law turned 85! Can you imagine yourself turning 85? I dont know what I would look like but I would like to look like my mother in law.

Oma, as we fondly call her, would definitely have a full day today. The mayor of our town would be coming and the lady priest of the parish would also be there. Thus, together with opa, we would be busy preparing fresh canapes as early as 8 am today. Nope, he doesnt want to buy from party service. I mean, I agree, too. I would love to be of service on this lovely day. I am sure they would love to have their loved ones with them, too.

Even IC deciced to skip kindergarten just because she wanted to help. Plus, she said oma should not see the surprise being prepared for her. So she is the designated guard for oma. MC and papa would have to miss the early morning visit as they would have to go to the hospital for another check up, another blood test. We wanted to make sure everything is okay with MC. I am positive it would all be okay. They would join us as soon as they are finished.

I have already talked with opa on what to buy and what to prepare for today. I hope he's got everything in order. We wanted to make this day an exciting one for oma. It is not everyday that you get to celebrate your 85th birthday right? Thus, I also talked them out of baking a cake last Thursday, we doesnt want the birthday celebrant too tired, right? I am glad opa agreed, so he's buying some cakes for tea time.

I mean, oma needs her beauty rest. But who could compete with oma's beauty? I mean, look at her. She is really growing gracefully. Although her age shows because she sometimes forgets things; but watch out because she hears from miles away. I would love to have her good ears when I reach that age.

And I would love her sense of humor. She sees humor in just almost everything. It could be a bit too much for some people, but I love that I can still crack her up. And she gives punches, too, with her storytelling. I love her cooking, I need to create extra time to learn her recipes! I also admire that she still takes care of her appearance. I mean, look at me, my two small kids are my excuse not to powder my nose and dress up anymore. But I see oma's face always made up and when she go out, she is always properly dressed. When I grow old, I would love to have her grace and poise.

I just wish she would go out more and enjoy the fresh air. We would love to hold hands with her as we take a short stroll. I am sure the girls would love to pick flowers with her. I am pretty sure that would happen, too. Just a little gentle nudge and a smile would do :D

For now, we wish our loving oma a very happy birthday. We love you!

After a Doctor's Visit

Now what do you do after a doctor's visit? After picking up the medicine from the pharmacy and driving home?

My husband, who is a neat freak, have instilled so many extra things to do after a doctor's visit and though at first I find those things so amusing, I am a convert now. I mean, there is no harm in doing them. We are religiously doing these things. It is also an automatic must do, even for the kids.

Let me share these things:

1. Wash hands. We do this everytime we arrive home from anywhere we come from; but most especially if we came from the doctor.

2. My husband usually takes a shower; and throws the clothes he used right into the laundry basket. As for the kids, they simply need to change their clothes though sometimes I do wash them, too.

3. Since we bring our own blanket for the kids to sit on at the examination during doctor's visit, this blanket would also go with the used clothes, into the laundry basket.

It is only after doing these things that we could freely move around the house. Of course you then need to check the medicine, read the intructions and all; but those are things that most of us already normally do.

And after a bout of sickness at home? We clean the house, air the rooms and wash the bedsheets. And here's some extras: We a separate waste basket for used tissues and these would need to be cleared up regularly. We dont leave this waste basket filled overnight. We must take care of it as soon as it is full. Don't you know that the virus from these used tissues could permeate the air?

And of course, we regularly wash our hands especially when wanted to take our medicine or when it's time to eat. These simple things really help a lot!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mama is a pain reliever

I think the most important responsibility of a mother is being a pain reliever. Have you noticed that, too?

It started when the kids are still babies. When they cry, they would look for mama. Either you give your breast filled with milk or you urgently give the bottle. And not to mention cradling, rocking or singing them to sleep.

And as toddlers, everytime they stumble or fall down, the number cry would be 'mama' -- this time you would need to kiss the tears away, use a plaster to stop the pain or hug the hurt away. Sometimes, an ice cream would do the trick, too.

What about when a virus came to stay at home? Well, mama is still the pain reliever, despite the medicine coming from the doctor. Mama would be the one expected to answer the emergency call; even in the middle of the night.

Frankly, I am not a sickly person, and I am praying it would remain so. But I've wondered, too, how I would intuitively know what to do and what to give, when the kids have those hundred hurts and sickness. I guess, I simply know because a mom is a pain reliever.

Now what wonder items do I have that keep my little costumers calling for me? Here's what I have:

1. The thermometer to give me the real clue on what's really happening
2. The suppositories for a quick temperature slow down
3. A quick rub with Aloe Heat lotion and Vicks vaporub for cough and cold, and to help them breath freely and sleep better
4. A cold pack for bruises and a hot pack for aches such as stomachache, etc.
5. Hundreds of colorful plaster, of different sizes for scratches and wounds
6. Aloe First spray and Propolis lotion for raw and reddish skin, Nivea and Bebe cream for chapped and dry lips
7. Again, Aloe First to clean the wound
8. Always, a bottle of water in the bedroom, when they have the urged to drink and instead of going to the kitchen, they come to our bedroom
9. Thick socks for cold feet, not to mention my whole body to warm them up :D
10. My hands to rub, scratch, massage and cradle the one in pain
11. My feet to run errands
12. My heart to love them
13. Prayers to keep them warm and safe

Oh yeah, moms are the most effective pain relievers!

Something New at PMN Sections

At PMN: Home and Garden, Geri invites you to try this Easy-to-make Christmas Swag.

I finally got the chance to finish some of my drafts for the other PMN section, we finally got our computer back after more than a month of banging for it's life :D

I shared some Online Shopping Tips at PMN: TechMomma and opened my recipe book for the Chunky Christmas Cookie at PMN: Food and Cooking.

Take time to visit the PMN sections, I do :D

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Christmas Lantern

During December, I am always proud to bring out and show off this Christmas lantern (parol) that I bought from Manila in 2003. I hand carried this precious lantern, protected it's packaging from the wild throng of crowd in the airports and our stop over, and was lucky enough to snag an airplane seat for my dear package. Thus, the lantern arrived in Germany, without scratches and functioning.
The only real problem? We didnt realize that my sister, who bought it for me, got one that has a different watt than what we use here in Europe! But this was a problem quickly solved as we have a neighbor who deals with such things. After a day, he gave us a transformer for our precious lantern. And it's been blinking with myriad of colors every December.
In the Philippines, a Christmas lantern is a must. You could find them in different materials: in plastic, in papel de Japon, in crepe papers, etc --but the most famous would be those coming from the Christmas capital of the Philippines, Pampanga; where the parols are mostly made of capiz (a native shell found only in the Philippine sea) and are filled with different colors and lights.
Our lantern is the real scene stealer in our street. Old or young, they cant help but be mesmerized when the play of color brightens the dark night. One very foggy afternoon, the kids' eagerly took faster steps back home because they said they know where our house is: the lights from the lantern beckoned them home.
We simply love our lantern. My husband wanted to buy one more. Well, he doesnt need to nudge me. I am for more of these lanterns, actually!

PMN: Home and Garden & Travel

Head off to the PMN: Home and Garden for new articles that is in tune with the season...

Did you know that there are more than 20 different kinds of Christmas trees to choose from? Thus, here is Choosing the Right Christmas Tree to help you decide.

And Advent is Green talks about things to watch out for if you have Advent wreaths. Hope to see you there!

If you are still busy with Christmas shopping, better check out PMN: Travel's 'Tis the season for pickpockets. There are some useful tips to keep your shopping money safe.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Midnight Mass

A church in Speyer.

Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo or the "midnight mass" is a Catholic tradition of celebrating mass during the pre-dawn hours of each of the nine days before Christmas. It is a Christian gathering to get together for the Christmas day countdown.

This always starts at the wee hours of December 15. Although lately, some churches offer a night mass at around 10 pm aside from the midnight mass that usually starts between 4-5 am. What I remember about this midnight mass is the belief that if you have completed the nine day mass without fail, you could get what you have wished for. Now I dont really remember if any of my wishes were granted as I dont really remember if I have completed any of the the nine day novenas, all I remember is that I always look forward to the midnight mass.

This is a chance to meet up with my friends, who simply love waking us up with those loud knocks and shouts knowing nobody would get angry as the purpose is to wake us up for the mass. This despite the fact that in our city, we have the service of the band musicians, who go around creating noises with their instruments with the purpose of waking us all up in time for the mass. And of course, the church bells singing would also be helping our limbs to wake up.

And one of the real attractions would be the feast after the mass. The traditional Philippine rice cakes called puto bumbong and bibingka. I wouldnt miss them. They are our usual breakfast during this novena days. Knowing the small stalls would always be packed after the mass, we even sometimes order before attending the mass.

I miss these midnight masses, but here in Germany, we also have a midnight mass during Christmas Eve. But we have to wait for a few years to attend them because of the kids. Instead, we make sure we attend the mini-kirche or mini mass which is usually held around 10 am during the 24th of December. This mass would include some mini plays about the second coming of Christ participated in by children. And this is usually short and punctuated by story telling and in the end, some cookies and cakes would be prepared for the children.

It is good to show the kids that Christmas is not only about receiving or giving gifts. It is really about the story of Christ's second coming. And this is also one season to share -- to those people who are in need. Such that they have already packed up some of their toys to be given to the less unfortunate kids; those in hospitals, those in care of special houses for kids, those kids in family who we know needed them...

I told them they should be thankful not only for their gifts; but they should be thankful for what they already have.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What is an Opa?

What is an opa, a grandpa or a lolo when you are sick? Well, he would be the one eagerly waiting on the sideline to help. He would make himself available. He would be there for you. He would call you and repeatedly ask if he could do something for you.

And let him do something, let him keep himself busy for you be because he would also be proud to show you that despite him being already 86 years old, he is the one in good health and you, are the one sick and in need of his help.

Nope, dont hurt his feelings by saying you have everything in control; when he knows for sure that not everything is in control, you are, after all, sick, right? You need to buy your medicine, you need to go to the doctor, you need to grocery shop... So you better call him and ask him you need for him to run an errand. He would grab than opportunity gleefully. Ask him you need more fruits. Ask him to drive you the short way to the doctor. Ask him to just be there for you. And he would be there for you.

Never mind that he cannot hear right anymore, and despite loosing your voice, you needed to shout your instructions; never mind that you need to repeat everything more than twice -- the important thing, at the end of the day is this... you have made an old man proud of his service to you. It is his way of showing, I am still able. It is his way of showing, you needed me, after all. It is his way of showing and saying, I love you all.

And asking for his help is a big way of letting him know that we know he is still able, he is needed and he is also loved in return. And it is also one way to keeping his steps more lively.

P.S. Thank you very much for the ginger bread house, opa and oma.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Means Good Health

I have been tagged twice by Mitch and by Cookie, they wanted to know what Christmas means to me.

After this long bout of sickness in the family, it would not be a surprise if I would say Christmas means good health.

Christmas would be better enjoyed with the whole family if we are all in good spirit, if we could all savor the well prepared meals, if we could all smell the special flavor in the air, if we could all freely embrace and cuddle with our loved ones. Plus, being fit enough to visit the Christmas markets, to drop by at the homes of our friends, and binge all we want.

Christmas is a fun-filled season. Thus, we need to be in good health to live the real spirit of Christmas.
Who would cook the food, who would eat the treats, who would smell the zimt, who would shop for gifts, who would open and exclaim good noises over the gifts, who would drive to the parties, who would say merry Christmas? Well, we would be the healthy bunch, soon.

Leave us Alone

I am gonna have a real tantrum soon. I wanted to stamp my feet and shout, 'leave us alone.' Because you see, for more than a week now, the whole family's down with flu and cough and cold. The virus lingers!

I thought everything would be better. MC's feeling much better and you could see that she's also fit and well. She's eating a lot, again.

And then came IC at noontime, who without saying anything, took a blanket and found a nook in the couch to sleep. A sure sign that she's not feeling well and we checked, she's got a high fever.

Arrrgh, and I thought we would be over this today. After giving her something to help the fever go down, we left her to sleep and decided to feed MC who found her appetite again.

Since MC's adrenaline is overflowing, IC, after a long rest; was up and about, playing with her sister. As if nothing happened, but because the next would be another hospital visit for MC, we decided to all go to bed early.

MC slept. IC cannot. Her fever is back with a vengeance. And she wont take a nose spray to help her breath easily. The result? She threw up. Another long night!

This morning, MC drove with papa to the hospital for her check up and opa had to pick IC and me up to drive us to the doctor. The results of both visits are positive. Both girls are better. But why I am not yet ready to heave a sigh of relief?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

PMN: Home and Garden & Travel

You might want to check out the new articles at PMN: Home and Garden --

Mayi shares a tip on how to give your flowers long-vase life while Liza shows us how to enjoy a no fuss ginger bread house.

And yes, I am temporarily taking over the PMN: Travel and here's a new article about visiting Christmas markets with kids.


There should be a rule about the family NOT being sick, all at the same time! But it is what we are facing now and this is what's making me crazy.

You might ask why I could still blog about it? Well, I have cough and cold, just like the whole family, but I am feeling better now. I never did have fever. But I have lost my voice. On Monday it was just hoarse, but after the dramas during MC's medicine times, I finally lost my voice. I can only whisper. I wanted to save my voice but it not possible when you are a mom with two small kids. Thus, I wanted to share by writing my thoughts down.

My husband, after knowing that I have indeed lost my voice, cant help but laugh. He gleefully declared that the family is now free to do what they want. As if they are have not been doing what they want for a long time now, huh :)

Anyway, the kids were a bit confused. I can only give them signals, though sometimes, I had to whisper things to them. As for my husband, I used a pen and paper. Can you imagine how many pages I have used so far? He had to talk to all the callers and I had to ask him to call to cancel my participation in a lot of things: the Christmas party for our little gymnasts, the English course for pre schoolers, the Christmas party for the sports club, etc.

Of course I am glad to have prepared and baked some cookies in advance and froze them. That would have to do for the Christmas party for this afternoon. I wanted to come but my husband is my voice for today, at least, and he said no. What can I do?

And MC was also in the hospital with her papa early this morning. Another round of blood tests. She needed to rest, her HB is down again. We needed to forego all the celebrations and simply stay at home if we wanted to enjoy oma's 85th birthday celebration this 21st of December and Christmas this year.

We plan to celebrate her birthday in January 2008. I might need to say no to her best boy friend's birthday invitation this December 18, too. But it's okay, as long as it would help her speedy recovery.

IC's still coughing but she's fit and all over the place already. We plan to keep her at home for this week, too. Papa is 'so-so' - he needs to rest. The thing is, he must drive around: to the hospital, to the pharmacy, to grocery shop. I cannot do that since I have lost my voice.

I am looking forward to a healthy tomorrow though. I am heartfully praying that we would all be healthy soon.

Thanks for the notes from my fellow mom bloggers, they are very much appreciated.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Drama-filled 6th Birthday for MC

MC just woke up and is not yet ready for the camera
It is supposed to be a day filled with joy, yet it started with stress. Knowing since last night that MC might stay in the hospital when her blood tests would not stabilize, we were up at 6 am although we almost didnt sleep last night.

Although I am also not feeling too well, as with little IC who's got a cough, we stayed up both a little late the night before because we wanted to prepare the traditional birthday table for MC. IC helped me to bake a teddy bear-shaped citrus cake and with the balloons; despite asking almost every minute 'and when is my birthday?'

IC's busy with the balloons
Thus, when MC woke up this morning, her birthday table is up with her gifts. And she was able to blow her candles before she drove off with papa to the hospital. I mean, who would want to spend her first few hours of her birthday being pricked for blood tests? But I know I have a tough girl. I prayed for a small miracle and I got one. Her blood tests were okay, that means she is allowed to go home. But we still need to cancel the birthday party because the doctor wanted her to take a rest.

MC is in a good mood after the hospital visit. She even volunteered to blow her birthday candles the second time because IC missed the first one. She is so proud counting her candles, six candles! We had to tell her that her birthday party would have to be cancelled but we asked the immediate family to come for a short visit and give their gifts to her. They did, that made her day.
Then a call from the hospital. From her blood tests, it turned out she is lacking in calcium. Thus, we had to go to the pharmacy for the needed supplement and that was when the real drama entered the picture. With both our kids, we dont really have a problem when it comes to giving them medicine; but MC wont take this particular supplement. She refused point blank. And wont stop crying in protest which triggered whopping cough.

What can we do? She needed the supplement. We cajoled, explained, threatened... it was only when I told her I would need to force it down on her that she slowly started drinking.

Dinner time was fish sticks and french fries, a special request from the birthday girl. I made it special by decorating our dinner table. We had a great dinner.

Then it's time to drink her supplement again. And the drama continued. She wont. But she must. I told her she must stay on the table until she's finished. Well, she did with non-stop crying. She simply wont drink it. What can we do? I again threatened to force it down on her. So she sipped while crying. The result? She vomitted!

Arrrgh! Papa is explosive already. I am trying to stay calm. I made her another mix and told her to drink it slowly. She refused, as expected. I told her she could either drink it alone or I am going to force it down on her. And I am really going to do that. She knows she needs the supplement and there is no way out but to drink it. Well, she drink it after stubbornly staying alone on the table for almost 30 minutes.

We tried to end the day on a happier note by playing a game together before turning in for the night. But you know what, after bringing MC in bed, she vomitted again after an attack of the whooping cough. As I am finishing this blog, I can still hear her coughing. I hope we'll all have a good night sleep tonight.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

HS Attacks Again

MC, who would be celebrating her 6th birthday tomorrow is down with cold and fever and as expected, the virus attacked her condition.

Having hereditary spherocytosis (HS) is not easy. Instead of visiting Christmas bazaars and enjoying the kiddie rides, we are either all sitting at home or visiting the doctor.

And there's the blood tests which make the daily doctor visits not easy. I had prayed long and hard, I even offered myself if it is only possible to change places. And last night, I really felt sick and I welcomed the pain. I really thought MC would be spared.

Well, this morning, her temperature is down. She's still coughing. But she's more active. I am sick and Papa is sick, too: both with cough and stinking headache. I applauded this, thinking MC would be okay. Thinking she's been spared.

This afternoon, she went with Papa to the doctor, another blood test. She doesnt want to go. So I decided to give her one of her birthday gifts, she went without complaint. And then the call... Her blood test turned out not to be good. The doctor wanted to bring her to the hospital. We dont want that. My husband promised to bring her early tomorrow morning to the hospital.

Imagine, instead of preparing for her birthday celebration tomorrow, she would spend the day again being pricked by doctors.

This also happened almost the same time last year, after her birthday celebration, she suddenly lost her energy and just wanted to sleep. Not normal for her, it was after a battery of tests that we confirmed she's got HS.

But I am positive everything would be okay, soon. I am praying everything would be okay.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

What Did Santa Bring?

Santa came to town...

Santa Claus or St. Nicholas as the kids know them in our part of the world came last December 6 and what did he bring?

Oh, a lot of surprises. When Papa opened the door early in the morning, he already saw two packages of chocolates leaning on our door. Those were from our tenants, but of course, we told the kids that Santa came early, too.

The kids were also up early because they would be meeting him in kindergarten, too. And they did, they got their individual socks filled with goodies. And from the neighbor, though they dont know it, they got surprise gifts waiting on the door.

Oma and opa arrived early. The girls forgot their excitement as they found somebody else to play with. Thus when Santa finally came with a loud ho-ho-ho into the living room door and his big sack filled to the brim -- the kids were really surprised! I really thought the kids would not want to be left alone to face him, but they did. They even sang a song for him.

Our Santa arrived with some notes for the kids. He praised them for the good and he also told them about the not so nice things that he heard. The kids simply said yes or no, nodded or shrugged their shoulders. What was the issue for IC? That she dont want to brush her teeth and she dont want to be combed. And for MC? That she always fights about tv watching.

After the kids' promised to try to work on their 'issues'; the gift giving time arrived. And what gleeful noises you would hear from the kids. We all cant help but be excited for them, too. They got what they wished for and loads of sweets...

The kids showing off their fave gifts...

Friday, December 7, 2007

She Pushed Me

In another of those long days where everybody's nerves were already reaching the breaking point, MC pushed me.

I pushed her back. And I told her, 'do you like what you feel when I pushed you?'

She nodded no and immediately said that she's sorry.

I told her I forgive her. And I said I am sorry that I pushed her. I only wanted her to know what it feels. And to point it out to her that pushing is not a good thing to do, either to her friends and especially to adults.

I hope she got my point. Sometimes teaching our kids a lesson means giving them back what's worth.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Today)

Photos taken two years ago.

Arent kids here in Germany lucky? Well, Santa Claus comes earlier to them, that's why.

My first December season in Europe brought me a lot of surprises and one of them was that Santa Claus normally arrives here during the 6th of December.

And they dont call that man in red Santa Claus, he is known as St. Nicholas and usually wears a blue robe!

Here is one website dedicated to Nicholas that states:

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day.

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas' feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride
a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for
gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands
St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint's horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.

St. Nicholas Day is also the reason why I needed to finish my Christmas shopping earlier, because the gift giving starts earlier, too. As already a tradition here, the St. Nicholas comes to the children in kindergarten where their socks are filled with treasures. The kids sing for him, too

At home, it is usually a family day. The close relatives would join together to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. Santa Claus would arrive to give gifts to the kids, of course, the adults would get something, too. I said, Santa Claus, because he would be wearing the red robe and not the blue one, unless I sew one! And not to forget the big sack filled with gifts...

The kids are already so excited. They have practiced for a long time the 'Jingle Bells' song for Santa Claus, of course, IC said she would only sing the theme song for Pippi Longstockings :) Let's see what Santa Claus would bring.

Oh if you want to know who comes to bring the gifts during the Christmas Eve, that would be the Baby Jesus or the Christkind.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I Attended a Light Meditation

The first reason why I signed up for the Light Meditation Seminar is because the money would go to the kindergarten's renovation. I was the first one on the list.

The second reason is because I missed my yoga sessions which I regularly did during my Bangkok years, around seven years before. Yoga helped me a lot especially to relax, fight stress and most importantly, to find my inner peace.

I was really thinking that Light Meditation would focus on yoga itself. I have even goggled about it and it always goes back to the same meditation 'inner light meditation' , focusing on yoga and the inner self. I even joined my Thai Buddhist friends during their trek to the biggest temple in the world, at least during that time. It is located in the outskirts of Bangkok.

But why do we need a white candle for this meditation? Well, the question was answered during the day itself. We needed the candle because we are literally having a light meditation. We started with a light yoga to relax us before we were lured into the light. We started with eyes closed and then being asked to open our eyes to look into the light was a different feeling altogether.

Lured into the light meaning, we had to light our candles located in front of us and focus on that light during the whole meditation process. Just imagine, everything was dark and you can see only the flickering of lights from our candles. That was really mesmerizing. I forgot about the people beside me, I forget where I am, I even forgot about me, I simply focused on the light.

And that was the main purpose of the light, you need to focus on the inner you. Find out what your greatest wish is. A wish that would help you find your inner light. Because sometimes we focus too much on the others: our family, our friends, the material world and we forgot about ourselves.

We are asked to reach deep into our feelings. To forego the mind, the opinions of others... simply glide into what you feel, your heart. To wish for what your heart is saying. And this is our inner being. Sometimes we are affected by the things we hear and read from our loved ones... we could always give them advices. But the best way of helping them would be by letting go of that person. Of giving them a time alone to find themselves. You know what, I have been consciously doing that for years. As a friend, I would always be there, but I am not someone who would repeat what I said. Because I believe my presence despite my silence would also be helping.

What got me was this: if you admire someone, you need to let go of that person. Know what you love or want from that person, either his optimism in life, her patience etc... think on that something that really impressed you. But forget the person. And try to embrace what you love from that person into the inner you. That would be more satisfying.

And of course, we must believe in the higher power, our God.

In the end of the light meditation, we are asked to bring our candles back home. We could use this candle when we wanted to focus on our wish. Or when we wanted to find some peace. I think my candle would be used within this month :)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Tradition calls for us to light up one of the candles in our Advent wreath before we sit down for breakfast, and that we did.

I find this Advent wreath tradition a very simple and direct way of reminding us what Christmas is all about: that it is about the coming of Christ. That this is one way of celebrating being a Christian. That is it is about giving, not only material things but also those things that we sometimes take for granted... like visiting our relatives, sharing time with those in need of them, saying things that would make someone else happy, giving a smile, lending a hand... these are only examples, I am sure we could do more.

Nope, we dont need to wait for Christmas to be available for other people; but doing these during the busy days of Christmas mean a lot because it would show how you really take time off to share a part of you. Let's reflect on this...

Christmas is not about Santa Claus, or gifts, or parties...though sometimes we tend to focus on the fun of it. We even sign our Christmas cards happy holidays or enjoy the season. But you know what, with this Advent wreath, I always remember that we are celebrating Christ.

The kids know this, they learn and practice it in kindergarten and we religiously follow this at home. I hope they would never forget the real meaning of Christmas.

Wikipedia states that Advent is:
Advent (from the Latin word advenio, meaning "to come", "the coming of Christ our saviour") is a holy season of the Christian church, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, also known outside the Church as the season of Christmas. It is the beginning of the Western Christian year and commences on Advent Sunday. The Eastern churches begin the year on 1 September. The progression of Advent may be marked with an Advent calendar reckoning Advent to start on 1 December, a practice introduced by German Lutherans.

Adventus is the Latin word for "coming", and is the exact Latin equivalent for the Greek word
parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting that Christians today endure as they await the second coming of Jesus.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

PMN Fam Pics: Messy No More

There are times when MC's closet would be too disorganized that it would take tears and a lot of shouting before she could find something to wear for the day. Although I always tell her to prepare her clothes for the next day the night before, she would sometimes discover that what she wanted to wear would be too short, too long, too pink, too flowery, too jeans, too whatever.

And so, because we are always in a hurry in the morning, she would not have the time to return those discarded clothes properly. Thus, when not organized for a week, her closet would just be a jumble of wrinkled clothes. A real mess! Sometimes she cant even properly close it. And she hates that.

The solution? She would fold and organize her closet. She does this once a month. Alone. The rest of the month she helps me. That's our deal, for now.

See how proud she is...

And the evidence that it is messy no more!

This is my contribution for PMN: Fam Pics.