Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oh Butter

Well, how's this for excitement?

I was already on my way out to the grocery to buy our weekly supply of basic goods when my husband called up and told me that I should not buy butter from Aldi. And I told him why? And he said because of what was just in the newspaper that morning, that the quality of butter in that store we frequent is not really good. In fact, the butter in Aldi's got more germs on it than normal. For those who could read German, here.

My initial reaction? Dismay. We have been using Aldi's butter ever since I walked out of Lidl a few months ago. Now you tell me -- What do I do with the 6 packs of butter in the freezer? I wanted to dismiss this as only panic mongering but consumers here in Germany holds those consumer tests in good faith. Should we believe them, or what?

Therefore I told my husband, what do we do with the joghurt and the milk products from Aldi? As they are the same brand, would it mean that those products are affected, too? Well, nothing's on the news. We have to wait and see, meanwhile, we'll use them first. And think about buying from another brand later. Those milk products arent cheap, afterall.

And yes, I did proceed to shop at Aldi after that call.

I looked at the people doing their shopping there if they are panicking and if they are complaining and if they are suspiciously looking at Aldi's products; everybody seems to be doing okay with their grocery lists.

I even thought about discussing the butter with a friend who happened to be in Aldi at that time but I stopped myself. He might just laugh at me because by that time, I was also laughing at myself for checking out, a bit sneakily, if they pulled out the controversial butter. Nope, the butter are still displayed there and are being bought by the people. But not me, I've decided we would use the rest of Aldi's butter but I'd be buying new butter from another store.

I know, it would take more time grocery shopping, but hey, the consumer test which is fully backed by my husband, told me so :)

Let me tell you more about this Aldi butter. The fact is, the bacteria they found in the butter are not really bad for one's health, but it shows that hygiene during the manufacturing of the butter is lacking. The consumer association Foodwatch also emphasized that 'price and quality do not have anything in common with one another.'

Now, what would you do if you are in my place?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Scrapbooking is for Kids, too

It started out as a small project.

We have our balikbayan box prepared, ready to be shipped to the Philippines; filled with Christmas goodies and presents as we estimate them to arrive Manila before Christmas. And then the kids realized, on the night before the box would be picked up; that they forgot to send special gifts for their relatives in the Philippines, especially for their beloved cousins and grandparents!

Uh-oh, that shouldnt be, they were really disappointed. Mama to the rescue. I told them we could create special Christmas decors with the glitters, colored pens and colored papers we have at home. The photo below is the result of our creativity.
And then I thought, why not create something better. A collage of photos, souvernir items, arts and crafts; something like scrapbooking! I explained it to them and showed them how it would look like. They were excited to do it with me. When we started collecting the articles and printing out photos, the kids realized they dont need me after all.They hauled their old artworks out. They selected some photos to be printed, my only job for this project. They cut out some colored papers. Pasted figures and stickers. Sprinkled glitters. Drew and made use of their colored pens. They had fun!

Look at the photo above. They were so enthusiastic about it, they dont even have time to smile to the camera. In a matter of an hour, yes, only an hour; they managed to create a scrapbook of memories. I filed them up in one colored folder and the kids wrote their names on the front cover and wrote a short dedication.
Here's a sample page. The kids reviewed their work with pride and they both lovingly placed that scrapbook on top of the already full box before I closed it and have it ready for pick up.

Now they are counting the days when the box would arrive in Manila. They want to know what the recipient of their scrapbook would say about their special gift. I must admit, I am excited, too.
A balikbayan box (literally returnee's to ones homeland box) is a ubiquitious cardboard box containing any number of small items and sent by an overseas Filipino known as a 'balikbayan.' Though often shipped by freight forwarders specializing in balikbayan boxes by sea, such boxes can be brought by Filipinos returning to the Philippines. Read more.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nuts and Grapes

It's the season for picking nuts and harvesting grapes!

We did both activities last Sunday.

At first, we wanted to walk but IC balked on the idea and persuaded her papa to drive to the garden in mountain. It's a good decision as we realized that despite the sun shining, it was windy and real cold up there! Brrrrr
We stuffed ourselves with grapes, I agree that they taste better freshly picked! While my husband proceeded to fill our baskets. We always bring enough for a three-day consumption at home as it wont really last a long time even if placed immediately in the ref. And most of the times, one of the baskets would go to the kindergarten as snacks for the kids and their teachers. We do have enough grapes to share, at least that was true for the last years.
After our grape 'attack', the kids were eager to stroll around the area to visit the well known 'nutty' area. IC found a lot of treasures, while MC was a little hesitant first as most of the walnuts were still in their shells and she dislikes handling them. MC's a bit, hmm, maarte (picky). So what did MC do to pass the time while we collect walnuts? She decided to take matters into her hands and throw sticks on the walnut trees to let the already ripe nuts fall. In just one area, we already got a basketful! Now you know what our salad at home would be made of? Greens and grapes and walnuts with vinaigrette sauce, hmmm :D

We were not so lucky with the hazelnuts as they were still not ready. We found lots of them on the ground because it was windy, but they were not yet ripe. Here is IC trying to crack open a hazelnut by stamping and squeezing under her shoes. No success, though.

We also collected enough chestnuts, the not edible variety, for our Halloween decor.

This weekend, we plan to pick more apples and check out the hazelnuts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Surviving First Week of School

MC's study corner
It wasnt that bad. The first week of school. The big event, that of the einschulung (first day of school), that welcomed the first graders rigged them up to be ready for the school week.

At first we worried ourselves on how to create a schedule for doing homework. I was thinking I would pick up the kids from school. While cooking lunch, the kids could take a break by playing or they could have their one hour tv time (our rule for the weekday). It would depend on them.

But on the first day with homework, MC went direct in her study table and decided to work on it. Nope, she wont take a break. She wants to finish her homework as soon as possible. Well okay, if that's what she wants. And it became the working schedule from then on -- home from school, homework, lunch, play/break, review, sleep.

Well, it seems to be working, so who's complaining? Our real debacle really now is about letting her walk to and from the school alone with her schoolmates. My husband doesnt think she's ripe for it; well I dont have any complaints as I do have to bring IC to kindergarten and it would be the same direction as in the school. The one complaining is MC and her schoolmates! Let's wait and see about this.

Oh and let me tell you about MC's study nook. It is her pride and joy.

Her study table is from Moll. I actually love MC's study table as it could be adjusted according to her growing years and there are changing color highlights. I hope it would really stand up to the quality and the price.

MC's chair is also a bit pricey but we chose this because it could be pulled down to her size (she's petite like her mom) unlike other chairs that could only be adjusted until a certain low that isnt enough for my little girl :D. Big plus for the chair is that it has a naturally wobbly 'consistency' that could cope to the never ending wobbling and bouncing of my energetic girl.

P.S. IC's got to do her own homework, too. And she wants those things that her big sister's working on. So that would be our review time :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

An Apple a Day

The grapes were not yet ready to be picked, we could only get a handful ripes; but the apple trees are bursting and some fruits are over ripe, they were already on the ground.

And where do my girls go first? To the grapes, of course! MC headed to her favorite dark blue grapes, IC to her light green ones and me? I love those red grapes! Although we do have to search for the ripe bunches. Grapes have to wait, but only for a little bit.
And what about the quince? They are ripe and they look good. But they always said this fruit is not to be eaten like an apple, raw -- good thing oma loves to create jellies or marmalades out of this fruit.
Now we come to the first apple trees. Here is MC trying to pick one apple, with one stuff toy in the hand. Would it work?
Oh yeah, it did! And she's proud about it, saying, 'mama, I am bigger now!' I guess so, because last year she couldnt reach out from any branches from the smallest apple tree in the garden.
Look at those poor, foul apples! There are simply too much apple trees in the garden, we cant even pick them up as fast as they ripen. Thus when we do get the time to pick them, we make sure we have enough for the whole week (they would stay fresh for a week in the ref); and more for the kindergarten and for some neighbors.

What's do we do with buckets of apples at home? For toppings on green salad, for snack time, for quick picnics in the car, for dried apples, for gifts :D

Friday, September 19, 2008

Strike Dad

It is during street festivals around here that we usually meet people who we havent seen for a long time; but who used to be a part of our lives.

And so sometimes, we think, we could ask a simple question and we would get simple answers. So when I saw a friend with her daughter, I asked, 'and where is your papa?'

Boy was I shocked when the mom burst into tears and blurted out, 'he's left us a couple of months ago.' I was in shock after hearing those words. I noticed how the daughter came nearer to her mom, as if to protect her. Does this little girl really know what happened? I wonder.

I gave my friend a big hug. The thing is, I was also trying to comfort myself as well, and I was trying to hide the threatening tears. We are after all in the middle of a 'celebrating' crowd.

Well, I gave her sometime to compose herself, giving me time to compose myself, too. I decided not to ask more questions and instead told her we'd set a date for a get together. She smiled and said that would be great.

I gave her another hug and said goodbye as the kids were tugging me away and back into the rides.

I told my husband her story and we both wondered: 'They look so happy and perfect together. Always present as a family whenever there's church events, shows, festivals, etc. They participate in all kindergarten projects together. And now, this!'

I dont know. It is sad, and yet we would never really know what the future would bring.

And I just wanted to keep both girls and my husband in a thight embrace and never let go.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Name Tags

Aiza tagged me.

What's in a name? A lot! When I was single, I have listed down a lot of possible names for my future children. Most of those names came from characters I read from romance novels that I truly savored to the last pages -- that would include books such as Sweet Dreams to Mills and Boons :) I could still remember my favorites: Fiona Ann, Isabella, Patricia, Danielle, Arielle and Gabrielle.

Yet when I got married and started listing down names, I only remember that I wanted a short and simple name that would not confuse people; that people could easily read and say, and a name that my future kids would not have difficulty when they start learning to write.

In the end, my husband suggested a first name and I searched for the right second name; as it is a custom here in Germany to have two names. Although I could simply have added my maiden name as a second name, as the custom is in the Philippines.

Actually, if you a kid is a Protestant, as traditional goes, that kid's second name would come from the first name of her/his godmother/godfather. Interesting to know, right?


OUR KID’S NAMES: List all of your kids’ names, or even just one. It's up to you. Write down the story or the reason why you chose it. If you’re expecting or planning to have more kids and already have a name for them….list them down too.

My first born's name is Michaela Cristel. Her papa chose Michaela, I didnt ask why but I guess it is because my husband is a big fan of Formula 1 and the number one driver during that time was Michael Schumacher. It took me a long time to find a second name. Simply because I wanted one that starts with a 'C' because my younger sister's kids all have names that starts with a 'C'. Keep it in the family, parang ganun.

I wanted to name her Crista because her schedule of birth was supposed to be on Christmas Eve but then I learned that her future godmother's second name is already Crista. I didnt know then that tradition about the second name coming from the godmother. The second bet was Cristel but our friseur that time is called Christel; in the end I simply removed the 'H'.

For my second girl, Isabela Cathrin, it was easier because I had more time to choose as I already know my 'rules'. I plucked Isabela out of my former list but removed one 'L' and chose Cathrin because both names look great together. It turned out that opa's mother's name is Katarina and he thinks I named IC after her great great grandmother. I didnt dispute him and I am glad I named her Cathrin.

I am tagging vk, taur, nanaybelen and coolmom.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

IC wants to go to school, too

IC doesnt want to go back to kindergarten, preferring to join her ate (big sister) in school. She told me I should enrol her as soon as possible or else she would stay at home!

To convince her that she must stay in kindergarten as there are exciting things waiting for her there, I decided to look back and review with them what MC did in kindergarten, focusing on the pre-school program.

After showing her the photos, the souvenirs and the recounting some details and stories, both girls exclaimed to love kindergarten so much they dont want to leave it :D

Well, I should hope so, the pre-schoolers did interesting things and visited interesting places. Though most of these programs are the norm, I would think, they all made a mark.

Just like their enjoyment with yoga in kindergarten and the English course, their visit at the bakery, where they helped bake goodies and got to bring home some goodies inspired MC to experiment more in the kitchen.
Mc and IC showing off the gifts from the pharmacy
she made this
Their visit at the pharmacy taught them how to prepare a bunch of supositories, and they took home a bag of goodies including two mini cold packs; the out of town trip to Schloss Freundenberg, the amazing glimpse to the banking world wherein they were shown the door to the vault and were shown the camera connected to the police station and was even asked to wave to the policemen watching it 24 hours a day.

In that visit, each kid went home with a sport bag, a five euro gift certificate and was asked to participate in a raffle - MC won a beach towel :D They went to the fire station and participated in a fire drill. They walked together to learn their way from everbody's houses to their future schools, and a lot more. And of course, they also visited their future schools. And the highlights, the overnight in kindergarten and the grillfest.
the grillfest
There were things MC missed as we took a long vacation to the Philippines, the visit to the police station, and the safety and preventive program. But she became a star in some ways like during some kindergarten shows such as the following: as the sheep 'Lola' on a show held during the goodbye mass
and as the butterfly during her group's show 'The very hungry caterpillar.'

I reminded them of their friends in kindergarten and how they enjoyed playing with them. I told them of their teachers who are always there for them.

Well, reminiscing those times seemed to bring back the happy memories. IC is again eager to go back to kindergarten and MC requested a schedule to visit kindergarten again :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

My New Household Helps

MC and IC clean this corner of the house on a rotating schedule :)

MC and IC are my 'new household helps. It's been a week now since and it was a real suprise to know that are really working on schedule. They are even enthusiastic about their job.

That means, we dont need to look for a new cleaning lady to help us out. It isnt easy to find one, especially someone who would really be up to my husband's standard, he is the meticulous one :D

It started last week when out of the blue, I decided to declare that the girls would have to help in the household chores. They do some tidying up, and help sometimes during cleaning time. But I wanted to create a regular schedule. That day started with IC volunteering to vacuum the kitchen dining area and MC agreed she would do it the next day. So okay, one step at a time; one corner at a time. What is important is they know their responsibilities and they are keeping up to it!

They were even proud to let their friends know about their cleaning schedules. And I am bragging about it in my blog :D

Oh, but here's a short anecdote. One of their friends came to have lunch with us and then after eating, MC jumped excitedly to do her chore - vacuuming. The friend heard how MC and IC are now helping the mama with cleaning in which she answered: 'Oh, at home? My mama would clean the house, the papa would put his feet up and watch football while I would ba banished in my room to play.' Oopsss...

I waited for my girls' reaction which came thru my husband who told me, 'IC wish that she could also skip cleaning and play because a friend told her how it is at their home.' But she never told me this and she's still cleaning on schedule.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Einschulung = First Day of School

Today is a big day for MC. It is 'einschulung' or the first day of school. I know, it is a Saturday but...

It has been a week since the first day of school in Germany, but not for the first graders. They are always one week late. Why? Because their first day of school would be a special moment for them. It would always be on a Saturday, during the first week of school, and the whole school and the parents and relatives and even the godparents are encouraged to attend. It is really a big event.

One morning, MC saw some of her friends who are now second graders and they excitedly blurted out that they are practicing a great song for the first graders! I paused and laugh before telling them that it is supposed to be a secret!

Oh, there is also always a mass scheduled and attended by the school kids. We attended the mass for the first graders yesterday, too.

So how did our day started? By lots of surprises!

Look at what we saw outside our front door, balloons and gifts and a poem for MC. It was a really nice gesture from our tenants. And that became the flavor of the day, excitement! She got more surprises as her guests of honors arrived- composing of oma and opa and her godmother, Nadine and her friend. Even our neighbor rang the bell to give her a wrapped present, something that she actually requested for.
The first was spent with a program at the school's gym. With her schülranzen (school bag) and her schultüte (school cone), whe sat with some of her closest friends ready to enjoy the day.
There were singing and showing of musical prowess by various school kids and in the end, the first graders where asked to go up the stage. With their school cone; a tradition since 1810 according to wikipedia:

School Cone, even though the word "Tüte" translates more as "bag" from German), often also called Zuckertüte ("sugar bag") especially in Eastern Germany is a paper (and later plastic) bag in particular.

When children in Germany set off for their first day in school upon entering first grade, their parents and/or grandparents present them with a big cardboard cone, prettily decorated and filled with toys, chocos and candies school supplies, and various other goodies. It is given to children to make this anxiously awaited first day of school a little bit sweeter.
She's too small, it isnt easy to find her behind the school cones!
Her school buddy, the one who would act as 'big sister' to her in the school. Her buddy gave her a letter months before the school year started, introducing herself. The fourth graders were asked to be buddies to the neophytes :D
Here is MC's seat! Squeezed between her good friends from kindergarten. After the program, the grade one students went to their classroom to have their first 30 minutes of class. The parents, relatives, etc; had to wait outside, though there were free snacks, coffee and some sparking wine to ease up the waiting period. And yes, they received their first homework, too.
She was among the first to storm out of the room and she smiled exclaiming, 'mama, school is better than kindergarten.' MC shares her 'key' the school, a pretzel shaped into a key; to an impatient IC.
We celebrated with MC's guests by having lunch at our favorite restaurant, the Watzenhof. Look at the kids unpacking their school cone. We even had to write on their guest book because the owner said this is a very important day, which made MC smile wider.
MC proudly shows off her first school work.
A quickly assembled gift from the restaurant owner, we're regulars guests, that's why.
IC's got her own school cone, too. It's practice time for her :)
The official first day of school photo of MC.

All in all, a very exciting day for all of us.


PMN: Home and Garden features 'Ampalaya Grows in Germany, Too'.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mama, Please Brush my Teeth

Usually, it would take a lot of convincing, before IC would let me brush her teeth. Almost everytime it is time to brush her teeth, she would find excuses.

But yesterday, after a courageous session with the dentist where she and her sister got some filling work done, she uttered these words, 'Mama, please always brush my teeth right.'

The long waiting period in the clinic (almost two hours); coupled with the total of 45 minutes of having their mouths open for the examination, were simply too much for her.

She repeated again and again that she would brush her teeth better now as she dont want to go back to the dentist anymore.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

the call that made me feel better

Wasnt feeling well, I think am going to have a cold. My throat hurts. But the only indication I gave was to look for my mint bonbons one early morning.

My husband, ever aware, called me up when he reached the office and asked If I am okay. I said dont worry, I am okay; although he might have heard something's wrong from my voice.

He said: 'Do you want me to go home earlier? Let me know if I should. And dont bother to clean the house today, I would do that for you. As for doing the grocery, I could shop tomorrow.'

And that was that, he already made my day and I felt better :D

But he's not yet finished, around noontime, he called and told me to skip preparing dinner. He would be cooking for us.

Arent I lucky?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sleeping with the Kids

IC is four and MC is six, yet we still bring the kids to bed; we still stay with them until they're deep in slumber -- or else, they wont sleep.

It took a while before the kids actually agreed to sleep in their own beds; after all, I breasfed them for a total of five years. That means, they spent most of their breastfeeding years sleeping between their mama and papa.

I used to envy those parents who easily trained their kids to sleep alone. I do wanted to have some 'lounging' time with my husband at night, but that's never the case at home. Papa would bring MC to bed and would be the first one to fall asleep most of the time; and I would be lying beside IC. Separate ways, not easy, especially if we wanted to talk about something; or if we simply wanted to relax and enjoy a glass of wine together.

But after a few years of encouraging the girls to try to sleep alone; and trying out a lot of tricks and tips on how to let kids sleep alone, we are still bringing them to bed.

And you know what? We are now enjoying those alone nights with the kids, too. Because it is during those times that they would really talk to us. They would ask loads of questions that would sometimes be so fascinating though some would be a bit weird, too. They would tell us about their observations and would ask about reactions. They would summarize their day, our day and fantasize about the days of a friend. They would make us laugh mimicking some people. Oh, we would talk, and talk and talk and snicker and giggle -- and before we knew it, we'd be asleep.

Soon, the kids would be kicking us out of their beds and their rooms. Meantime, my husband and I agreed to savor the nights with them first. After all, we could always create our together time, too.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What's a great birthday gift to a fellow mom?

It didnt take me a long time to decide what to give a new found friend, also a stay-at-home-mom, for her 40th birthday. Nope, she doesnt like jewelries nor does she love perfumes. She would rather wear comfortable clothes and shoes that doesnt bite; and she's got her favorite mommy bag already.

And, so I've decided to give her a special mommy day. A day off from home. With the help of my husband, we printed a special invitation for her to spend a day in a far away city with me (not too far away but far enough for her to escape household chores).

When she read the invitation, she was so excited. The husband, was excited for her, too especially since we didnt really inform them our destination. And so I guess, our gift is a success, judging from their reaction.

Actually, we invited her small daughter, too; as I would be bringing both girls with me. That way, they could play together and we moms could talk and window shop and do whatever we could do as long as the girls would let us. of course. She would have to leave her small son with the dad, at least, some sort of break, right?

So, that invitation was fulfilled last Wednesday. We picked them up before leaving the car at home to walk to the train station near us. Despite the rain, we had a great time. The kids got busy, the moms busier!

It was something else. Actually, it is also a first time for me to have someone, except for the girls and my husband, while in the city. A different experience walking with someone and exchanging notes on clothes and shoes and a little household chats (just cant get away from those). A different experience dining out and taking our sweet time in between bites. A different experience checking things out and dawdling all we want.

I guess, I gave her a gift and yet, she gave me back a gift, too. Those moments of mommy talks. I'm sad to say, I only get those mommy talks mostly when am blog hopping (well, not really so bad, but, oh, you know what I mean :D) It is different when it's face to face!

Who wants to join me in the city next time :D

Dressing Up

Mama, when you dont like this dress anymore, you could save it for me, okay? and I take it as a compliment :D

I hear these requests from both my girls now. And they are only six and four years old, I wonder, would they still ask to wear my clothes when they reach their teen years? Or would they find my choices already old fashioned? I dont want to think of them using my clothes as costumes, though - ouch!

Here is MC, wearing Oma's t-shirt. She loves this tee because there's glitters and gems sewn on it. She was allowed to bring it home, to her delight. It is now a forgotten delight, though.

Here she is again, wearing my newly bought summer dress. She wanted to borrow and wear it to kindergarten. But I told her, the dress is still too long, she dont want to sweep the street with her dress, dont she? Good thing she agreed.

To be frank, I cant wait to see her wearing some of my clothes, too. Nothing, just a bit excited about seeing my girls growing up into little ladies. But for now, I am happy to lend my clothes and see them play 'dressing up'.

I dont have photos of IC because she is, at this time, camera shy.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Just like having a great holiday...

I finished reading a very good book in one sitting.

I havent done that for a long, long time.

Devouring a book in one sitting is just like having a great holiday, dont you think so, too?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Papa, please act normal!

Since he's been single for a long time before getting married and then having kids, my husband's been used to some actions around the house that doesnt seem to agree to what being normal is through the eyes of our girls.

For example, he washes his hands using the faucet in the bathtub, rather than using the wash basin. His reason? It would save time cleaning the wash basin.

Well, that action doesnt sit well with the kids; especially if both of them are in the bathtub and the papa would be coming in to wash his hands :)

So MC and IC would always sigh and say, 'Papa, why dont you act normal?'

Monday, September 1, 2008

Nobody Loves Me

Last Saturday, MC came home after playing with her friend, in a good mood.

And then suddenly, she found everything at home not in order.

She complained about the smell of the grill (our tenants were in the garden having a little party), she complained that her room is a mess (we were in the middle of tidying up when she left to play with her friend), and then to our amazement, she started throwing things around!

Well, I had to stop her! I took her in my arms and told her to take a break first. She wont, instead she run back to her room, scattering her toys around. I told her to stop or else everything would be broken and she wont have toys to play with anymore.

She answered me back with these words: 'Niemand hat mich lieb' Nobody loves me.

Huh? What did she say? I was shocked and a bit curious with her dramatic display. In fact, I asked her to repeat what she just said. She did, with a hint of embarrassment. Right there and then, I told her, of course we love her.

She calmed down after a few minutes and she cleaned up her room without saying anything.

But later that night, I had to ask her where she got those words from. Did she hear those words from anyone? Did she get those from a movie? Where?

Nothing. She simply smiled at me.