Saturday, December 31, 2011

Silvester : New Year's Eve 2011

It is the same thing every year...

The same rituals mixing German and Philippine traditions.

The Philippine traditions include: prominently displayed nine (some says 12, some says 13) different kinds of rounded fruits, the wearing of dotted clothes, some coins in our pockets, and creating noise: all done for good luck.

The German traditions are: watching the comedy skit 'Dinner for One' on TV, the Bleigissen ritual involving a molten lead, the table fireworks spitting out good luck mini figurines, those giant pretzels, the chimney sweeper figures, the clover plants, the lady bug chocolates and the marzipan pigs. Of course, those things are supposed to bring luck, too.

Then we have our Raclette dinner which this year are planned by the girls. The menu includes: mini burger, beef, chicken, shrimps, bell pepper, mushrooms, cheese, pineappple, toast, bacon, tomatoes. Side dishes include green salad and Jasmine rice. Dessert is maybe just something like this.
And the drinks. Let us not forget them. The girls loved our Christmas cocktail drinks (non-alcoholic for them) that they wanted more... They want the orange-grape punch which is just a mixture of orange and dark grape juice with slices of peaces. But instead I am doing this.

orange-grape punch

For my husband and I, there's Kir Royal for apperitif which I am mixing for the first time and Sekt (Prosecco), of course!

The girls are ready to stay up until midnight. What are their plans to keep awake? Here's their list: disco, karaoke, tv watching, games, not to mention -- eating and drinking binges!! Therefore I am preparing fingerfood such as dates on bacon, mini pastete (tarts), and mixed nuts/chips.

To greet 2012, we have table fireworks and some kiddie-safe noise makers such as paper horns and the pots and pans :-). Ok, ok. Yesterday we bought some fireworks, choosing those smaller and easier to handle.

And we plan to keep Rikki on a leash as the noise might scare her. We don't want to spend the early hours of 2012 looking for her in the woods!

Happy New Year to All!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Christmas Gifts

My girls are absolutely easy to please :-)

The noticed that they compared before, they don't have too many gifts under the Christmas tree. You see, Oma and Opa are not there anymore plus other things but let's not get into that.

But they don't care. The glee they showed in opening their Christmas presents are enough to let us know that they love their gifts.

I made the gifts a bit more exciting, more dramatic. You see, we just got a second-hand computer for the girls. My husband and I got it ready a day before Christmas Eve and decided to place it in the corner of our work area. From that day on, the girls are not allowed to enter that room. IC was a little nosy though...

On Christmas Eve, during the traditional Christmas stroll of the girls with their Papa; as the designated Christkind assistant, I made everything Christmas ready. I created a short note and placed a Santa hut and ribbons around the the monitor. I turned off the lights and placed candles in strategic places.

When they arrived, they were greeted by the candle lights (and the Christmas lights, of course) and I led them to their first 'Christmas gift' destination accompanied by the ringing of a Christmas bell. I could feel the excitement of the girls as I asked them to blow the candles everytime they pass one.

Then the surprise:
The girls love it!

Then we marched to the living room. Under the Christmas tree are gifts, too. We asked the girls to distribute the presents. They proceeded to give their gifts to Rikki first. Our dog showed her appreciation for the toys by running around with them.

Then the girls presented their gifts to us. The best of which are some drawings and a box full of lists including promises to help in the household chores, for breakfast in bed, and to dance with :-)

After distributing the gifts for everyone, they started opening their own gifts. I was amazed by their patience and generosity because despite their excitement (IC's been asking me to call the Christkind to bring the gifts as early as 7 am!!!); they handed-out our presents first.

They loved their presents, as I have already said. I gave in and brought them Monster High dolls but I as I told them, I would never buy them those horrible accessories. It is now a few days after Christmas and they still rave over their gifts.

And this year, I never heard them asking for any handheld electronic gadgets at all. I guess that's  because they already know the rules (only if they could buy those gadgets with their own money) and because they are have re-discovered the magic of their digital cameras again. They were taking photographs and videos of their gifts almost daily.

P.S. IC actually discovered me with hands full of gifts when she came back to pick-up the forgotten treats for Rikki before their stroll. She grinned and left. I acted as if nothing was wrong. IC acted the same, even during the gift-giving. It turned out that after seeing me, she whispered to her Papa that she definitely knows who the Christkind is!!! She hasn't talked to me about it yet. But as I already declared, I am just the helper!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Parties

This year, I attended three very important Christmas parties.

The first one was MC's Class Christmas Party.

Followed by IC's Class Christmas Party.

And the girls' Voltigieren (Vaulting) Christmas Party.

But the best Christmas Parties were those spontaneous ones. No programs, no drinks, no food, no decors. Just pure fun...

Those that we celebrate during our Christmas traditional baking, those cheers as we decorated our Christmas tree, those times we created Christmas cookies with friends, those laughs while watching Christmas movies together, those simultaneous singing of Christmas songs while listening to the radio, those glasses we raised as we tasted new drink mixes, those meals that made our mouth water as we waited for the festivity...

Everyday's a party, Christmas season or not! The important thing is having fun!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Tree, the Elves and a Dog

This 2011, our Christmas tree was decorated by our very own Christmas elves, together with a fake reindeer :-D

The started decorating the tree without their Christmas huts; but when I started playing Christmas music on the radio, they grabbed the huts. With the music and the huts, they seemed to have more fun trimming the tree.

The only help the girls needed was in adding the Christmas lights and the star on top of the tree.

The fake reindeer, our dog, Rikki, is seen here being disciplined by one of the elves. You see, this is the first time that a dog is celebrating Christmas with us. So we have to be careful that Rikki won't eat the trimmings; that she won't nibble on the figs; that she won't play with the tree; meaning we hope that that Rikki leaves the Christmas tree alone.

To keep our Christmas tree safe from our dog, we made sure that our Christmas tree is on a very stable Christmas tree stand. Also, the Christmas tree is very far away from our dog's usual place of activities.

And of course, we had to repeatedly tell Rikki that that part of the house is not for him. Rikki, Nein!!! It seems to work.

The tree's been standing for two weeks and we are hoping that it would remain standing until the season ends.

(Traditionally, Germans put up their Christmas trees around the 23rd of December but ours is always up before the birthday of MC which is on the 10th. The girls just love to have the decors earlier and my husband and I definitely agree with them.)

This is our Christmas tree 2011. It is a Nordmanntanne (Nordmann fir). The colorful Lametta (tinsel) and the various Christmas balls, angels, bells, birds, stars, Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, etc. hanging on our tree are from the Christmas collection of Oma and Opa which we used last year and have voted to use again this year.

Because for us, Christmas is celebrating memories, too. Memories of Christmas celebrated with our loved ones who are now gone; and those that are too far away from us.

And note that our Christmas tree doesn't have any gifts under the tree, yet! The Christkind (Child Christ) brings the gifts after the Christmas Eve mass. And always, secretly.

Merry Christmas to All!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Tree Star Biscuit

This Christmas biscuit recipe is something that I saw in an old magazine and I modified according to simpleness. After all, there are enough to do during this season, right?

What made this special is that the girls, who are in my private English lesson class at home, joined me in baking them. It was fun and it was another creative time for the kids, too.

Ingredients for Christmas Tree Star Biscuit:

6 large eggs
3 cups butter
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon (plus 2 tsp)
2 ½ tsp salt
¾ tsp ground cloves
almond extract
9 ½ cups all-purpose flour
various garnish or trimming
paper plates or aluminum-covered cartons


With mixer at low speed, beat eggs, butter, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, salt, almond extract, and 5 ½ cups flour. Increase speed to medium, while occasionally scraping the bowl. Mix in the remaining cups of flour, one cup at a time. Divide the dough, wrapping each piece with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or until dough is firm enough to roll.

Meanwhile, make a star pattern, and create them in four or three different sizes (I created three different star patterns). Roll the dough on a lightly floured large cookie sheet. With a floured rolling pin, reroll the dough, place the different star patterns on top and cut the dough. Create small round patterns and add other designs if you want, using the extra dough (I have three small round ones because of my three star patterns.)

Place the cut-out dough in a baking sheet and bake on a pre-heated oven to 200 degrees. Bake between 15-20 minutes, until light-browned on the edges. Let cool.

Afterwards, put the biggest star on a paper plate/aluminum folie-covered carton and starting with the biggest star, add the trimmings. Using the icing or frosting to keep them in place. In the middle of the star, glue one of the round patterns using the icing or frosting. Continue adding and trimming until a small tree is formed. Add additional trimmings.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

IC's Christmas Wish: To Play with Mama

I could cry! I am definitely a bad mother!

I saw this letter for Santa posted on their classroom's bulletin board during their Christmas Party last December 9. It took me sometime to find IC's letter and when I did, it was a kick in the gut!
One of my little girl's fervent Christmas wishes is to play with me!
To play. With. Her Mama. To play with me!!! Me... yes, a stay-at-home-mom that I am and my girl's letter seems to tell me that her stay-at-home-mom is not giving her enough precious play time together.

And then I remembered.

She would usually sit with me while I take a break after private playtime English lessons at home with the boys, in which she is also taking part in. But you see, because the  boys are too wild, they would not let IC join in most of the games (in which I always participate). Agreeable IC would always let the boys have their way, so she would stay on the sidelines and watch.

After trying to catch my breath after dealing with two active six-year-old boys, IC would always ask if I could play with her. And mostly my answer would be: 'later please, I need to take a break first.' Or I would ask her to stay on my side yet play by herself and pretend that I am playing with her.

I think she's a bit jealous that those boys could play with me and she had to miss out on the fun.

Right there and then, I promised to myself that I playing with her would be my priority. The day after the party, I started dropping everything (unless it is not cooking) everytime IC asked for playtime. I don't feel like a bad mother anymore (but still a bit guilty!).

And then two days after reading her letter to Santa, I sprained my left ankle. Which left me invalid, I cannot walk. The doctor said I cannot use my left foot for six weeks! If and when needed, to get from one place to another, I had to hop with one leg which is not easy.

The only thing comfortable for me was to sit in one corner read or go online or watch TV, until someone fetch me for a meal or to use the toilet or to go to bed.

Well, who's complaining? Definitely not IC!

Having her mom in that corner was a lucky thing! That was the Christmas gift that IC's been waiting for. What joy that that gift came earlier!

Now I am IC's captured audience. I am her full-time playmate. I am her live toy. She brings to me all kinds of play ideas, board games, drawing papers and pencils, etc. I play with her in whatever corner of the house she finds me. I play with her anytime she wants to play with me. I play with her whatever games she wants to play with me (excluding those that needs movement, of course!).

In return for being a full-time playmate mom? She and her sister help me in most of the household chores: laundry, hanging the laundry, setting and clearing the table, fetching and carrying things, etc. Cooking and cleaning the house became my husband's main responsibilities.

I can feel this Christmas would be something special.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Sweet 18, Ate Cha!

Dear Ate Cha,

Already 18?

We still remember when you used to play Barbie with us. But we also had fun playing tag, hide and seek and simply running around.

Yet we do remember, those days when we tinker with make-ups and nail polishes. When we go home with clothes coming from you, simply because we decided to raid your closet, decided to try on your clothes and you were generous enough to share!

We know that you are a good sister, because you're a great cousin. We love you.

Although we are disappointed that we cannot celebrate with you. Especially since this is your debut and my Mama told me that in the Philippines, 18th birthday is always a big celebration.

Good thing that we joined the Christmas party with the radio station,, which is today, too. We are asked to wear red and we have decided to wear Santa hats. Of course, there are food and drinks, too. Therefore, we are partying with you!

Have fun!

MC and IC

P.S. It is also Oma's birthday!!! Happy birthday, dear Oma!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dear Christmas Market Vendors

Dear Christmas Market Vendors,

Do you know how much we look forward to visiting you year after year?

Do you know how enthusiastic we are to discover the wonderful decor items you offer?

Do you know how delighted we are to find exciting gift articles booth after booth?

Do you know how we crave those Christmas goodies?

Do you know we go to Christmas Markets to have fun?

What is why we cannot understand why some vendors just turned killjoys this year. They are trying to kick the cheer out of our Christmas Market visits. I would have not written about it if it was just one incident, but there were more than one. And those incidents happened in different Christmas Markets, too!
Indeed, it is a big disappointment when we hear your vendors say 'don't touch'. I can understand the 'do not touch' notices for those fragile items made in glass or porcelain; but to tell my girls not to touch those chunky handmade jewelries???

After all, they were the only ones in your booth that time, you could always see and closely monitor what they do. After all, they were not wild kids who tosses things around, you saw how gently they handled your products. You saw how they waited for my nod before they tried to touch your products.

Don't you realize that they are also potential customers? They wanted to buy something for me and their cousins. And you blew their shopping expedition by preventing them to even check out the items on your booths!
As for those Christmas Market vendors selling food items, we thank you for the chance to taste your products. And though sometimes we come back to taste not only twice but thrice; that does not mean you could rudely tell us that 'those are only to taste and not to binge'.

You see, we stayed in your booth a little longer because we cannot decide what to buy; which tempted the girls to taste more. We were not trying to binge on all your free taste items in one visit. We were discussing how many packages we wanted as presents to some close friends and relatives. Alas, your potential customers, us, had to leave your booth with empty hands because you were rude to us!

Oh please, Christmas Market vendors, dont' you know that most of us plan the Christmas Markets visits? That we are ready to open our wallets for a taste, for a drink, for presents, for rides? That we are there to have fun and experience the Christmas spirit?
So please Christmas Market Vendors, even if you don't know how many valid reasons one customer needs to touch or taste your products; they hover around your booths because they are interested. To buy or not to buy, the decision usually depends on how you treat them.

And there are different ways to talk to customers. How about trying this: 'please be careful.' But rudeness is absolutely a no-no.

We are definitely going to visit more Christmas Markets this December, just because we are optimistic that the Christmas spirit has finally touched ALL the booth vendors. Peace to all!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas 2011 Means Helping the Flash Flood Victims in the Philippines

More than 900 dead, more than 800 still missing, with more than 250,00 individuals affected and are now in evacuation centers...

Please pray for the people in the Philippines. Especially those people in Mindanao affected by the flash flood that happened a few days ago.

Please pray for those who lost their loved onces. Especially those parents who lost their children.

Please pray for those who lost their homes. Especially those who are sick and weak.

Please pray that people would unite to help. Especially to ease the sufferings: to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to give hope to the hopeless, to give meaning to our Christmas.

Send your donations to the Philippine National Red Cross. Here's the direct link to donate.

If you are in the Philippines, you can send your donations FREE through LBC. See above notice.

To everyone sending prayers and/or donations, thank you very much.

Honey-Cocoa Santa Boot-Shaped Biscuit

This came about because I don't have all the ingredients to create a Gingerbread Cookie.

Plus, with honey, the taste is something different, right?

Yet it is something for the season because I have created the biscuit using a Santa Boot pattern.

Here is the recipe for the Honey-Cocoa Santa Boot-Shaped Biscuit:


200 g liquid honey
50 g sugar
a pinch of salt
50 g melted butter or margarine
1 egg
2 tbsp cacao powder
a pinch of cinnamon powder
1 tsp grounded cloves
50 g ground almonds
500 g all-purpose flour
3 tbsp baking powder

To trim:

100 g powdered sugar, 1-2 tbsp lemon juice, and some cookie/cake trimmings such as mini chocos, colored sugar bits, etc.

Additional: paper for pattern, cartons, aluminum folie, ribbons and choco Santa


In a bowl, put together honey, sugar, salt, butter or margarine, cinnamon, cacao, cloves and almonds. Mix well.

Combine the baking powder and the flour. Add slowly to the honey mixture while using the mixer.

Afterwards, knead the dough using your flour-covered hands. Cover the dough and place in the ref between one to two hours.

Then roll the dough on a flour-covered table. Create your own Santa Boot pattern using a piece of paper. Place the pattern on top of the rolled dough and cut it out. Use the extra dough to create other patterns to use as trimmings.

Place the Santa Boot-shaped dough on a baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated oven for around 15 minutes, at 200 degrees.

Let the dough cool before adding the trimmings.

To create icing, mix together the powdered sugar and the lemon juice. Use the icing to glue the trimmings.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Market Visit

All in white
This is a German tradition and therefore, a tradition we warmly embrace in our family, too.

A week before the first Sunday of Advent, most shops offering Advent items especially the flower shops featuring Advent wreaths, gift articles and home craft elements; have an Advent Market Special.

All in orange

Now that Saturday and Sunday are not normal shopping days. These are exciting days because aside from welcoming the Advent and the coming of Christmas; the shops also welcome shoppers and window shoppers with small treats: there are free Christmas cookies, slices of cakes (mostly stolen), candies and drinks (hot choco, tea, coffee or juices sometimes even sekt).

Everybody are allowed to move around, check the merchandises while eating and/or drinking. Most people take the chance to chat up with acquiantances; most kids take the chance to stock up on sweets and stuff themselves with the first taste of the Christmas sweets; most active DIY enthusiasts take the chance to check out the Advent style for the year. Most visitors take the chance to have fun and go home with something new for Advent in their bags.
All in violet
The only things we brought home from the Advent Market are two orange stars and a bunch of fir twigs. Because this year, together with my girls, we created our own Advent wreath. Starting another Christmas tradition, because the girls enjoyed our craft time and made me promise we would do it again next year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Our Traditional Christmas Baking

Before Christmassy December approaches, our family is already busy with our traditional Christmas baking.

Well, it is my husband and the girls who are busy baking our Christmas cookies/biscuits. My participation is buying the ingredients needed. And of course, cleaning up after them!

Our favorite Christmas goodies include: Spritzgebackenes, Buttergebackenes and Kulleraugen.

The recipes are the traditional recipes coming from the Oma, although most of the time, there are modifications here and there.

It is indeed team work, baking these Christmas goodies. Someone should roll the dough, create the form, place them in the baking sheets, and into the oven. Then start the timer, check the goodies and take them out of the oven. Add more decors and trimmings, etc. And that is only for the Buttergebackenes (Butter Cookies).

I haven't mentioned the hardwork needed to create the Spritzgebackenes or Shortbread Cookies. Someone should work on the Spritzmachine, someone should pull the dough of the machine and shape it, someone should spread the cookie sheets and make space for another one...

A challenging work, this Shortbread Cookies. But the girls love baking this together best. Because the urgency is fun. They can't help but scream and cheer and laugh and shout boo -- depending on the success or failure of their working rhytmn. They also love the shapes that comes out from the machine; and those that are done by their fingers.

Christmas baking is not done one time. It is repeatedly done on weekends. Because those cookies are biscuits are used as everyday snacks, sent as gifts, and shared in Christmas parties.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Did you choose the date of my birth?

'Why is it that my birthday is December 10?' MC asked me. 'I wanted a different birthdate. How could you choose such a date?'
My answer was, 'I didnt choose your birthdate. The doctor gave me an estimated date of your arrival and you chose to come 10 days earlier. Therefore, it was you who wanted that date.'

I explained further that it was the same with IC, she came 10 days earlier, too. And I went on to inform you the cute details that happened during THAT day as you both eagerly savored the stories and giggled deliciously.

MC's birthdate story goes like this: I was telling her papa that after putting up all the Christmas decors, the baby could come. We went shopping in Mannheim, a big shopping area in Germany and had a dinner of spicy Mexican food. That night, I saw a drop of blood in my urine and I told my husband that I just saw the sign that our baby is coming. (My mother warned me it could start with just a drop of blood).

We got ourselves ready, I took a shower even, lugged my bag and we drove to the hospital in Heidelberg. At around 1 am, the parking lot is empty. But of course, my husband's nervousness made him miss the big post in front of him. Not a big damage, but it happened :D

MC laughed so hard and made me repeat the story again and again. IC was giggling beside me.

IC's birthdate story meanwhile goes: We have prepared MC to get used to sleeping without us; brought her to her aunt to stay overnight to 'practice' once. Around midnight (again), my water broke. We woke MC up, she was two years old at that time, she readily got up, dressed herself up -- all alone.

We called up her aunt and she was picked up after a few minutes; before my husband and I drove to Heidelberg. In the middle of our trip, I remembered I didnt help MC put on her shoes. (It was cold that early morning in April) When we called her aunt up, she told us MC's got shoes on. I guess she learned how to put on her shoes that night. (Good girl!)

Oh, and that the first night that MC slept alone with her papa in our big bed; she cried because as she said, 'I miss mama.'

Saturday, December 10, 2011

MC is 10

Dear MC,

You are now 10 years old!

With very simple requests for your birthday: a monopoly banking game board and a music CD from your favorite tennie pop singer Pietro Lombardi.

And a very simple birthday menu: Spinach with Gnocchi (Papa just added Fried Chicken Breasts just because...). As for your birthday cake, I should have baked the traditional teddy bear birthday cake like you requested, but instead, I decided to bake a Peach-Almond Cake which turned out to be too salty! But you were a trooper and just shrugged it off, saying, 'Mama, it's ok. Just make more donuts.'

And no, despite offering you the choice of places to have fun on your birthday -- you don't want to leave the house at all. You just want to play with your monopoly; and have your favorite dinner cooked and served at home.

There's your vaulting club, where you celebrated today by bringing a pack of mini donuts for your group. You did bring some donuts to the neighborhood kids and the elderly neighbors just because you wanted to.

But the real kiddie birthday would be this January, as you wanted all your friends to be present. Despite that, we already practiced for your 'pajama themed birthday party.' See the photo on the top? That was you practicing your song for your future pajama party. Then I guess we just need to practice more, right?

We could dance all night again. We could sing all night again. We could eat midnight snacks again. That was fun, right? Who would have thought practicing for a birthday party would be that exciting? But am sure the real kiddie party would be fun, too.

You are hardworking. You love cooking. You love the outdoors. You love exploring the road less travelled, figuratively. You love climbing trees. You love fruits. You are always curious. You are starting to love books, too.

You hate chocolates. You hate chaos. You hate being teased. You hate it when IC plays too rough with our dog, Rikki. You hate being late.

You are proud that you are now 10 years old. We are, too!

And don't worry if you cannot get the lighter to work, nor to light a match in one strike -- there's enough time for learn those things.

Happy Birthday, dear MC! We love you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Kulleraugen : Saucer Eyes Cookies

Kulleraugen or Saucer Eyes Cookies are Christmas shortbread biscuits that looks like big saucer eyes.

They are remain in our Christmas cookies sortiment ever since we experimented with different recipes since 2007.

It is fun baking these cookies. And we love their taste, too.

250 g flour
1 / 2 tsp baking powder
100 g sugar
1 pack vanilla sugar
a pinch of salt
3 egg yolk
150 g butter
1 egg white
50 g chopped almonds
60 g strawberry jam


Mix flour with baking powder. Add sugar, vanilla sugar and a pinch of salt. Separate the eggs yolk from the egg white. Set aside the egg white. Add the egg yolk to the flour.

Add butter to the flour and knead until it forms a firm dough. Cover and store for an hour in the refrigerator.

Afterwards, form small dough balls and place on a baking paper-lined baking sheet. Leave a space of at least an inch between each balls.

Press the center of each ball with your finger to make a hollow hole. Dip the upper edge of the dough balls in egg white then dip again into the chopped almonds. Fill the holes with strawberry jam.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. The Kulleraugen needs around 20 minutes to bake.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Today is St. Nicholas Day

Seven-year-old IC is adamant, insisting that there the real St. Nicholas is already dead.

Well, I can't argue because it is true as she knows that the story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. As Bishop Nicholas, he became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. December 6 became his feast day and the day for gift-giving in Germany to preserve the memory that it was the Christ Child who are to be celebrated during Christmas day.

Now the question is, who brings the gifts during St. Nicholas Day? Her ready answer, of course, Mama and Papa! Well, I told her, that might be true. But who leaves those extra chocolates and gifts outside our front door during the early morning of St. Nicholas Day?

Well, she had no ready answer for that. And I am not ready to tell her that those are from generous neighbors playing St. Nicholas. Indeed, early this morning, (good thing Rikki, our pup, wasn't the first one out of the front door); both girls stumbled into gifts from St. Nicholas on the front door. There's even a letter stating that those are from St. Nicholas and it's not in my handwriting so...

And then again, they saw St. Nicholas chocolate baskets beside the garage door! They know it could not have been their Papa nor their Mama as we were both busy in the kitchen and they were the first ones out.

Oh, we cleared things up, too. I informed them that the St. Nicholas gifts that adults receive are mostly bought by kids because St. Nicholas only have time to prepare gifts for the kids. Thus, they shopped to buy us gifts; wrapped them in secret. And sneaked those presents in our home office which really surprised us :-D

Mama and Papa's St. Nicholas gifts arranged by the girls

After school, where they received more gifts coming from St. Nicholas; the girls enthusiastically finished showed off their gifts, made their homework as fast as they can. They know that we are going out, despite being a school day. We drove off to shop a bit, then we visited the Mannheimer Weinachtsmarkt (Mannheim Christmas Market).

Mannheim's Christmas Market

Back home, they noticed that St. Nicholas chocos are scattered around. They collected those sweet figurines, before finding out that their presents are sorrounded by more of them. All gifts from St. Nicholas, of course. After all, we were all not home, right???

Happy St. Nicholas Day everyone!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

DIY: Santa Boots Advent Calendar

I did say in my last post that we wanted to have a Christmas City Advent calendar and Santa Boots Advent calendar, right?

We started with creating the boots of Santa first. I gave one pattern each to IC and MC. But since it is a last minute thing, we don't really have all the necessary items for the boots. So we had to improvise, meaning, it would take more time and effort.

The first two booties took the kids almost an hour to finish!! If we would continue working, it would be the first week of December and we are still cutting and painting. Therefore, a compromise. One Santa boot goes into their Christmas City Advent calendar or else we will not meet the deadline. The girls agreed. That's our Advent calendar story 2011 and now here's how our Santa Booties were created:

Materials needed:

cardboard or a thick paper
pair of scissors
darning needle
paint brush
Santa Boot template : CLICK

How to:

Print the template.
Cut it out and transfer to the cardboard.
Fold the boots along the dotted lines.
Punch the holes.
Paint or paste trimmings on the boots.
Glue the heel.
Take the front flap and roll it according to the shape of boot.
Then using the darning needle and your chosen ribbon, thread them into the holes of boots.
Add the number by painting it on the boot.

The inspiration for the Santa booties is here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

DIY : Christmas City Advent Calendar

It was two weeks before the first of December and I haven't started the Advent Calendar-making for both girls.

I thought I could get away by re-using the old ones; but when I talked to the girls about it, they both frowned on the idea. In panic (I have to create 48 doors after all!), I decided to check out the internet for an easy-to-make and very simple Advent's calendar and I ended up here and here.

Well, I wanted to create a Santa booties calendar and a Christmas City calendar. It turned out, it was not easy to create the booties. The girls (it's their first time to join me in creating their own advent's calendars thus starting a new tradition, too) needed at least an hour to finish one!!!

In the end we decided to just incorporate the two ideas, and here are the results:
See the lonely Santa boot at the far right corner? This Advent calendar belongs to MC.

See the Santa boot on the far left corner? This one is IC's.
For our Christmas City Advent Calendar we used the following:

- 24 paper rolls (from toilet paper, from kitchen paper, from gift wrapper, etc)
- various blue-colored gift wrappers
- cardboard
- aluminum foil
- silver, blue, and gold foil
- store-bought Advent calendar-numbered clips
- masking tape, glue and hot glue gun
- stapler
- scissors and cutter
- old plastic folders

To Make the Base:
Using a hard cardboard, wrap it with aluminum foil. Use a masking tape to fix the foil in place.

To Make the Towers:
Cut or crop 24 pieces of paper rolls to achieve the city look. There should be different heights to keep it interesting: long, short and middle. Then paste the different wrapping papers around the paper rolls, making sure that the different paper patterns are on different heights of rolls.

Before fixing your city on the base, plan where to put the towers. Use a glue gun to keep the towers in place on the cardboard base. It is best to start in the middle so you have space to move the towers around while creating your city.

It is best to move the towers around first before fixing them in place to for a better perspective of the 'growing' city.

To Make the Roofs:

Create 24 circles from the two colored foil, (example 12 from the silver and 12 from the blue). Then cut out a part of each circler (at least 1/4), then fold and use a stapler to fix them in place. Keep the rest of the cut up foils on the side to scatter them around the Christmas City's base later.

To create a support for the roofs, cut 24 strips from the used plastic folders and staple them together. The strip sizes depend on the opening of your paper tower rolls, it should slip easily in place. Then use a glue gun to fix the strips of support into the roofs.

Afterwards, add the numbered clips on top. And scatter the trimmings, using the rest of the cut out foils and some balled up alu foils. (Instead of the store-bought numbers, make paper circles, write the numbers on them and staple them on the roofs.)

The cut-out roofs, the plastic folder strip support, and the calendar numbers.
Then we just added the Santa booties as seen on the first photos above and below:

And don't forget to stuff papers or whatever into the high towers to remove the gifts easier. What we did, we placed some cardboard pieces, and placed the gifts items covered in kitchen papers into the towers before adding the roof.

You might want to add some cottons to create a snowy Christmas City. Some Christmas balls and decors give more Christmassy feel.

Both Advent Calendars took all three of us around four hours to finish, that's including the Santa booties. And excluding the time in putting the fillings inside, I am planning to fill them up tomorrow night.

Tip: If you plan to do this Christmas City Advent calendar, make sure you have time to collect enough paper rolls. I had to ask our neighbors to collect all their papers rolls or else I won't have enough to work on.

Another tip: If you are like me, who tends to create homemade Advent calendar year after year, try to find an interesting and neutral store-brought numbers for the calendars. It would really make the calendars easier to make.

The Santa Bootie DIY follows in the next post...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

My husband woke up early and made breakfast for us. He was the one who decorated the breakfast table, too.

Our Advent wreath this time is homemade. Created from the 'cheers' of previous Advent wreaths, the only thing store-bought are the fresh fig branches. IC chose the different-shaped candles, MC helped in dugging out decors. We finished the Advent wreath in less than 20 minutes. (DIY post about our Advent wreath to follow.)

What is Advent? Advent means the preparation for Christmas, remembering Christ’s first coming to us; and it is also a season directing our mind and heart to await Christ’s second coming at the end of time. Advent is a period of joyful devotion and peace.

And for our girls, Advent means the start of anticipation for all the season's joy. They also know that Advent is a way to remember the joy of the Christmas pasts, those enjoyed with Oma and Opa; with Nanay and Tatay; with family and friends.

Advents also means re-creating and creating new traditions. Those are always something to look forward to.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Our Pup's First Outing in the City

As a newbie dog owner, our family is a little bit reluctant in dragging Rikki, (she was three months old then) -- in the city. In fact, the first few months that we welcomed the pup home, we have limited our trips, even running errands.

Well, we regularly do our short/long hikes in the woods; our stroll in the mountain gardens; our walks to school and back. But we do have to start bringing her out into the real world, into the city, to get her used to the hustle and bustle.

The opportunity came when my husband had to meet with someone in the city of Mannheim. We agreed to drive with him, despite a little apprehension in my part. Rikki is already housebroken, but accidents can happen, right?

Before leaving, I made sure I packed all the necessities for Rikki: dog food in a plastic container, water, dog wipes, dog bags, and a towel. Plus, some dog treats in my pocket.

I decided with Mannheim because I know the city. I know where the parks are. I know that most of the malls are scattered and not just inside one building. I know that the girls would find a place they would enjoy; I would find a place the dog would enjoy. I know I would enjoy if if they all having fun.

The girls enjoyed Mannheim. They went in and out of book stores and girlie shops. It was also the girls who told me that dogs are allowed in bookstores because they saw one inside. So I got to browse books with Rikki, too.

The dog enjoyed Mannheim, too. Rikki loved the attention given to her by most shoppers and she enjoyed playing with dogs passing by.

The girls and the dog loved the park, running and playing around the Mannheim Water Tower.

I admit, I was not relaxing the whole time. I had to be on alert with Rikki. There were just too many people wanting to pet him. Rikki is too excited, she just kept on jumping to greet people. The girls helped with Rikki, but they are also too excited to really contain the dog.

Then I had to watch the time, estimate the time for Rikki's toilet. To my relief, it was when we moved on to the park that Rikki did her 'thing.' I cleaned up after her, of course.

Rikki passed our first city visit with flying colors. I am proud of her, I am proud of my girls, I am a proud dog owner.

But still, I am glad when we arrived home.

Happy Birthday, Arjay!

Dear Arjay,

Happy, happy birthday!

I still can't believe my youngest brother is now a big boy.

And yes, I still can't see you as a man :-D. Or maybe I refuse to.


All I know is that I am proud of what you have become. I am sure everyone in the family is proud of you, too.

The sweet little boy who always share his pieces of cake or sticks of french fries to Nanay (Mother) is now the sweet big boy who always brings gift snacks to share with his nieces and nephew, of course, with Nanay at Tatay, too. MC and IC long for those sweet snacks you always carry with you almost every visit.

You are one generous guy, that's why you are finding generous friends, too. I know you would keep them because you are you.

And yes, enjoy your travels. It is one way to grow in this generous world, too.

We love you, Arjay!