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!

Monday, November 21, 2011

This Year's Halloween Showed Me...

That my girls, aged 7 and 9, don't need me anymore when it comes to dressing-up.

When before I had to create a costume for them months ahead, when before they are already bugging me if I am ready to create a monster out of them days ahead, when before I had to assemble my very limited make-up kit hours ahead -- those days are gone. (My girls' impression is that only dark and horror costumes are allowed during Halloween. I have been trying to convince them to re-consider, not successful this year.)

Days before Halloween, the girls were already practicing. Dressing-up, dressing-down; complete with make-up and accessories. Their fantasy plays were in high gear.

Maybe because we have collected enough costumes in their closets already. Maybe because the needed make-up kits are now accessible to them. Maybe because they already know what they want to be, what to do.
On Halloween night, while I set-up the treats outside; I didn't see the girls. When I set-up dinner, I didn't hear from them. But when I announced that dinner is ready, both of them dashed down in costume and fully made up!!
The girls are growing up.
But still, they needed me to walk the dark streets as they knocked on doors, ring the doorbells. And they hold my hands when they encounter unexpected street ghosts :-D

Friday, November 18, 2011

11.11 is St. Martin's Day in Germany

In Germany, November 11 is always a special day celebrating St. Martin.

The Feast of Saint Martin, is a Germanic celebration combining Halloween and Thanksgiving; commemorating Sankt Martin (c. 317-397), Bishop of Tours, one of the most revered European saints.

The best-known legend connected with Saint Martin is the dividing of the cloak (die Mantelteilung), when Martin, then a soldier in the Roman army, tore his cloak in two to share it with a freezing beggar at Amiens.

The celebration involves the school kids preparing their own Martinslaternen (lanterns) which are used to light the procession during the St. Martin's Day. A banquet of roast goose (die Martinsgans) is also a part of the feast. In older times, Martini was the “official” start of winter and the 40-day Christmas fast.

For the first time, my husband and I enjoyed a Martinsgans dinner with the Weinheimer Automobile Club (WAC) in a restaurant. I wasn't brave enough to try the gans (goose); I chose a shrimp plate and I just picked from my husband's plate. Well, the goose taste's good, maybe next time.

The St. Martin's procession was held on the 12th of November, the reason why we got to join the Martinsgans dinner. There was no time to create our own Martinslaterne (the school instructed the kids to re-use their old lanterns) so the girls settled for a store-brought lanterns as their old ones didn't survive the trip from Manila to Germany.

Although the night was cold, there were a lot of people. As soon as the city street lights were off, and St. Martin and his horse are both ready, the procession started. The kids walked, proudly holding their lanterns and singing with the band. Maybe because they know in the end of the parade, they would receive na traditional St. Martins männchen (a milk bread shaped like a man). There's also glühwein (mulled wine) and kiddie punch consisting of warm orange juice.
Plus, the firemen brigade has prepared a bonfire in front of the old castle where everybody assembled after the procession.
What was the highlight of our St. Martin's Day this time? MC, who has always been interested to join the firemen brigade, specifically the youth group -- finally got the chance to talk to the trainer. She is invited to try out next year.
Another thing, our pup Rikki, joined the procession, too. It was not easy to control her as Rikki wanted to stay with the kids; and yet she is so excited, she tends to jump on the kids. And there's the danger of being stepped on. Solution? My husband and MC decided to lead the procession with Rikki.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Those Cloth Bags

In Germany, you don't get free plastic bags or paper bags if you buy groceries in most local stores. You have to buy them. It would cost 10 zents up to an Euro per piece.

Why would you want to pay extra for those bags if you have enough bags at home, right? So we normally bring our own bags when we shop.

Those ubiquituos cloth bags that are the popular give-aways during Christmas time and anniversaries of stores. Those practical cloth bags that are washable. Those mostly cream-colored bags that you could keep folded when not needed.

We have lots of them and we keep them around, easy to reach. Always there.

We keep them in the trunk of our car. I have one in my bag. My girls have a piece each in their school bags. I still might even have a folded one in my winter coat!

Now, what do you do if you forgot your cloth bag? Do you buy a plastic bag?

Of course not. Use those sturdy empty boxes inside the supermarket. They usually have them near the cashier area. If there's not one available, then simply check out the supermarket and you would always find an almost empty box that you could use. Please don't forget to be orderly in clearing the bag you chose, though.

And now for the picture of bags in this post.

Those are Philippine-made cloth bags promoting the products of the different regions in the country. Those bags are sturdy and spacious. And those bags costed only less than a hundred pesos each.

So I grabbed almost a dozen of them and gave them out as a souvenir to friends in Germany of our trip in the Philippines.

Yes, cloth bags are great gift ideas, too. Yes, they are practical but they look good and sturdy; and most of all they are not bulky nor heavy compared to other souvenirs.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Anna!

Dear Anna,

We wish you a very happy birthday!

Tonight, we would drink shots of Tequila to celebrate with you.

Despite the time difference, pareho pa rin ang tama :-D

Have fun, dear sister!

We love you!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I am not yet December Ready!

Okay, I had to take a deep breath before starting with this post.

It is all coming back to me, panic mode. I am not yet December ready, help!!!

Well, the Halloween decors are back in the store room. And that's when I saw the boxes labeled: 'Christmas'. Not to mention my husband cheering, 'how about bringing out the Christmas decors already?'

No. I refuse to start decorating for Christmas. Not until I am done with my advents calendar shopping for the girls! My goal is to collect the total of 48 treats by the end of this week. And then I will start my Christmas shopping, too.

I am a little slow; okay, I am too slow this year. But you know what, the girls have their wish list already by mid-August. I am just waiting for those items to be on sale and I'd grab them online or in the shopping malls.

You see, December is always a month filled with celebrations and gift-giving with us: there's the traditional advents calendar that starts first day of December, the traditional Advent Sunday candle lightings, St. Nicholas Day on the 6th, MC's birthday on the 10th, Oma's birthday on the 21st, then the three-day Christmas feasts (24th to 26th), then New Year's Eve. Not to mention the Christmas parties all around!

In the past years, my Christmas shopping starts with the Christmas season sale. It is practical to grab those discounted items that are not perishable, you know :-D

What hindered my shopping cruises this year is the location of our new house.  It is not really a 'comforting' walking distance to any shops at all. The nearest supermarket is a 30-minute walk, one-way; now going back, I have to hurdle the steep way up with heavy shopping bags. That would mean at least an hour walk back, with lots of stops!

Why not use the car? Because I hate driving. Because I want to save some money for gasoline. Why not take the bus? Sometimes I do. But I still miss the relaxing stroll around the neighborhood stores, window shopping until something interesting comes up (meaning 'cheap', meaning 'discounted'); those mini shopping tours until the advents calendar treats are filled, the birthday gifts are packed, the St. Nicholas presents are stored and the Christmas surprises ready.

Oh well, I guess this time, my fingers just have to do the shopping :-D

When would I be December ready? After collecting those 48 treats, I need to work on the advents calendar -- all 48 of them. I already have an idea about the themes: Santa boots and Christmas City. Then I need to work on our Advents wreath, the first Sunday of Advent is after all this 27th of November already!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Papa's Homemade Pizza

For my husband, pizza delivery is a strange word. And frozen pizza, though acceptable, is still not acceptable.

He goes for homemade, therefore, when it's pizza time -- it's Papa's kitchen time!

Papa's Homemade Pizza Recipe

Ingredients for the pizza dough:

500 g flour
250 g warm water
2 tbs olive oil
20 g yeast
7 g salt

Pizza Toppings:
paprika Slices


Mix all ingredients and knead until creamy. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Then spinkle with flour and roll into a greased baking tin. Then add the pizza toppings: first the grated cheese then the salami and paprika slices.

Bake around 30-45 minutes.

Find other recipes here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Skipping Rope

I love skipping rope.

I skipped rope when I was a kid. Now, I use skipping rope as a part of an exercise regime.

Because I skip rope, my girls noticed -- the girls wanted to learn how to skip rope, too.

They started learning how to skip rope in kindergarten. With one end of the rope tied to a tree and a teacher holding the other side. It is easier to learn that way, to feel the rhythmn.

And of course, they would continue learning how to skip rope at home.

I told them to first adjust the rope so that it would not be too long for them. Then to try it slowly, by not jumping but simply stepping over the rope. So they started with the simple act of stepping over the rope over and over, until they have the confidence to jump over the rope.

Well, it took time but they finally got the gist of it because they practiced. And now? They are trying out different combinations with the skipping ropes, too.

But the highlight of their skipping rope days are those that we do as partners. I would be holding the rope, one of my girls stands in front of me, and we would both be jumping ropes together. Now the girls are doing the partner skip together. Way to go, girls!

It's fun and exhilirating! Try it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Girls and Jollibee

My girls are Jollibee crazy.

Even though they grew up in Germany where there's no Jollibee branch; in fact, there is no Jollibee anywhere in Europe at all. Only the golden arch, which we don't visit frequently. (We are not fastfood fans, at least, when we are in Germany :-D.)

The girls got the Jollibee buzz because everytime we are on vacation in the Philippines, a Jollibee party always awaits them. For us, a Jollibee party means a chance to meet most family and friends in one room, at one time! It is fun and affordable. Yes, we don't miss the chance to play games with the Jollibee mascot.

Of course, we had to organize everything before we leave Germany. It goes to say that the girls are frequent visitors to Jollibee's website. They choose the party theme, they click on all other party accessories. The Jollibee party is always a highlight of our Philippine vacation.

Reservations are done much, much earlier. Most of the time, they check out the menu list; including the Jollibee Kids Meal Rewards Promo. Giving their appetite a kick, but are realistic enough to know that they had to wait until we are back again in the Philippines.

Their favorite meals? Chicken Joy, Burger Steak, and Lumpiang Shanghai. Now I could add Jollibee Spaghetti, too. Before they find the Jollibee spaghetti too sweet as compared to the Italian recipe; but in our recent visits, they seem to love it!

Also, the girls are allowed to surf the site and play some games. We impose a time limit, of course. That is why discovering Jollitown is an exciting surprise to them. Plus, they love their avatars!

Oh, and my girls can't wait for the best news: a Jollibee in Germany :-D