Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our Carnival Story 2012

My kids are carnival fans. Therefore, we already have collected a boxful of costumes, aside from the princess costumes that are carefully hanged.

But this 2012, to my surprise, it turned out that my girls wanted as much as possible to avoid turning into a princess!

The first costume-wearing day started on the second week of February, on a Wednesday. MC attented the youth volunteer fire brigade party on a princess dress because a friend's requested her to. 'She doesn't want to be the only one in a princess dress so I agreed to wear one, too,' explained MC. When in truth, she wanted to be a pirate.

On Thursday, which is traditionally known as the Fat Thursday; MC dressed up as one of the candidates in Deutschland Sucht den Superstar (equivalent to The American Idol). I had to print and cut out those logos and numbers the night before!!! We added a microphone as a necklace as a funny touch. IC chose to be Pocahontas, borrowing the costume from a friend. We created a headdress the day before.

My carnival girls took a break on Friday.

On Saturday we attended a party in a local sports gymnasium. MC dressed-up as a clown. She assembled it using a mixture of my old hippie costume, a big red and yellow dotted ribbon, plus a red and yellow make-up. IC decided to be a pirate with a face tattoo.

On Sunday, the girls obliged with princess costumes because we are gracing the Mini Princess Ball! MC is supposed to be Snow White, wearing her first communion dress and Oma's vintage boots. IC wore a pink princess dress with her blue pair of shoes.

In all these parties, the girls enjoyed, according to their moods.

MC came home from the firemen ball with warm slices of pizza and some chocolate bars. She said they were asked to bring home some because there were too much food.

The school party was okay. Although a friend of MC, the one who wore a princess costume during the firemen ball, cried; because the boys teased her about her princess dress. As for IC? Her friends wanted to know how she did her headdress! They all loved it.

The local gym's party overwhelmed both girls. It was our first time to attend the big event. We don't know anybody (though it turned out a friend of MC's there, and a family friend with his kids were also present); plus, we arrived a little late so we had to drag some chairs near the stage to be able to watch the show. MC joined some of the games, IC just looked. But both girls participated everytime the emcee starts to throw threats in the air; and I get to shake my booty on the dance floor with MC (IC is too shy). And both girls loved the food: cakes, french fries and sausages.

The mini princess ball was a hit. But this time, the party mood is already fever high. We skipped the traditional carnival parade in the next city; it's just too cold. And instead, a warm party hall, our first time to attend, too! This time, we arrived early. So early, the party hall was still closed.

Anyway, because we arrived early, we got the best seats in the house. The girls met and played with some school friends during the wait and thus, are eager and excited to join all the games. They were amazed and amused because the program were fabulous; and they danced, danced, danced. This time, nobody wanted to dance with me :-)

Oh, the shower of threats happened in the end of the ball!! I only have a small bag with me, good thing I have my cowboy hat (I was wearing the a cowboy costume the whole time); the girls had to stuff the rest in their jacket pockets.

The last party day for the carnival fans was on a Tuesday. We attended the street party without make-up or costumes. Normal people this time, as IC said.
It is a good thing, too. Because we decided to drive up the mountains and visit the tower ruins. If they were on their costumes, I doubt if they could climb those narrow and uneven steps.

Here is a a view of the tower from the street party.

And the photo below is the view from the mountain. We could see how bigget the crowd got in the street party. We could hear the music from up there!

Oh, but we also had a great time touring the ruins. We had to be careful in going up the tower because the steps are too narrow and too steep. But the view is great! And the girls love it that they could run around the tower grounds.

Here's the view of the street party from the top of the tower.

Whew, it was an adventure going up and down the tower. We rewarded the kids by bringing them to their favorite Greek restaurant; where after a good dinner, the girls received their usual free ice cream.

That is our weeklong carnival story :-)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Girls' First Vaulting Tournament 2012

It was something unexpected. Although we know the girls would be joining tournaments if they get serious with vaulting. But joining a tournament only a month after attending lessons? That is something else.

MC was asked to join the tournament early this January. She agreed. She was attending two practices of an hour each per week.

IC was a last minute participant. She was asked a week before the event! I had to talk to her if she really wanted to join. In the end of the hour's lesson, she finally said yes. Meaning, she got only an hour of practice before the tournament!

They have been doing the same exercises; although of course, with a different group. But they were coached as intensively as could be, so I am sure something good would come out of it.

IC was so proud when she saw the vaulting jersey. They were asked to wear them for their dress rehearsal, on IC's first and last practice with the group. Wearing the jersey gave the girls a boost of adrenaline and confidence. Their last practice session went smoothly, despite some new group moves!

On the day of the tourney, IC woke up early. Shaking us awake, too, saying 'come, let's get ready for the tournament!' She's right. It is better to be early, after all.

Off to the riding arena. The girls' hair had to be done by somebody from the vaulting club because I don't know how to make the french braid! (Though I got tips during the tournament). They changed into their jerseys. And waited impatiently for their turn.

IC was a bit nervous. MC was focused. Both of them very excited and proud. And our dog, Rikki, is the usual: nervous, excited, too playful but I am proud to say, a little bit easy on the leash what with the crowd, the horses and the dogs all around!

The girls' vaulting club was the second one called. The girls performed with grace; looking so small yet so big out there in the huge arena. I am so proud of them!

It was much, much later -- during dinner that we learned that IC fumbled, and only because my little girl admitted it to us. We told her that we didn't even notice her mistake; told her that she did it like a professional and we earned a proud smile for those words. Also, we told her that it was okay if she'd fall on her knees everytime she'd jump out of the big horse. (She refuses to be to be helped out.)

The girls' group got the last place in the tournament. Which was not a surprise at all because it turned out they were doing the wrong vaulting moves, therefore, they were not rated! Oh well, the trainers realized their mistake a little too late. But hey, the girls had fun! That's the most important thing.

But it's not the way MC saw it as she said, 'Look at them, they are cheating! They are doing the wrong moves.'

Saturday, March 24, 2012

You will be missed, Kuya Nilo

Photo taken in 2008, Kuya Nilo is the one second one on the right.
Dear Kuya Nilo (Brother Nilo),

I am pretty sure of this.

Your body left the earth because you wanted to have the best place to watch over your wife and your three daughters up there.

I know it was not easy for them to let you go.

It was so abrupt. One moment you were there. Another second you were hanging on to life.

I heard it was hours of banging for your life. But in the end, they have to say goodbye. You were needed someplace else.

And although we are sad that you left, there are memories to remember you by.

You being always on the move. Always busy with your skillful hands doing repairs for anything working on electricity. Always busy with friends enjoying your own way of relaxation; (hey, who doesn't love karaoke!!). Always busy with loving your family in your own special way.

Your three girls? I can't believe how big they are now. I am sure they have their own special memories of their Papa in their hearts. I am sure they are very proud of you. I am sure they would love you forever.

Your wife, Ate Thess (Sister Thess)? I am sure she is flooded with special memories. I am sure she is very proud of you. I am sure she would love you forever.

Your family and friends? I am sure they would remember you in kindness.

Rest in peace, Kuya Nilo.

You will be missed.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Suspicious-looking Men in the Neighborhood

Spring time. Warm weather. Staying outdoors. Great days ahead.

Then a neighbor called me up last night. She said she was sitting on her porch with her daughter that afternoon and noticed two strange men walking in the neighborhood. A few minutes after, a police car came patrolling our block; staying around our area a little longer. Now, that was unusual.

She called the police station and asked if there's a problem, if we should know something. The police informed her that there is no problem; BUT that the neighborhood should be extra careful.

It turned out that since last week, there has been calls coming from vigilant people in our neighborhood -- informing the police of strange men lurking around; acting suspiciously.

Now let me tell you about our place. We live in the border of the woods. Where strange people come and go because it is a great place to hike, a nice place to walk the dog and a wonderful challenge to extreme bikers. Therefore, we should be used to seeing strangers; yes, but am glad that our neighbors watch out for those suspicious characters.

I am thankful for that phone call. She said she also informed other neighbors, and I am going to do that, too.

But first, I talked to my girls. I told them that there are suspicious-looking men moving around. I reminded them again on what they learned during their self-defense course in kindergarten. This self-defense course was repeated during their first grade.

What should kids do when approached by strange men?
- If they don't feel comfortable about that stranger, shout as loud as you can 'NO' and run away
- Do not talk, do not accept anything

Since my girls usually play outdoors and we have our rules, I reviewed those rules with them:
- Leave immediately if you don't feel comfortable anymore and go inside the house; never mind your toys
- Close all doors, the gates and check if they are really closed
- Watch each others back
- Bring your mobile phone (or our wireless phone) with you
- Shout loudly if necessary
- Keep your eyes open and just be aware of your sorroundings

And now that we have a dog, another reminder: don't let Rikki eat anything that looked suspicious! In fact, I told them to check the garden first before letting our dog loose. And of course, while walking our dog, we have always been careful if we see 'food' lying on the street. We kick them out of the way or we would change directions.

My husband also told me to always bring my mobile phone everytime I walk the dog. And at night, we bring our high-power flashlight, too!

Are we creating panic? I don't think so. We are just being extra careful.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Warning: Sex Education in Grade 4 Starts on Monday

Okay, we have been warned. A note from MC's teacher said it all.

On Monday, sex education starts on Grade 4 Class A.

They would share knowledge about the human body, answer questions about friendship and explore on ways to handle feelings.

The students were told to, if possible, list down their own questions and bring age-appropriate answers and books.

The sex education subject would include units in:
-friendship, love and feelings
-body development of boys and girls or puberty
-love and sexuality
-how a baby is created

The teacher emphasized that working with the parents is a very important part of the lesson. Parents are asked to support the subject by talking about it at home. It was also asked that each students bring a baby photo plus the story of their birth.

Plus, the parents are welcome visit the classroom to check out the materials being used; and if we have questions, to ask.

I remember in 2008, there was a discussion on starting sex education in Germany on the third grade. I guess it did not push through.

As for my girls, we have been talking about the birds and the bees when they were in kindergarten. I guess, that should count?

I have started talking with MC, a little bit earlier, about the development of her body just because she seemed curious about some things. Like we have explored about getting breasts -- that in time her chests might hurt or might be itchy because she'd be developing breasts. That would be the time to start looking for bras for her.

And of course, that she would be getting not only underarm hair; but also, down there, when she's a bit older.

Then, we touched on the subject of getting monthly periods simply because she knows when I have my period and how I take care of myself when I have those periods. She'd a bit confused, but I assured her that it won't hurt; although some girls experience some inconvenience.

As for boys? Well, she's a big fan of Pietro Lombardi, last year's winner of the Deutschland Sucht den Superstar (equivalent to The American Idol). But I haven't heard her really talking and giggling over 'boys'. Only that she finds them a little 'doof' (stupid) and loud.

Now MC's birth story? She's been hearing the story again and again. As she's also been asking to hear them, again and again.

The girls cannot usually wait for their turn in letting us know about their school day during lunch. They would tell us everything. Would MC let us know what was discussed during the first day of their sex education class?

Let's see what Monday would bring!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

DIY: From an Old Bathrobe into Dish Covers

I have been thinking of protecting our special dishes located in our dining area. You see, our old 'buffet' or cabinet was destroyed by the flood that devastated Manila in 2009.

And the only things available and ready to be delivered while shopping a few days after experiencing that flooding were book shelves which we turned into cabinets for our special dishes. It was supposed to be a temporary arrangement that simply stayed. Therefore, those special dishes gather dust and are vulnerable to all elements (by elements that includes our dog and the girls).

I have been thinking of buying something to keep those dishes safe since about three years ago. No, not a new cabinet; at least, not yet. Then I thought, why buy when you can sew something?

I was sorting out our clothes last weekend when I saw an old bathrobe. And an idea formed. Why not use this robe to create those dish protectors?

Last Monday, I finally let my sewing machine breath. It's been shoved in one corner for more than three years! I added my sewing kit, some scrap cloths and found a place in the dining table for my new project.

Again, here's what I needed to create the dish covers:
- sewing machine
- sewing kit (assuming everything's in there such as needles, threads, tape measure, etc)
- a pair of scissors
- a roll of kitchen paper (I initially planned to use those cloth scraps as lining but they were too heavy. Then I skipped those rice sacks because they were too unstable. I ended up with the kitchen paper because they were thick enough to keep the cloth steady and they passed the sewing machine test perfectly.)
- some cloth scraps

How to create dish covers from an old bathrobe:

- First, measure the dish you plan to cover. If you need to stack them up, to re-arrange them, do so before measuring.
- Cut the bathrobe according to size (the sleeves were perfect sizes for some of my dishes!)
- Then cut kitchen paper to use as a lining, pin them in place

Pin the cloth and the kitchen paper in place

Sew them together

- Start sewing them together.

Criss-cross stitch
- Criss-crossing those stitches, too. Then sewing the ends together.

My first dish cover
- I added a ribbon from a scrap cloth by handsewing it. My first dish cover is done after 20 minutes! (And I waited three years to work on this idea!!!)
An experiment cover...
- I also experimented on a cover for my dish covers. Well, I wanted a round one but it's easier to create a square one, so...

The cover is done
- Simply measure, cut, add the kitchen paper, fold the corners, pin them and sew them together.
A square dish cover
- Because the top I created is square, I made a square dish cover by sewing the four corners of a round dish cover.
After a day and an old bathrobe, I ended up with six dish covers! The girls helped me in sewing them when they arrived home from school.

They were so enthusiastic about what we did that IC even exclaimed,' Mama, you can sew again! Wow, I am glad!'
Next, IC wants to design and sew her own t-shirt and some hair accessories. We have enough old bathrobes to work on!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

DIY: Pajama Party Invitation Cards

MC's pajama birthday party was finally held late this January. She turned 10 years old so we agreed to a pajama party. In fact, we did practice, right?

But first we have to agree about the invitation cards. We worked on different ideas: pajama party means pillows, beds, popcorn, breakfast, sleeping bags, pajamas, etc.

We sketched a pajama shaped-invitation which ended up looking like a prisoner's uniform that we skipped the idea. We toyed with the idea of creating mini pillows and attaching the invites, but it's a stressful thing to do on a busy December weekend. Fortunately, I found a pillow pattern in the internet which saved our day.

What you need to create a pajama party invitation card:
- a pair of scissors
- colored paper
- bond paper
- glue or paste
- white feather ( we used colorful plastic flowers instead)
- your computer and your colored printer, of course!

Here is the pillow pattern and here is the pouch pattern. After printing the both patterns, cut them out, shape and paste them together according to instructions.

Since the pillow pattern's words are in the German language, re-create the pillow by sketching it out and adding your own words. Another idea is to sew mini pillows using scraps of fabric; stuffing them with cotton or stripes of fabric and place one inside those pouches.

Afterwards, create your invitation letter. Don't forget to make a short list of what to bring: pajamas, a pair of house shoes/socks, toothbrush and toothpaste, towels, sleeping bags, pillows, etc.

Insert the invitation letter and a feather or in our case, colored plastic flowers inside the pouch. And distribute the invites as early as possible.

Another important thing, ask if any the invited kids require any special attention when it comes to food.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Preparing for a Pajama Party with a Dog in the House

The pajama party girls
We have decided to postpone MC's kiddie birthday party because December was just too busy and there was no chance to squeeze in an overnight party. The birthday girl agreed, which is a good thing as we realized it is not easy to prepare a pajama party with a dog in the house.

We got a chance to practice for the said pajama party. And we had time to trim the guest list, create  better invitation cards, and clean and clear-out MC's bedroom. Most important, we bought time to discipline our dog, Rikki, and to teach the girls how to best handle her, too.

How did we prepare for a pajama party with a pet dog?

First, we prepared Rikki, our golden retriever.

Rikki's turn for a pajama party

We simply continued bringing Rikki to obedience school. Then we visited her breeder and talked about how to handle our dog's very playful temperament especially her behavior when meeting kids. She tends to flip out and jumps all over the kids which really scares them as Rikki is sometimes bigger than them! We also have to keep Rikki on a leash most of the time especially during meal times which has two purposes: so that she'd get used to being on a leash and so that she could rest, too.

Of course, rigorous dog training at home; which really helped a lot!

Second, we prepared for the pajama party by:

1. Asking all invited guests if anybody's allergic to dog hairs. Good thing, nobody had any allergies.
2. Asking all invited guests if anybody is afraid of dogs. One admitted to be a little afraid of Rikki only because she is a big dog, (Rikki is a golden retriever) the girl have a smaller dog at home. We had to watch out that Rikki don't jump on her.
3. Telling the girls to limit the movement of their guests in the house. Guests are only allowed in the bathroom, in MC and IC's bedrooms, in the living room and in the dining room. The kitchen is off-limits because that is where Rikki usually stays during the day.
4. Letting Rikki meet the guests, one by one; for a minute of sniffing.
5. Showing the guests around the house while Rikki is out for a walk.
6. Closing the doors of the rooms where the kids are mostly closeted. Sometimes, the noise would be too much for the dog.
7. Telling the kids to ask if they wanted to pet Rikki; if they wanted to play with her.
8. Treats for Rikki should be controlled.
9. If Rikki is sleeping, to let her sleep.
10. During meal times, to ignore Rikki and concentrate on their party.

With eight girls in the house, the pajama party with our pet dog was a success! The girl who admitted to be a little afraid of Rikki seemed to have forgotten her angst; she was cuddling with Rikki in no time at all.

MC and her guests enjoyed the party, despite a few minutes of  frustrated tears because of bickering about who should sleep where and with whom.

And Rikki? She enjoyed all the attention. She behaved well (let's ignore the enthusiastic jumps because the girls encouraged most of them). I also ignored the fact that the girls stuffed Rikki with treats (which could be the reason she behaved well!).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chicken and Pork Adobo

Adobo is a famous Filipino dish. That is why when my husband's colleague enthusiastically said, 'oh, I would love to come to lunch. Would you cook Filipino food?' I decided to go for the number one Filipino dish and it was a success, too.

But before that, I checked different recipes in the web. There are many ways to cook adobo, so I went for the easiest way to cook adobo.

Ingredients for Chicken and Pork Adobo

1/2 k pork, cubed
1/2 k chicken, cut in pieces
1/2 c soy sauce
1 c vinegar
1 pc onion, chopped
1 head garlic, crushed
4 tbsp olive oil
some peppercorns
2 Laurel leaves
some water

2 boiled eggs

Marinate pork and chicken pieces in soy sauce and vinegar for at least an hour. If you have time, marinate overnight.

In a wok (or a big sauce pan), heat the oil then saute garlic and onions. Scrape the sauce from the chicken and pork pieces and fry for a few minutes. Remove the chicken and pork from the wok/sauce pan and set aside.

Pour the sauce from the chicken and pork marinade into the wok/sauce pan, add some water, peppercorns and the laurel leaves. Let simmer.

Add the fried chicken and pork pieces. Cover and let simmer without stirring in a low fire for about 20 minutes. Add salt and/or pepper if desired.

Meanwhile, cut the boiled eggs into thin slices and prepare the adobo plate.

Serve with steamed white rice and green salad.

P.S. I decided to have a plate for the chicken and pork pieces and a bowl for the sauce because I don't know if our guest appreciates the mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. You see, my girls used to hate the said mixture. They started loving the taste of adobo when I separated the meat from the sauce.