Friday, December 28, 2012

Crema de Fruta Refrigerator Cake Recipe

I've been meaning to make one of my favorite desserts (and one of my family's favorites as well) but our schedule has been really tight.  So, I've decided that I'll just post the recipe even though I was not able to make it recently.  I got the recipe for this very delicious treat from a male college friend.  I first tried to make it when I was in college and since then, I had been making it for special occasions, usually Christmas or New Year.  So, in case you're looking for an easy to make dessert, I suggest that you read this recipe and try it.  Who knows, it might also become one of your family's favorites.
Crema de Fruta Refrigerator Cake
Ingredients for Crust:
Crushed Graham crackers
melted butter
crushed pineapple (minus the juice)
Ingredients for Filling:
4 cans condensed milk
Crushed Graham crackers
Ingredients for Topping:
1 medium can fruit cocktail (drained)
1 tetra pack of all purpose cream
1. Mix the crushed Graham crackers, melted butter and crushed pineapple in a pan (round, square or rectangular) and press to the bottom and sides.  Set aside and chill or put in the freezer while preparing the filling.
2. Remove the milk can labels and wash the condensed milk cans. Put inside a pot.
3. Fill the pot with water until the water reaches the top of the cans.
4. Bring the water to a boil and turn down the heat once boiling. Let it simmer for 2 hours, checking it frequently to make sure the water in the pot does not go lower than the middle of the cans to prevent the milk cans from burning.
5. Remove the pot and the milk cans from the heat after 2 hours. Let the milk cans cool a bit before opening.
6. Once cooled, bring out the cake pan from the refrigerator.
7. Pour out the contents of 2 milk cans over the crust to form the first layer. Make sure the milk is leveled. (The cooked milk is light brown or dark cream in color.)
8. Top the milk with crushed Graham. Make sure that it's evenly distributed as well.
9. Next, pour out the contents of the remaining 2 milk cans over the crushed Graham.
10. Pour crushed Graham again over the second layer of cooked condensed milk.
11. Mix the fruit cocktail and the all purpose cream in a bowl.
12. Top the second layer of crushed Graham crackers with the fruit cocktail mixture.
13. Freeze for at least 4 hours. What I usually do is to make this the night before the special occasion where I would be serving this. Then, I just thaw it inside the refrigerator by bringing it out of the freezer at least an hour before serving so it can be removed easily from the pan and cut into serving pieces.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Give Love on Christmas Day: Our New Christmas Tradition

Yanthy ready to open book number 25
on Christmas Day.
Our family schedule has been very hectic in the past months, not because of the traditional Christmas practices, but because our adventure with God is nearing its climax.  (You can read more of our latest adventure here.) We could very much relate to the Holy Family.  We weren’t sure until around a few weeks before Christmas where to celebrate the “holy days.”  We had a series of move-outs and move-ins, which were just a few weeks apart.  We rejoiced in these inconveniences still; for we recognized that all these had to happen before God’s promise to our family is fulfilled.  Now, we look forward with joyful anticipation for our next move-out (from our remaining condo unit) and move-in (to our townhouse).  We’re praying that these would happen soon if they are according to God’s plan and timetable.

So, on the day before Christmas, we prepared our simple version of a Birthday Feast for the Birthday Boy, Jesus.  We went to Mass on Christmas Eve.  Yanthy (our eldest son) opened book number 24 in our Christmas countdown and read the prayer for Christmas.  We lighted the candle on Jesus' Birthday cake, sang Him a Birthday Song and Yanthy blew on the candle.  We feasted on the food that we prepared and opened our gifts to each other.
Jesus' Birthday Cake
My parents with their grandsons.
The following day, after eating some more of what was left from our Noche Buena and resting a bit, we went out of the house excited to begin a new Christmas tradition for our family.  We have prepared some brown bags which we stuffed with some goodies for the street kids that we will see that day on the road.  This was inspired by our common experience whenever we travel and our car is approached by beggars in the streets.  I thought that instead of giving them coins when they go to our car on Christmas day, I suggested to my husband that we prepare brown bags for them. 


"Loot bags" from Jesus' Birthday Party.
My husband and eldest son liked the idea and so we prepared and packed our brown bags.  We decided to put food that won’t easily spoil so it’s up to the kid if he/she will eat it right away or not.  We packed a juice drink, cookies and some sweets.  We also put a stampita or a picture of Jesus/Holy Family inside the brown bag to remind these kids that these are from God and that it’s Jesus’ Birthday.  I told them that since we are preparing a Birthday Feast for Jesus, might as well prepare “loot bags” for kids who are close to His Heart, the poor kids on the streets.  I told our eldest son that it’s like showing love to Jesus and being kind to the Boy Jesus Himself when we do these acts of kindness to the street kids who most of the time go hungry.  Our eldest son must have been so inspired that when a family friend gave him money as his gift (or aguinaldo), he said that he will give his money to the street kids who will knock on our window.  That made me one very happy and proud mom.  At four years old, he was generous enough to empty his pocket (literally) for the poor.  I hope and pray he would not lose that virtue of generosity and self-sacrifice until he grows older.

We drove along Katipunan towards White Plains and Green Meadows area and saw some beggars/street kids on the road.  At first I thought, we would not find street kids easily.  I was surprised when as we started giving away to the first few street kids that we saw, more street kids rushed to our car window and begged for bags of goodies.  The brown bags we packed were wiped out in minutes.  I thought deep inside that we should prepare more brown bags next Christmas so we could bless more street kids.

Posing in front of Meralco theater.
As we drove towards the Christmas attractions we planned to see last night, I prayed that somehow, in our own simple way, we have brought the love of God, the loving and holy presence of Jesus to these poor kids.  I also felt blessed that my family has a home and that we are complete as we celebrated Christmas.  I praise and thanked God that we had more than enough to partake with our extended family members and some more to share with the poor around us.  I praised and thanked God for the grace to commune with Him and encounter His holy and loving presence amid our busy schedules.  Most of all, I praised and thanked Him for being my Savior, who humbled Himself just to save me and show His love for me.

My boys enjoying the carousel ride at Eastwood City, Libis.
Our Christmas celebration this year isn’t spectacular if one will evaluate it based on worldly standards but I’m content and joyful with how we celebrated Christmas this year.  It was indeed one meaningful and blessed Christmas, graced by the awesome and powerful presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Let me end by sharing part of the homily given by a priest in one of the Advent Masses we attended.  He said, “It doesn’t matter much where you spend Christmas, as long as Christ is in your heart on Christmas day.”  I heard those words when we were still uncertain where to spend Christmas.  It was enough to chase away my anxiety over where to spend Christmas with my family and how to make our house look nice with Christmas decors.  You see, Christmas is one of my favorite times every year and I look forward to doing my favorite Christmas traditions like shopping and wrapping gifts, attending Simbang Gabi, decorating our house, going to Mass with the family, etc.  This year, God allowed me and my family to experience a different kind of Christmas.  He allowed me and my family to enter into the experience of the Holy Family even as early as before the Advent Season.  Thus, as we watched the Panunuluyan (a dramatization of Mary and Joseph's search for an inn while in Bethlehem) once more at the Christmas Eve Mass we attended near my parents’ house, I was reminded that we are still blessed even when we experience inconveniences and disappointments like Mary and Joseph when we live our lives according to the Will of God.  There is still reason for us to rejoice and be at peace in the thick of our concerns and problems because God is with us.  That is Christmas.  God chose to be with us and bring us His love even while we are sinners, dirty and unworthy.  And His unconditional love melts our hearts, transforms us and moves us to change our ways.
Friends, I hope and pray that as you and your family had your very own unique, blessed and meaningful Christmas experience as well. I also pray that this would be your experience every day and not just at Christmas time.

The giant Nativity scene at Meralco Paskuhan Village, Ortigas.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given... And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mommy TG's Sausage Pasta with Red Sauce Recipe

It's the day before Christmas and I'm pretty sure that most moms are busy in their respective kitchens preparing something that their family can eat together later for Noche Buena.  This mom is no exception. Our family had been very busy in the past months.  It was only yesterday afternoon that my husband and I had the chance to do some Christmas shopping for our Christmas gifts for each other and buy our groceries for our Christmas celebration.  Thankfully, we finished shopping last night early enough so we can still have some time to bond with the kids before going to bed.
By the grace of God, I woke up early today; thus, as of this writing, I'm done cooking/preparing our food for Noche Buena.  I prepared the fruit salad first, taught our maid how to prepare the vegetable and beef dish, bought the birthday cake for the Birthday Boy, then after lunch, cooked the pasta and the ham.  I've decided to prepare not too many dishes because there are only a few people in our household and our maid is also taking a day off this afternoon until tomorrow so she can spend Christmas with her family.   Moreover, I want us to have ample time for the essential things like praying together, going to Mass before our Noche Buena, and bonding with each other.

Let me share with you now my simple pasta recipe in case you haven't made up your mind on what kind of pasta dish to cook.
Sausage Pasta with Red Sauce
by Mommy TG
Ingredients for the sauce:

250 g bacon, chopped
4 pieces Italian/Hungarian sausages, cut into thin ovals or semi-circles (Italian sausages are a bit spicy)
1 T oil (preferably olive oil)
a slice of butter (preferably unsalted)
1 big onion, minced
1 bulb or 8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 kg spaghetti sauce (Italian style or if for kids, you can use Filipino-style with MMK)
half block of quick melt cheese cut into small cubes or grated
1/2 to 1 cup water (depends on how thick you want your sauce to be)
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 dried basil or torn fresh basil leaves

1. Render the chopped bacon to make the oil come out. Once the oil from the bacon is out and the bacon is slightly crispy, set aside in a plate.
2. Brown the sausage ovals in the bacon fat/oil. Set aside again once done.
3. Saute the minced onions in oil and a slice of melted butter.
4. Add the minced garlic once the onions are transparent. Saute until light or golden brown.
5. Add the sausages and bacon again in the pot where the onions and garlic are sauteed.
6. Add the spaghetti sauce, water and add some salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
7. Once boiling, turn down the heat, add the quick melt cheese and let the mixture simmer for around 15 minutes. 
8. Add the basil and season once more with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.
9. Make sure that you stir often enough to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
10. Serve hot over cooked pasta and top with grated parmesan cheese. To make the presentation more attractive, arrange some sausages around the plate or on top of the sauce and noodles.
This pasta sauce is good for a kilo of spaghetti.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Birthday Cake for the Birthday Boy on Christmas Day

"I’m participating in the Keeping Christ in Christmas Blog Carnival, hosted by Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints, Truly Rich Mom and Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families. We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Jesus as the Reason for the Christmas season. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of carnival entries.”

“Are these all the Christmas cakes you have? Or do you have other designs?” I asked the lady in the bakeshop counter.  I was buying some bread last week when I noticed the cakes on display that have Christmas designs. 

I saw a cake decorated with poinsettia flowers.  I saw another cake decorated with Christmas lanterns and gifts.  I saw another cake with red and green candy sprinkles.  I saw a cake with the words “Merry Christmas” on it.  I saw another cake with Santa Claus and some gifts. 

“Do you have a cake with a Baby Jesus in the manger design?”  I asked further.

The bakeshop staff however said that they don’t have any other Christmas cake designs aside from those on display.  I was disappointed and sad when I heard her reply. 

“Why do you have a Santa Claus design but you don’t have a Baby Jesus design on your Christmas cakes?  Isn’t it that Jesus is the one celebrating His birthday on Christmas Day and not Santa Claus?  Why is there no birthday cake for the REAL REASON why we have Christmas?”

The poor bakeshop staff could not offer me a better explanation.  So, I asked her to make a suggestion to whoever is in charge of their cake designs, to come up with a design fit for the Birthday Boy on Christmas day.  I found it ironic that I have yet to find a greeting cake or a birthday cake that’s designed to celebrate JESUS’ birth.  I don’t know if she will relay my feedback or suggestion to their management or not.  I hope she will.  I hope she was also disturbed by my questions.

We have a Christmas tradition in our young family to have a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas day.  Since we have yet to find a greeting cake or birthday cake with a manger design or something related to Jesus’ birth, I simply buy an ordinary cake and ask the bakeshop staff to write “Happy Birthday, Jesus!”  We also put a candle on it.  Our eldest son leads in singing the Birthday Song for Jesus then he blows the candle on the cake.  We started this family tradition when our eldest was still two years old.  I intend to do the same thing this year.  This time, our two boys will be singing the Birthday Song for Jesus with my husband and me.  It seems that I still wouldn’t find the kind of cake I’m looking for in the regular or popular bakeshops in the metro.  I think the only way to have that kind of cake design is to bake our own cake and design it ourselves or to order for a customized cake.  This really makes me sad.

I hope more bakeshop owners would design more Christ-centered Christmas cakes so that Christ would not be alienated from people’s Christmas celebrations or people would be reminded somehow of the REAL REASON for our Christmas celebration.

Photo source here.
Think of it this way.  You learned that your friends are celebrating your birthday.  You saw that there are plenty of food and drinks at the table to feast on.  But you saw also that the birthday cake has the name and image/photo of one of your friends and not yours.  Moreover, you saw that there were plenty of gifts in the party but none of them were for you.  You learned that your friends are exchanging gifts with each other during the party and that none of them remembered to get one for you.  How would you feel in this situation?

Now, if this is what Jesus Christ would see and experience on His Birthday, on Christmas Day, as He visits our homes and offices, what do you think would He feel? 

Photo source here.
Let us not forget why there is CHRISTmas.  Let us not forget to greet Jesus Christ on His Birthday.  Let us not forget to thank God for sending Jesus to be our Savior.  Let us not forget to thank Jesus Christ for coming to the world to redeem us.  Let us not forget to offer Him a gift.  Let us follow the example of the Magi who honored Him with gifts.  Let us prepare our hearts for His coming so that our hearts and homes would be ready to welcome Him when He comes to visit us on His Birthday.  That way, we would be able to bring Him joy in our own simple way.

And as we prepare our Christmas feast or Noche Buena, may we not forget to get a birthday cake for the Birthday Boy.

May you and your family have a blessed Christmas celebration warmed by the loving and holy presence of Christ!
Here is another blog post I wrote in 2010 that's related to our blog carnival topic. 

Preparing for CHRISTmas.  In this blog post, I shared how we experienced Christ's presence during the Advent and Christmas season in a very meaningful way through service to the community and the Church.

I hope these posts inspire you together with the other posts in the blog carnival.  You click the links below to read the rest.

Homeschool Mosaics: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Joy: Keeping Christ in Christmas: Advent Interruptions
The Breadbox Letters: Interrupted by Glory
TwentyTuesdayAfternoons: Keeping Christ in Christmas/ The Season of Giving / A Wee Bit of Beach Holiday Angst
The Learning Basket: Staying With the Nativity Story
Tercets: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Rosary Mom: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Ate Maui: Hoping and Bringing Hope
Written By the Finger of God: 12 Traditions for Keeping Christ in Christmas
Dominique's Desk: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Felix at Fifty: What Jesus Wants for Christmas
Mommy Bares All: Birthday Cake for the Birthday Boy on Christmas Day
Between Now and Later: Keeping Christ in Christmas, I am trying...
Lique's Antics: Family Antics: Christmas Reflection
Life of Fortunate Chances: Our First Ever Christmas: Keeping Christ in Christmas
The Mommy Journey: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Roller Coaster Ride: How to Remind Your Kids of Jesus Christ This Christmas
Cymplified: Christ -Centered Christmas: Cymplified!
Mountain Grace: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Touring Kitty: Grown-up Christmas List
Mommy Chinkysoup for the Soul: A Very Special Christmas
City Girl, Country Home: Finding Jesus in a Flurry
Coffee Moments with Sam: Christmas Unwrapped: 5 Presents Our Kids Truly Deserve
Raising Lifelong Learners: Keeping Christ in Christmas
The Diary of a Sower: Keeping Christ in Christmas: Celebrating the Golden Days
Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Raising (and Teaching) Little Saints: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Truly Rich Mom: The Greatest Gift of All This Christmas
Joy-Filled Family: CHRIST in Christmas
Blueberry 010: Keeping Christ in Christmas: Jesus is the Reason for the Season
Deeper Truth Blog: Keeping Christ in Christmas Carnival
Holy Ducklings: 10 Ways to Make Advent Special for Your Little Ducklings
Green Eggs and Moms: Keeping Christ in Christmas: Green Eggs & Moms Style!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Simbang Gabi, Noon at Ngayon

Ilang oras na lang at simula na ng unang araw ng Simbang Gabi.  Nais kong ibahagi ang isang isinulat ko noong nakaraang taon tungkol sa napakagandang tradisyon na ito.  Una itong nalathala sa Buhay Pinoy ng The Philippine Online Chronicles.

misa_de_galloIlang araw na lang at Pasko na. Isa sa mga pinakaaabangang tradisyong Pilipino bago mag-Pasko ang Simbang Gabi. Ngunit ano ba talaga ang Simbang Gabi at paano nagsimula ang tradisyong ito sa Pilipinas?
Ang Simbang Gabi na tinatawag ding Misa de Gallo ay nagsimula sa Pilipinas bandang 1660. Ang mga prayle o kura paroko ay nagdaraos ng misa na may nakapaloob na nobena bilang paghahanda sa paggunita ng kapanganakan ng ating Panginoong Hesus. Ang nobena ay ginagawa siyam na araw bago mag-pasko.
Tinawag itong Misa de Gallo sapagkat ang unang tilaok ng tandang (Gallo sa espanyol ay tandang) ang hudyat upang ang mga Pilipino noon ay gumising na at maghanda para magsimba. Dahil karamihan ng mga Pilipino noon ay mga magsasaka at mangingisda na abalang-abala sa kanilang pinagkakabuhayan buong araw, naisip ng mga prayle na idaos ang misa bago pa pumutok ang araw at bago magsimula ang mga magsasaka sa kanilang mga gawain sa bukid o bago magtinda ang mga mangingisda ng kanilang mga huli mula sa nakaraang gabi. Sa ganoong paraan, mapagsasama-sama ng kura paroko ang lahat ng mga naninirahan sa kanyang parokya sa isang misa.
Dahil madilim pa kapag unang tumilaok ang tandang, tinawag din itong Simbang Gabi. At para mailawan ang mga daan na tatahakin ng mga magsisimba, nagsisindi sila ng mga kandila o nagsasabit sila ng mga parol na iniilawan ng mga kandila sa mga bahay at kalye na madadaanan patungong simbahan. Ang mga ito ang kanilang tanglaw habang naglalakad o nakasakay sa kalabaw papunta sa kani-kanilang parokya. Ang mga parol na ito ay nagpapa-alala rin sa kanila tungkol sa Star of Bethlehem na naging tanglaw ng mga mago papuntang Bethlehem noong ipinanganak si Kristo Hesus.
Ang Misa de Gallo ay karaniwang nagsisimula ng alas-kwatro ng madaling araw at nagtatapos bandang alas-singko. Pagkatapos ng misa, ang mga Pilipino noon ay nagsasalo-salo sa labas ng simbahan o sa kanilang mga tahanan para mag-almusal. Karaniwang inihahanda para pagsaluhan noon ay mga kakanin tulad ng bibingka at puto bumbong. Ang mga pampainit na inumin naman ay salabat o tsokolate. Pagka-almusal diretso na sa bukid ang mga magsasaka.
Sa dami ng mga nagsisimba, minsan ang Misa de Gallo ay sa labas ng simbahan ginagawa at kung sa loob naman ay binubuksan ang mga pinto upang makapagsimba rin ang mga hindi na makapasok kapag sobrang dami ng taong dumalo. Nagsimula ang pagdiriwang ng misa sa labas ng simbahan noong 1587 nang humingi ng permiso si Prayle Diego Soria ng Mexico sa Santo Papa na idaos sa labas ng simbahan ang misa dahil hindi magkasya ang mga tao sa loob. Ngunit nagsimula lamang ang Misa de Gallo sa Pilipinas noong 1660 nang ipakilala ito ng mga misyonerong Kastila o Español.
Ano na ba ang ipinagbago ng Simbang Gabi kumpara noon? O may ipinagbago nga ba?
Ang isa sa mga pagbabago sa Simbang Gabi ay ang oras ng pagdaraos nito. Karamihan ng Simbang Gabi ay bandang madaling araw pa rin ginagawa ngunit may mga parokya na rin na idinaraos ito sa gabi talaga imbes na sa madaling araw. Sa ibang parokya, alas-otso ng gabi ang Simbang Gabi nila para makasimba iyong mga nanggagaling sa trabaho. Iyong mga kayang gumising ng maaga at hindi naman mahuhuli sa pagpasok sa trabaho kahit magsimba sa madaling araw ay pinipili pa ring sa madaling araw magsimba.
Dati mga kandila at parol na may kandila ang tanglaw sa daan ng mga nagsisimba. Ngayon, may mga parol pa rin pero hindi na kandila ang gamit kundi mga bumbilya na. Maraming klase na rin ng parol. Noon, karaniwan ay gawa ito sa kawayan at papel de hapon o crepe paper. Ngayon may mga parol na gawa na rin ng plastik at capiz. Ngayon, marami nang Christmas lights sa mga kalye at kabahayan bukod pa sa mga street lights kaya hindi na kasing dilim noong unang panahon.
Kung noon ay pami-pamilya ang pagpunta sa simbahan, ngayon ang iba ay mga kaibigan, kabarkada, o kasintahan ang mga kasama sa Simbang Gabi. May mga nagsisimba pa rin naman bilang isang pamilya pero hindi na kasing dami tulad noon. Maaring ito rin ay dahil sa mga pagbabago sa pamilya sa mga nagdaang panahon tulad na lang ng ipinag-iba ng mga trabaho ng mga tao noon at ngayon. Noon, karamihan ng Pilipino ay mga magsasaka at mangingisda. Ngayon, maraming klase na ang mga hanapbuhay at iba-iba na rin ang oras ng simula at pagtatapos ng kanilang mga trabaho.
Noon, ang mga tao ay nagigising pa sa tilaok ng manok o tandang o kaya sa pagtunog ng kampana sa madaling araw. Ngayon, alarm clock na ang gumigising sa karamihan para magsimba sa madaling araw. Ang iba naman parang mga mangingisda noong araw na pauwi pa lang tulad ng mga nagta-trabaho sa gabi tulad ng mga call center agents at iba pang manggagawa na shifting ang oras ng trabaho. Noon, pwede pang may mag-ikot na banda para gisingin ang mga tao para magsimba. Ngayon, siguradong may magrereklamo sa iyo sa barangay kapag nagdala ka ng banda para manggising sa iyong mga kapitbahay para dumalo sa Misa de Gallo.
Noon, naglalakad lang karamihan kahit kilometro ang layo ng mga simbahan sa kanilang mga tahanan. Ngayon, marami nang paraan ng transportasyon at bihira ka na makakita ng nakasakay sa kalabaw papuntang simbahan para magsimba kahit sa mga probinsya. Ngayon, kung wala kang sariling sasakyan o kotse, pwede kang tumawag ng taxi para ihatid ka sa simbahan.
Noon, ang mga tao ay nagpapasalamat sa magandang ani o huli kapag nagsi-Simbang Gabi. Ngayon, may iba’t-ibang intensyon na ang mga nagsisimba. May mga nagsisimba pa rin para magpasalamat sa mga biyayang natatanggap at para ihanda ang kanilang mga puso para sa pagdiriwang ng Pasko. Pero popular na din ngayon na mag-Simbang Gabi dahil may kahilingan ang isang deboto. Pinaniniwalaan kasi na matutupad ang kahilingan o dalangin ng isang deboto kapag nakumpleto ang siyam na araw na nobena.
I-click dito para mabasa ang kabuuan.

At para sa mga gusto pang humabol, ito ang link para sa oras ng Simbang Gabi sa ibat-ibang lugar.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Our First Christmas Countdown and Advent Calendar

We started a new Christmas tradition this year.  This was inspired by a blog post of TeacherMama Tina Santiago-Rodriguez last year.  I liked the idea of wrapping books about Christmas and our Catholic faith and tying it to the countdown to Christmas by unwrapping one book each day.  So, I decided to adapt the idea this year in our household.  I gathered all of my sons’ Christmas-related books.  I also checked their books about values and chose some which emphasized values usually highlighted during the Christmas season.  Then, I wrapped the books in Christmas wrapping papers.  Since, our existing books on Christmas and values are less than twenty-five (25), I scheduled a trip to the bookstores and Book Sale outlets nearby.   

Yanthy borrowed the guitar
from the display. :)
We began our new Christmas tradition this year last December 1 even though we have less than twenty-five books wrapped.  We also adapted the Love Came Down Advent calendar that was shared by another work-at-home-mom in our Manila Work-at-Home Moms Facebook Group.  Since we were busy moving from one house to another in the past week and didn’t have the chance to have the Advent calendar printed, we before our move, we’ve been reading it from our laptop.  At least we have saved on paper. J  My eldest son and I started our hunt for books the other day when we went to SM Marikina to have a date.  We found one good book only that day.  It’s a pop-up book on the birth of Jesus.  We also found out that the store that used to sell slightly used books in that mall already closed.  So yesterday, my eldest son and I had a date again and part of our date was to go book shopping to complete the books in our Christmas countdown.  We had a great time bonding!  We were also very successful in our hunt for nice Christmas books at bargain prices at the Book Sale.  Hurray!  We bought eight (8) books (mostly board books) from one Book Sale branch which only cost us P430! That’s almost the same price we paid for the four (4) books we bought from St. Paul’s.  In another branch, we bought another eight (8) which cost P274 only!  We went to two Book Sale outlets in Cubao (near Shopwise and at Farmer’s Plaza) after buying faith-based and value-based books at St. Paul’s (Gateway Mall branch).  We also had some snack in between our book hunting.
I’m loving the idea even more as we execute it. The new books we bought not only help us in our Christmas countdown.  They also double as Christmas gifts for our two little bookworms.  Moreover, I loved the idea that I don’t need to buy many books next year or in the coming years anymore; for we have bought a lot of Christmas-related books already this year.  I’m so happy with how this idea/new tradition paved the way for us to save a lot.  Most of all, I loved the opportunity to reinforce the values that I want my kids to learn and practice not just during Advent or Christmas time but every day of the year.
Take a look at the books we have opened so far in our Christmas Countdown this year.
This was Yanthy's Christmas gift to Mateo last year.

This set of Disney Christmas books
was given to Yanthy as a gift
by one of his grandmas.

We read the story of St. Nicholas from this book.
These are the titles of the books we have yet to open.
This was one of our great Book Sale finds.
Another Book Sale find with hard cover!

This was a birthday gift to Yanthy
by one of his godparents on his first birthday.

This was a gift to Mateo during his baptism.
Got this from St. Paul's.
We bought this from National Bookstore ,
SM Marikina branch.
We bought this at St. Paul's also.

These were Book Sale finds.

The Night Before Christmas
A Big Help
Not Too Big
Amelia's Angel
My Lift the Flap Christmas Tree
Birth of Jesus Pop-up book