DIY Advent Wreath

We start our Advent Wreath tradition this Sunday, November 27th! We usually sing carols, read Scripture and have a discussion, or read significant Christmas stories every Sunday for four Sundays before Christmas and on Christmas day. We light up one candle before we begin and the kids blow it when we finish. We light up one candle on the first Sunday, two candles the next Sunday, three candles on the next, four candles on the fourth Sunday and finally all five including the center or Christ candle on Christmas day.

I enjoyed making my own advent wreath for Cherished Traditions. I thought I’d share with you a few ideas, using old and new stuff. I like to recycle even broken ornaments. There is always some use for them. Enjoy! 🙂


Materials: 4 small used jars (some are Gianna’s baby food jars), 1 taller used jar, 4 old pine cones from broken Christmas decor, one old thin garland, 6 old berry embellishment thingies, 4 new tea light candles, 1 new long metallic white candle, 1 old round dish



Assemble like so. I put little pebbles in the tall jar to hold up the tall candle. I keep a pack at home for when I need them. I wish I had white pebbles though.



Oh you can tie ribbons around the jars to make them pretty. I used jute rope for this.



I used 5 tall candles for this, and an old poinsettia from broken decor.






Materials: Basically the same things except a white dish which I placed upside down, and 4 small wreaths I bought for 60Php each from a bookstore.



Again, I wish I had white pebbles. It would’ve looked so much nicer.






You can also use a bigger center candle if you want.



Materials: Basically the same things again, except for the new big center candle (less than 300 Php), 4 new fat but short red candles (200 Php total), and a new twig of berries I bought in Divisoria for 20Php.



Bend the twig into a circle, and arrange everything else like so. I added detached leaves from old decor.






I used tea light candles in the old jars for this one.



Tall candles for this one, and the old poinsettia. The Christ candle is the one in the taller jar.



Materials: 4 old wine/champagne glasses (not really sure what they’re for, but I’ve seen these glasses in our home ever since I could remember), basically the same materials, a new small wreath (a little pricey at 399 Php), and a wooden tray that King got on sale months ago for less than 500 Php.



Assemble like so, using the red candles. Just slip the glasses under the wreath.



White tea light candles for this one.



Materials: wreath, twig of berries, big white candle, old pine cones, red candles, and an old “patungan” for hot plates. Haha message me if you know what this is called. Seriously.



Arrange like so.



This is our advent wreath this year. I placed it on the piano, on the other side of which is our Belen or Nativity Scene. We don’t have a coffee table at the moment, but even if we did, it’s still better off up there because the little one would have no problem picking it apart haha. But that’s not to say she doesn’t get up on the piano. She does, but she plays with Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the gang. 🙂


Hope this inspires you to start your Christmas traditions with your family this year! Keep it simple, doable, and meaningful. Remember that Christmas is about Jesus. This is a wonderful way to teach our kids, family members, even friends about Him. Merry Christmas everyone!!!



Cherished Traditions 2016

A week after Pasko at Pamilya, our Alabang church had its own Christmas traditions event which we call Cherished Traditions. It was a busy day for me as I had to prepare for my DIY corner, do last minute shopping for some candles and Danae’s hoodie, and get some lab test results. Of course when you have 3 kids, things don’t always go the way you would hope. To make the long story short, I was late for call time and I came with a gloomy disposition. I had to ask my DIY partner, Belle, to pray for me. Thank God things started looking up from then on.


photo credit: Capella Manalang

I was happy with my table for the DIY advent wreath. People got to see and try out different ways to make an advent wreath. I got to share what we do as a family when we light the advent wreath candles every Sunday for 4 Sundays before Christmas day and on Christmas day itself. The other DIY corner for the advent calendar was also super nice! Eden was in charge of that, with her partner Liza. We also do the advent calendar with our kids every Christmas season. Our senior pastor’s wife Shirley Marquez created a beautiful dessert table. She’s always spot on with her creations. We wives learn so much from and are inspired by her. She decorates our center every year too! I did one tablescape in Sta Rosa, but for Alabang Ms Gigi Escosar generously set up 3 tablescapes! They were all beautifully Christmassy!

Shirley’s dessert table

After our guests were free to go to our DIY corners, check out the tablescapes, have their pictures taken in many picture-worthy areas, and enjoy their Krispy Kreme donut and hot choco, our cool father-daughter hosts Ptr Chico and Nina opened the program with the raffle! The raffle table was full of prizes! We had about 40 winners if I remember correctly. We also had a fun icebreaker, after which our kids gave us the most awesome dance number. Haha. Yes, I love my own. It was a joy and a privilege to teach our kids, the pastors’ kids, to dance. Thanks to the ever talented Luchie, for the song. She was the one who found Mandisa’s Joy Unspeakable. I’m so proud of our kids. They did really well despite the lack of practice, and they gave it their best. Each one of them wanted to make God smile as they danced, and I believe they did. 🙂

Ptr Chico and Nina Peña (photo credit: Nina). Nina also wrote about the event here. 🙂
Julio Peña, Noelle Lucero, Bianca Gidor, Ana Marquez, Andrea Marquez, Lovely Ramirez, Danae Lucero, Benj Gidor, Coleen Huang photo credit: Capella Manalang

Ptr Ariel and Ptr Janssen & his family were our speakers. Ptr Ariel delivered such a moving testimony. Truly, he and Shirley lived their message that Christmas is not about us, but about Jesus Christ. When Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration, they went through the toughest time of their lives when their son Jerome fell ill and passed away 13 Christmases ago. Despite the painful memories, they still choose to celebrate every Christmas because it is Jesus they celebrate. Jesus is the point of every Christmas tradition. Ptr Ariel shared the why of Christmas traditions. The Morados family shared the how, the message they also shared in Pasko at Pamilya. 

Ptr Ariel Marquez (photo credit: Nina Peña)
Ptr Janssen, Ging and Andee Morados

The whole Huang family rendered us a lovely song. It was their first time to perform together, and we all went AWWWWW when we heard their youngest Coleen’s beautiful voice. I made sure our dance crew was there to support their fellow dancer. Christmas is love. Jesus is love. It was like magic. Sigh. From the parents to each of their children, they are just gifted. ❤

The Huangs

Somewhere in between, they also showed our kids’ video, where they share about their favorite traditions and what impact it makes on them. To end the event, we gave each guest a really nice giveaway and they called back the dancers. It was supposed to be a celebration with everybody dancing, but I guess they enjoyed just watching the kids haha.

Our comms team is super talented. They made our shoots easy and enjoyable, the photos and videos so beautiful! I got so kilig seeing my creation on our invitaion and tickets heehee. I didn’t know about it. We also shot DIY videos that were shown on screens beside our DIY table. 🙂
Got to share some loved recipes at home in 2014. Got to get creative with plating too. 🙂

Cherished Traditions is always something we wives look forward to and work together to bring to others. Thanks to our leader Shirley who has imparted so much to us about the love of God, His love for people, about generosity, about love for family, being deliberate in making memories with our family, discipling our children and passing on our values and traditions to our children. Thanks to her leadership and Maryanne’s, and to each wife’s valuable contribution on the scene and behind, it was another fruitful event. I am just so grateful that I get to be a part of it. Things I never imagined I would be doing, they’ve given me the opportunity to. Plus it’s always a joy! It never feels like work. The motivation is always the desire to honor God, to serve and be generous. Because each one has that mindset, everyone works well together. I’m so thankful that that is the spirit I am surrounded by. Unity. Love. Servant leadership. Thank you, my sisters. It truly is an honor serving the Lord with you. ❤

South Hub Pastors’ Wives ❤ Top row, from left to right: Eden Ramirez, She Ramirez, Aileen Gidor, Maryanne Peña,  Shirley Marquez, Malou Oaman, Phoebe Lucero, Ging Morados, Liza Divierte, Thine Canda ❤ Bottom row, from left to right: Belle Villanueva, Gigi Escosar, Luchie Huang, Lea Santos. Photot credit: Nina Peña 

Pasko at Pamilya: Christmas Kiddie Tablescape

Victory Sta Rosa had their Christmas Traditions event last Saturday called Pasko at Pamilya. Ptr Janssen and his wife Ging Morados shared that Christmas traditions should be spiritual, centering on Jesus. They should be relational, bringing the family and also friends together. They should be missional, reaching out to others so that they can know Jesus too. Their 3 eldest kids (they have 4) shared their favorite traditions as well. It was so nice to hear them tell us that they enjoy and appreciate their traditions as a family.  It encouraged me to keep ours up and maybe start some new ones.

I was invited to create a Filipino-themed Christmas kiddie tablescape. It wasn’t the main feature or anything but it was a privilege to be part of it and a joy to support spiritual family. It was a challenge and a good opportunity to get creative, since I don’t think I’ve ever done a Filipino-themed anything haha. Now I can do something similar for our table this year. 🙂

I cut up some tiny banderitas and stuck them on my well-used cup cake stand. It signifies fiesta here in the Philippines, and Christmas is always a feast around here. I made the parol (lantern) using a Christmas ornament I bought from Kultura in SM. I just cut up some crepe paper and tied it around the bottom corners with a fuzzy wire. I wrapped a pair of chopsticks and stuck it on the top to hold the lantern up.
I wanted to put puto manapla (white puto that has banana leaves as liners) but I didn’t have time to buy them. I got small cupcake liners instead and put some special colorful pastillas in them.                                                                                                                                           I used our very old sungka (a Filipino game played with sea shells), which I use to hold Christmas balls in at home, for other Filipino treats like Polvoron and Goya chocolate coins. I even made small balls out of coconut leaves to add another Filipino touch.
I made it a table for 3, for my 3 girls. I was able to buy cool little jeepneys in Robinson’s and I used them to hold up the place cards. I asked Danae to do brush lettering for the place cards. I made the placemats out of cartolina (craft paper was just too thin and flimsy) and designed them with banderitas.
On the sungka, I also placed small colored pencils tied with fuzzy wire, embellished with ribbon made of paper twine and small berries. The kids can use the placemats to doodle on. I just noticed that the placemat is upside down hahaha.
Another inverted placemat! I researched on ways to fold the table napkin and I saw a picture of this one. I figured this was best so I could insert the parol ornament. The napkin kinda looked like a bahay kubo too, I thought. I also thought to make a yema spiky ball. Filipinos love sticking hotdogs on sticks on pineapples or cabbages. I wanted to do the same but with yema. I placed a small cabbage ball onto our old wooden bowl, and I worked my way around the cabbage using toothpicks. I then put a bow around the bowl using paper twine.
Thanks to Victory Alabang Kids Church for lending me the cute chairs. I cut up and placed big banderitas around the table cloth (it’s actually a blanket). I bought baby pillows and wrapped them with my old scarves. Noelle was the one who came up with the designs for the pillows using stickers. It’s always good to involve the kids.

Enjoy preparing for Christmas, everyone! Maligayang Pasko! 🙂


My Christmas Table Settings

We hosted a few dinner parties this Christmas and I just wanted to share my very simple, very minimal and very inexpensive table settings. I don’t like to waste and I don’t like to spend much, so I usually work with what I have to limit my purchases. Some people notice and appreciate what I do, while others don’t really care or acknowledge. Either way, I just want to make the table look decent for any get-together. 🙂

Christmas table setting
This was for our couples’ group Christmas party. I did not buy anything new to set it up. Our plates are 8 years old — wedding gifts. 🙂
Christmas table setting
I wanted to personalize it, so I made letters out of green pipe cleaners (fuzzy wires). I only have 4 red table napkins, so I worked with them. The ribbon-wrapped votives are from last year’s (2011) “design.” 🙂
Christmas table setting
The adults’ table. Again, nothing new here, except the red table napkins which I bought a month before. I recycled the Christmas balls (which have been with me for at least 4 years) and the votives. 🙂
Christmas table setting
The kids’ table. I bought the Chinese gift boxes a week before our annual Happy Birthday Jesus party, not knowing what I was going to use it for. I was happy with how nice it turned out as a candle holder. I like the effect very much. I used my reindeer plates again, which have been with me for four years, and it’s great that the local supermarket has many choices now on plastic spoons and forks. I had the table cloth made 3 or 4 years ago. 🙂
Christmas table setting
This was for my youth/singles group’s annual Christmas tradition, second year. I brought my table runner from home and reused the Chinese gift boxes, filled them with balls and other old, broken Christmas elements. 🙂
Christmas table setting
The plates and chopsticks are new, but very affordable. 🙂
Christmas table setting
This whole concept began with chopsticks, which I bought on the first half of 2012, also not knowing what I was going to do with them exactly. I bought the plates to give as gifts (yes, they washed them after eating noodles and dumplings, so they could bring them home). I also made the Christmas cards attached to the chopsticks. 🙂
Christmas table setting
This was for our victory groups Christmas party. Thankful for colored paper plates, which I opted for as I anticipated more guests than usual, and colored spoons and forks, available at the local supermarket.
Christmas table setting
I recycled the Chinese gift boxes and votives again. 🙂
Christmas table setting
This was a last-minute prep for dinner with relatives from the U.S. I didn’t cook, so the least I could do was to make the table look half-decent haha. 🙂
Christmas table setting
I used old ribbon and old Christmas balls to make decorative napkin holders. 🙂
Christmas table setting
Christmas eve! Only the place mats and flowers are new. Even the candles are old, handed down to me 3 years ago. Still good and still unlit to this day haha. 🙂
Christmas table setting
New Year’s Eve! Our motif for the Luceros’ annual New Year’s eve get-together was red and white, so I thought I’d do a red and white table as well. 🙂
Christmas table setting
Only thing new are the red floating candles. Even the flowers are from Christmas eve haha. 🙂
Christmas table setting
I forgot to light up the floating candles in all the excitement, so I can still use them in the future, yay! 🙂
FEATURED, Spiritual Family

Christmas Traditions 2

Victory Alabang’s November 18 Christmas Traditions event was such a fun, informative and inspiring time. The bibingka. The decor and the ambiance. The music from the choir. The home schoolers’ bazaar on the side and the younger home schoolers’ musical number. My Father’s House kids’ blessing trees. Prizes and giveaways.

Not only did we learn what Christmas traditions to start, how to start them and why we do them, nor did we just pick up gift wrapping and table setting tips, we also learned some simple delicious holiday recipes from Chef Len Santos-Ding!

4 servings
200 g glass noodles (sotanghon)
hot water
1/4 cup carrots, grated or cut into strips
¼ cup red bell pepper, cut into strips
2 Tbsp green onions, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
¼ cup toasted chopped peanuts
½ cup oyster sauce
6 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp calamansi juice
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
pinch of chili flakes or fresh chili

Put noodles in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water, let it stand until just tender; drain and set aside.
In another bowl, mix all dressing ingredients together.
Toss noodles with the dressing, vegetables and herbs, leaving enough vegetables for topping. Arrange on a plate. Top with the rest of the vegetables and chopped nuts.
Salad may be served hot, room temperature or chilled.

Rub mixture: (good for about 4 kilos)
2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 1/2 c brown sugar
½ cup instant coffee powder
2 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Ground black pepper
2 Tbsp salt

1 k chicken thighs
¼ cup canola or vegetable oil

Mix ingredients for the rub mixture and keep at room temperature in a well-sealed container.
For 1 kilo chicken pieces, use ½ to ¾ cup of rub mixture. Rub the spice mixture on the chicken pieces. Add canola oil. Marinade for about 2 hours or even overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Arrange chicken on a baking tray, skin side up. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the chicken is golden-brown and cooked through. Baste occasionally with the pan juices. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for five minutes before serving.

Yield: 2 cups
1 bar cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup all purpose cream
2 cans bangus in oil (or Spanish style)
fresh herbs like basil or dill (optional), to taste

Separate bangus meat from oil (do not throw away bangus oil). Remove skin and bones from bangus if any. Mix softened cream cheese, cream and bangus together. Mash well with a fork. You may also use a food processor. Add chopped fresh herbs. Keep the mixture refrigerated. Serve with crostini or crackers.

6-8 servings
1 1/3 c fresh milk
1 cup heavy or all purpose cream
1/2 c sugar
3 tsps Knox gelatin
1 tsp vanilla
1. Prepare and measure all ingredients and equipment.
2. Mix the gelatin with 1/2 cup fresh milk.
3. Combine the rest of the milk, 1 c cream, and 1/2 c sugar. Cook over low heat until simmering.
4. Add fresh milk and gelatin mixture until completely dissolved.
5. Strain.
6. Cool for about 10 minutes. Add vanilla OR other flavors.
7. Pour into molds and chill (or freeze).
8. To unmold, dip in warm water.
*can be chilled (covered) for 1 week or frozen for 1 month.

Mango Sauce

1 cup mango juice
6-8 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in water

Boil mango juice with sugar. Thicken with cornstarch. Cook till it boils again. Strain. Cool. Transfer into a squeeze bottle. Serve as a topping for pannacotta.
*use within 1-2 days