Yelly Writes

Christmas lights

Rudolph in Covent Garden, London

Well, now, how did that happen?  

These days, I think I keep saying it more and more often.  That the days are all rushing past me.  It is once again, the official start of Christmas (mind you, in Manila, Christmas starts as soon as 1 September!.  Yes, September!  I know!  Crazy right?)

I can’t wait to get back to London to see the lovely lights that were switched on a couple of weeks ago!

What Christmas traditions do you have that starts as soon as December rounds the corner?

Yelly Writes

Christmas wishes

“Our many different cultures notwithstanding, there’s something about the holidays that makes the planet communal. Even nations that do not celebrate Christmas can’t help but be caught up in the collective spirit of their neighbors, as twinkling lights dot the landscape and carols fill the air. It’s an inspiring time of the year.” — Marlo Thomas

As the debris of Christmas eve, Christmas Day and all the lovely Christmas meals are cleared away, I turn to thoughts of Christmas as one often does during these times. Christmas is truly a great uniter…as the real reason for the season truly brings us together. God’s love truly unites us and binds us together, and it is fitting that the season that celebrates the embodiment of God’s love, His Son coming down to live amongst us, unites the world in a celebration of love, joy, peace and selflessness – because Christmas brings about a reason for us to think of others first instead of ourselves, of giving, instead of receiving, of forgiving and letting go.

My heart goes out to all those who have suffered a loss this Christmas. I can only pray that you feel God’s loving arms enfold you in the warmest and most comforting of embraces.

I hope all your Christmases were wonderfully blessed. I hope that all your Christmas wishes came true.

Allow me to say, that despite the sadness that some people may be going through, God will carry you through these difficult times, and I would still bravely greet everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Yelly Writes

It’s Christmas!

Regent Street angels

“The light of the Christmas star to you. The warmth of home and hearth to you. The cheer and goodwill of friends to you. The hope of a child-like heart to you. The joy of a thousand angels to you. The love of the Son and God’s peace to you.”
― Sherryl Woods, An O’Brien Family Christmas

To family and friends, both near and far, you are all thought of today, whether it is Christmas Day already where you are, or you are still rushing about taking care of last minute Christmas preparations, may you all have the happiest and the merriest of Christmases and only the choicest blessings are wished for you for the New Year!

Yelly Writes

The prep

All I can hear right now is the Coca-Cola advert when I think about Christmas coming.  I’ve started to listen to Christmas carols on the journey to and from work to lift my spirits.  Christmas is a busy time at work (it’s nearly the deadline of submission of annual tax returns in the UK – don’t forget your tax return folks!  The deadline for online submissions is on 31 January  For more information check the HMRC website) but despite the busy time, admittedly,I get the holiday blues being so far away from home.  Listening to carols reminds me of the good times and makes me smile and feel better.  Two years in the running now I’ve been listening to Pentatonix.  They’re an a capella quintet from Arlington, Texas.  I love listening to them because the harmonies remind me of the chancel choir I used to be part of at home in the Philippines.

In an effort to be a little bit more organised this year, Alan and I have devised a (more organised) plan.  We’d cook or prep and freeze things that we can prepare ahead of time so that we didn’t have to rush around like headless chickens the night before Christmas.  This year, right now, we already have the following:

  • A shared Christmas shopping list (courtesy of this handy app Our Groceries, and yes, there’s a free version on iOS and Android!) with most of the items ticked off
  • A rough (adjustable) schedule of things to do which should finish the last Sunday BEFORE Christmas
  • Gift wrapping supplies (for last minute gift-wrapping)
  • Pigs in blankets made (we bought sausages and wrapped streaky bacon around them), wrapped up, and in the freezer
  • Stuffing mixed and placed in baking tins, wrapped up and in the freezer
  • Braised red cabbage done and in the freezer waiting to be thawed
  • Baking supplies in hand for baking projects
  • A large shopping bag already filled with nibbles (i.e. crisps, biscuits, crackers, candy, etc.)

With Christmas 12 days away, I’ve got the tree up, Christmas decorations all over the flat and the fridge stocked with Christmas things.  I’m not feeling as rushed as I usually do at Christmas.  All we have to do now is get the turkey and get the veg and figure out timings for cooking the turkey and the fixings!

I am soooooooo ready for Christmas!


Yelly Writes

Christmas post-mortem

After early morning phone calls to catch a family lunch in Manila, a hurried breakfast after present opening, the mad dash to cook the turkey with all the trimmings, recovering from a food coma, watching the requisite Christmas TV shows (and the Queen’s Christmas message, of course!), and watching the regeneration of the new Doctor, I am now relaxing and taking advice from her Majesty.  She said that “we all need to get the balance right between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock.”  And that’s exactly what I’m doing , pausing, reflecting and taking stock — while watching the Downton Abbey Christmas Special.

Christmas has always been wonderful because it has always been magical.  It is a season filled with joy and wonder and most of all, love.  Because it is love that is the real reason for the season.  God loved us so much that He sent his Son to be with us.  And because of Jesus’ birth, we have Christmas and we have a wonderful excuse to celebrate (in a big way) faith, love, family, friends, lovely fattening food, and most of all life (with all its joys and sorrows).  I hope everyone had a smashingly spectacular Christmas filled with wonderful moments!  Merry Christmas everyone!

Yelly Writes

Tis the season!

Christmas will always require celebration for me.  I grew up with my mum drumming into me how important Christmas is, how important it is to celebrate the occasion of Christ’s birth.  Growing up in church has made Christmas a more spiritual occasion.  It was all about the birth of the Saviour, the Word being made flesh.  It has always been the day of the year that reminds me most of God’s love, grace and mercy.  That’s why, no matter how small, Christmas had to be celebrated, there had to be a tree, there had to be decorations to celebrate it, there had to be presents to share and there had to be a Noche Buena at midnight!  There should always be an effort to be made for Christmas because all the gift giving and all the food preparation is part of the celebration.  It is one of , if not the most important days in the Christian calendar.

Whatever you do today, however you celebrate the season, whatever your faith, have a wonderfully happy and very blesssed Christmas!

Merry Christmas!



Yelly Eats

Food for the gods, a Filipino tradition

I grew up enjoying food for the gods during Christmas and I always thought that it would be such a complicated recipe because, well, at the time, you couldn’t exactly buy the ingredients from your local supermarket.  It was such a treat when people gave us a box of these lovely sweet treats and I remember when we were handed one each after dinner so that we could make it last.  This was before my Lolo Ani opened a bakery and started baking these in huge quantities and we had food for the gods on tap every Christmas!

Food for the gods are really date and walnut bars.  I don’t really know why they’re called food for the gods, maybe because they are scrummy and so wonderfully to eat!  I’ve tried several recipes and after a few tweaking exercises, I may have cracked it.

I brought this to work today so that I could share it with my officemates.  I am merely continuing the Filipino tradition of giving away food for the gods at Christmas!

Here’s my recipe:Food for the gods aka date bars


150g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
225g brown sugar
125g unsalted butter, melted
150g walnuts, coarsely chopped
150g dates, coarsley chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder together with a balloon whisk until well combined.  Add walnuts and dates and mix with a spatula until the dates and nuts are well-covered with the flour mixture and well-distributed within the flour mixture.  Doing this will ensure that the dates and the nuts do not sink to the bottom of the mixture.
  3. In a mixing bowl (am using a free standing mixer but you can also do this by hand with a balloon whisk), combine melted butter and sugars and beat until the mixture is smooth and almost creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time, making sure that the egg is well-combined before adding the next one.  Add the flour-date-nut mixture in quarters.  Mix until everything is well-distributed and you cannot see any flour.
  4. Spread mixture in a greased 17.5cm x 26.5cm (or thereabouts) pan lined with baking parchment (I learned that lining the baking pan with parchment is good because it makes it easy to release the cake from the pan) and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  This recipe makes up to 24 squares.
Yelly Eats

Food for the gods

I’ve always loved these chewy bars.  When I was younger, you could only get food for the gods at Christmas time.  It was a favourite Christmas giveaway.  Or at least that’s how I remembered it.  I think they’re now more available in shopes and one doesn’t have to wait for Christmas to enjoy these date and walnut filled bars (although in hindsight, I think in the Philippines they used raisins or prunes and instead of walnuts they used pili)!

I thought I’d try my hand at making them myself (like I always say, necessity is the mother of invention!).  I looked for the simplest recipe and hit the jackpot with the one I’m sharing.  It’s not as moist as I thought it would be (but that might be because I forgot to add the 1 tablespoon of honey that’s required or it might be that the oven was a tiny bit too hot!  Practice makes perfect and I have enough dates for a few more attempts.  I will revise the recipe when I’ve found MY perfect medium) but it certainly tasted the way I remembered it.

If you try the recipe, let me know how you get on, please!  I definitely welcome sharing trade secrets! 🙂

Adapted from:


Makes 16 – 20 bars

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350F or 180C.  Line a brownie pan with parchment paper (wax paper will do just fine).  You can use a 13.5″ x 8″ pan.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together.  Add chopped dates and chopped walnuts and mix until dates and walnuts are coated with flour and evenly distributed in the flour mixture.  Set aside.
  3. Beat eggs and sugars until well-incorporated.  Add vanilla extract (Ina Garten aka the Barefoot Contessa, says to use the best that you can because the better ingredients you have because the product turns out better) and the honey.  Add the melted butter until well-incorporated.
  4. Fold in the flour-date-walnut mixture until batter is uniform and everything is mixed well.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 30-40 minutes (depending on the oven).  Test with a toothpick.  It should be done if the toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Cool completely before slicing into bars or squares.