Friday, November 28, 2014

Advent Calendar - Kid's Edition

Wow, so it’s been AWHILE I posted anything here, but it’s that time of the year again – the festive season! I know that not everyone out there enjoys this time of the year (with the temperatures plummeting and the lack of sunshine outside), but I just love it. Just think about it – hot chocolate, warm socks, decorations and music.

It’s been more than a few weeks now that most of the stores started selling advent calendars, you know, the kind with chocolates in them. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE CHOCOLATE, but I think it’s not what the holiday season is about after all.

So this year I’ve decided to do something different. Miss V is 4 now, so she totally gets the concept of Christmas and gift-giving and such. I decided to create an advent calendar for her that it made up of activities (there’ll be some chocolate eating in there too, of course!). Some will be easy tasks (week nights) and others will be more elaborate (weekends).

There are LOTS of ideas out there, especially if you are a fan of Pinterest. I browsed some stuff, and after getting better acquainted with what this is all about, I’ve come up with something we’ll be doing this year – it’s cheap, it’s simple, anyone can do it!

What you’ll need:

          * Festive paper bags – ours were purchased for $9.99 from IKEA; they even come with numbered stickers from 1 to 24, in case, like me, you want to use them for an advent calendar (so we’ll have 24 activities). Of course, you can always make your our bags, socks, pouches, whatever else your heart desires! :) I just don’t have that kind of time.

          * Some sort of word-processing application and a printer (alternatively, you can just cut up pieces of paper and write out activities by hand; I did ours in a spreadsheet program and added a small embellishment of holly, I couldn't resist!).
Print them up & cut them up
          * Ribbon (or something else to hang the activities).

Our activities:
(W designates 6 weekend day activities)
  1. Decorate the tree
  2. Take a photo with Santa
  3. Make Christmas cookies (W)
  4. Build a gingerbread house
  5. Read a Christmas story
  6. Hang stockings
  7. Make paper snowflakes (here's how I usually do it)
  8. Buy a gift for charity
  9. Listen to Christmas music
  10. Buy a gift for daddy
  11. Buy a gift for mommy
  12. Make gifts for your teachers (W)
  13. Make & send special cards to babushka and deda (our out-of-country grandparents) (W)
  14. Read a Christmas story
  15. Snuggle with mom & dad by the fire
  16. Watch Christmas cartoons
  17. Enjoy a candy cane
  18. Give a gift to A (Miss V's special friend) (W)
  19. Buy Christmas jammies (W)
  20. Wrap presents
  21. Make special cards for your teachers (W)
  22. Read a Christmas story
  23. Drink hot chocolate
  24. Make s'mores
I lined up the bags into weekly rows and sorted the activities that way :)
As you might notice, some of these activities aren't really activities (like, enjoying a candy cane, for example) and some are super easy or are repeated (reading a Christmas story), but given that we are busy during the week, we'll do just that - simple things to keep out advent countdown going.

I hope you enjoy our list - feel free to borrow some or all of it!

Happy Holidays everyone! :)

Read my older blog posts on the subject of Christmas here :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Russian-style Apple Pie

Yes, long-overdue, but here's another post! :D

This is probably the easiest thing you can make, I promise! I've tried a number of different apple pie recipes, but most North American recipes call for the typical crust-fruit-crust type of a pie. Being from Belarus, I'm used to more of a "mixed" pie variety (I might've commented on this before :P), some people would call that a tart.

I've made this Apple Pie before (a recipe from a Russian book I have), but it takes a bit of a commitment and I was feeling really lazy... So anyways, I was browsing on a Russian-language website and found this easy recipe of Sharlotka (aka Russian apple pie, or a Charlotte, if you will). I guarantee it, you'll love it! Minimal ingredients and depending on the type of apple you pick and the amount of sugar you use, it can be tart or sweet, or somewhere in between - the choice is yours!


Friday, February 28, 2014

Barcelona: Accommodations

I started my search for affordable accommodations as soon as I decided I wanted to go to Barcelona... Actually, no, I first considered Paris, and started looking for accommodations there. Prices in Paris are pretty steep (for me, anyways), even for February, so after having searched in vain for affordable accommodations in central Paris, I was pleasantly surprised how much of it is available in Barcelona (and I'm talking walking-distance-touristy part of Barcelona).

The options are plenty - hotels, hostels, inns, condos and so on. Of course, something like a condo might cost $400-500 per night; however, it often accommodates 6+ people, so you're looking at playing max $100 per night, if you travel in a group.

I read reviews, consulted various websites for deals, and eventually ended booking though Expedia.ca, which gave me an option to pay at the hotel (and the ability to cancel 24 hours prior). I ended up choosing Hotel Jazz, a slick and modern hotel just steps away from La Rambla, a busy tourist street, and almost everything else that you'd want to see here. Although this hotel is ranked as 3 stars, I personally feel that is a 3.5 :))) (they could probably make it a 4-star hotel, if they spent a bit of money and gave it a facelift). But we found our room to be comfortable and larger than expected! Even the beds were listed as "single" were wider that one would expect. And the hotel's location is just PRIMO!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Barcelona Aquarium (L’Aquàrium de Barcelona)

So... I'm back! I won't bore you with the details of where I've been for the past 3+ months; as usual, I have too many grand plans, but little time.

Last week something happened that is actually worth sharing: I traveled to the beautiful Barcelona, Spain!!!
I spent 7 nights there and that definitely was NOT enough...

Let me share some highlights with you - up first, L’Aquàrium de Barcelona (Barcelona Aquarium). This place is great (this is my third aquarium) - cost: only €20. I say "only" because it's totally worth it given what it offers. First, its Oceanarium is unique in Europe and is its largest aquarium.

Here are its parameters:

Can you imagine - it holds 4,500,000 litres of water!
My sister and I were able to take our time and set our camera for a nice shot

Friday, October 25, 2013

Last days of autumn

This is my 15th autumn in Canada (wow... it felt weird writing that, AS IF it's been that long already!), and think this was by far the best fall weather I've experienced here. I figured it wouldn't last long, so we might as well enjoy it a little. Armed with my favourite possession, my camera, we headed just a short drive away to Gatineau Park a few weeks ago.

The colours on the hills and in the valley were breathtaking! We took a ski lift up & down (well, actually we thought of hiking down, but only mountain bikers could get off the lift at the top). Here are some photos for your enjoyment!
View from the ski lift