Family Gift – Giving

This year, we were unable to get the whole family together for Christmas gift exchange, which is not the first time in our history. And even for “all of us minus Anna” part, we had to find a day when Vlad was able to take at least a couple of hour off.

To be clear, he didn’t. I do not think he had any time off except of time to sleep for the past two months. Even that time, we met at his work. He reserved a private room in zBar, and then he ended up being on the floor for most of that time. He said – Mom, did you see how many people are there in the bar?! And I saw!

The Peninsula lobby, all decorated
The zBar private room
My Mom is tasting hot chocolate
Continue reading “Family Gift – Giving”

Chicago Union Station Decorated for Christmas

I took these pictures almost a month ago. Our conference venue was a W hotel on Adams, and before the conference start, we decided to stop at the Union Station fo see their Christmas tree and the Polar Express. The tree was gorgeous, and for the ornaments, it had the plaques with the names of the Amtrack and Metra lines. And overall, the Great Hall was even more beautiful than ever. I decided that the pictures are too good to be abandoned even though the season is over.

Enjoy this after- Christmas show ๐Ÿ™‚

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A Picture of Our First Christmas

I finally found one picture from our first Christmas Eve in the US, which I described here. I’ve already added the picture to the original post, but for since in was published a week ago I thought it’s worth to show this picture separately.

I do not know where are the rest of the pictures, I only have this one – Val posing with Anna and Vlad.

You can see our tree with paper ornaments, and a star, and a string of lights, and a garland. The holiday outfits were given to us by my co-workers with older children, and the hat was made of plastic (came from some game set), but Vlad loved it:)

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.

The Art of Gift Giving

On Sunday, our family will get together for Christmas presents exchanging. It’s not the first time we are exchanging presents on a day other than Christmas Eve (we are “the Eve family”). Due to both our family being distributed and members having demanding jobs, it happens quite often. Sometimes we get together before Christmas, sometimes – after. Sometimes on the right date :). In the course of many years, we learned that dates are not that important. What is important, though – that over the years, my children not only mastered the art of giving presents but are doing it better than I.

SInce 2011, we always recorded our Christmas gift-giving, in full or partially, and I spent the last hour going through these recordings. I will post a small fraction of them here, to give an idea, how did it look like in the past. It is looking more or less the same every year. Every year I am delighted to hear multiple “how did you know?!”

I firmly believe that Christmas presents should be special. They might be practical (like on several of these videos my children receive computers for Christmas). Still, they should be at least partially surprises, something a gift recipient does not expect to receive.

You will hear some Russian in the videos, but I hope that everything will be understandable regardless :).

Christmas 2012
Christmas 2012
Christmas 2013
Christmas 2014 we had guests from Moscow,
and also Vlad lost his voice and could not perform his Elf duties

For the record, Vlad still wear that coat from the last video!

I stopped myself from watching these old videos, because I could easily do it till tomorrow:). Now I am going to schedule this post so that it would appear tomorrow morning, and then we shall see, how our gift-giving will go in the evening.

What I Did and What I Didn't Do This Season

Many people told me that they are impressed with how much I managed to do this holiday season. Most of the time it is expressed in a rhetorical question – how I manage to find time to do “all that.” The truth is, this season I did less than I normally do. The reason why it does not seem so is that I knew ahead that won’t have time for all my usual activities, and I planned which of them I am going to reschedule or cut entirely.ย 

The moment Anna asked me: Mom, are you still enjoying your Christmas, or are you stressed out, I realized I need to watch for the latter. I can’t rush when choosing presents. I can’t rush when I wrap presents, because this is an enjoyable activity. I need to wrap carefully each and single cookie I am sending out because that’s the way I add my love to the recipe :).

And you know what? I am really happy with my season. I didn’t do any of the shows: either Welcome Yule, nor the Christmas Carol, nor the Nutcracker. And I am OK with that. I didn’t get a chance to listen to the Caroling at the Cloud Gate, not even once, and this is a little bit upsetting. But I am delighted that I had time to meet with many people who are near and dear to me. People are the most important, and for all the rest, there will be next year – this is not the last Christmas season! 

Mom and I had a subscription concert on Dec 20, it was a matinee, and it was one of the days when Iย ย could not leave work earlier. I’ve exchanged out tickets for Sunday matinee, the same show. It was great since it was Dec22, and all shopping and packing was done. I could spend time with Mom, not thinking about other things in the background. I also delivered two more boxes of cookies:), and we had lunch with my friend Lena -2 (not to be taken for Lena -1 from Michigan).

Continue reading “What I Did and What I Didn't Do This Season”

Before I Get Back to Work and Life…

I’ve already posted this video on Instagram, but Instagram saves only the first minute. Here is the full version – all three minutes :). There are lots of things I am going to write about in the next several days, which will be relatively relaxing (but only relatively:)). Still, before all these things, I just wanted to say how much I love my house at Christmas and how happy I am to be able to spend this after-Christmas time here by myself.

I spent the last couple of hours sitting by the fireplace, catching up with my friends’ updates, and drinking hot black tea with Finnish blueberry liquor. And having some parmesan cheese with the most fantastic fig jam with ginger and cardamon, a Christmas gift from my friend.

My Cookies – All Over the World!

They started to arrive! In fact, quite a bit of them arrived before Christmas, as I hoped!

My cookies in Germany
My cookies in Helsinki, hand- delivered by me
In Minnesota
In Indiana
In Michigan

Im am also informed, that they made their way to California, New York and Ohio, and overseas to Moldova, Switzerland and Bashkortostan (in Russia).

I hope now everybody believes that my cookies are real :). Happy Boxing Day and Happy New Year!

Helsinki, Decorated for Christmas

I planned to see the city lights in Hlesinki and hopefully to skate. The latter didn’t happen, because of 1) long lines 2) Boris does not skate 3) I decided I do not want to spend time on the solo activity plus 20 min wait. But we walked around quite a bit. Here are some pictures:

Ten pictures from the City Center. I liked this little fur tree with the blinking lights a lot!
The windows of Karl Fazer store – my favorite!
Several small videos of the moving figurines in the Stockmann windows

That’s the first time tried to embed instagram posts in my WP post. I like the fact this way you can use the errors and scroll through multiple photos. Let me know whether you like this idea!

Christmas Away From Home

Since my friend, N. told me that she chooses to spend the holidays not with her family but with people who would be alone otherwise, I was thinking about it. And the more I think, the more I realize, how right is it.
A couple of days before my departure to Helsinki I stopped by my neighbor Renate to drop off a box of my cookies and to wish her a Merry Christmas. It turned out that our other neighbor was visiting at the same time, so instead of leaving immediately, I sat down and chatted for a little bit. I told them about our family travel plans and how we all are in different places. And then I mentioned this idea about spending the holidays with somebody how can’t spend them with the family or does not have one.

And then, all of a sudden, both my neighbors started to recall similar stories. Renate mentioned her son in law spending Christmas by covering the night shift in the PAWS homeless shelter. Then my other neighbor recalled her time being a nurse and covering the Christmas shift as well, and then Renate told us that she did the same while working on reception in the senior home.

Both of them were saying how good it feels and how happy and grateful the people were. It looks like it is not so uncommon not to be with your family for Christmas, and it’s surprising people do not talk about it that much.

Next time, when I will have the circumstances similar to what I had this year, I think I know what I am going to do :).

Christmas Eve in Helsinki

One of the craziest things I ever did – the flights both way with two connections, more time in the air than in Helsinki. But if I am supposed to be not just a godmother for Sonia, but a Fairy Godmother for the whole family, I have to measure to these standards!


Flying there:

O’Hare Airport
O’Hare Airport: the best things for Christmas!
I had to explain this Santa that I am going were the REAL Santa lives!
Continue reading “Christmas Eve in Helsinki”