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
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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 🙂

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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.

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!
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#stockman #christmasdidplay #christmasstorewindows

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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 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!
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One Very Special Present

It was a while ago when Igor introduced me to the Indiana Dunes, and since then we are trying to visit it at least once each summer. These trips are very special to both of us, which is why Igor bought this Christmas ornament for me. He bought it in summer 2018, managing to hide it from me on our way back to Chicago, delivering it safely to his home, and then five months later – to Anna’s home where we all celebrated Christmas.

This ornament made in from Indiana to Illinois, from Ilinois to Wisconsin, from Wisconsin back to Illinois – and then I dropped it on the floor in my house, and it broke!
Can you imagine how I felt? I suppose you can!

I told Igor we will fix it, I promise. So in summer 2019, when we were at the Indiana Dunes, we went to the same store and asked them whether they still have these ornaments, and they did! I purchased one because it was the thought that was important, and made sure to deliver it home safely, and now it takes it’s happy place o the tree!


This week, presents started to arrive, and thus the second best part of Christmas has started! One of my most favorite moments is always the arrival of the parcel from New Zealand. Because… well, because it is New Zealand!!!

My friend made this neckless for me, with a coffee cup charm. And she and the girls baked some cookies:

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Another Cookie Decorating Activity

Last Tuesday, we had a cookie decorating night in the Open Door Shelter. I brought in some cookies which we left undecorated on Sunday (when we ran out of decorating ideas), and also some dough to cut and bake.

That was the third time I organized the cookie decorating in ODS, and it was the best time ever. The youth got so engaged – the staff decided not to pull them out for other activities. Everybody did phenomenally. Some kids were saying they are not good with arts, but I replied with my usual “this is not a test.” At some point, the staff joined us in the kitchen, and I asked – would you like to cut the cookies? And they did and also decorated some.

I am inserting several pictures with their work in progress and the finished cookies. I was amazed both by their creativity and delivery:) I told them they are invited to my house next Christmas to help me decorate 🙂

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Outrageous Double Chocolate Cookies

This is an official name of this recipe from Betty Crocker, and the recipe is indeed mind-blowing in terms of how much chocolate you need! Each time when I am preparing to make a double, I am surprised yet another time :).

Since we live in Grandfather Google times and can always ask him, I will spare you from yet another copy of the same recipe. Instead, I will post a couple of pictures my friend Lena made in process of the cookies creation.

The best thing about melted chocolate is that you can lick the pot 🙂
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My Christmas Baking Days

I did very little blogging in the past week because my life took over my virtual reality, and I am trying to catch up now!
The most significant part of my Christmas is baking, and I had a Big Baking Weekend! My friend Lena from Ann Arbor came to visit me, and we spent the weekend like in old times. We did it for so many years before Lena moved away from Palatine, we know each other’s recipes, Lena knows where the things are in my kitchen and how to organize an assembly line.

Here are some more pictures in addition to the last week’s photos.

From left to right: sugar cookies, tea cakes, white chocolate- macadamia, thumbprints.
Second row: chocolate chips, double chocolate,kolacki
Gingerbread and sugar cookies
I can’t make gingerbread cookies, so if Lena is not here, I have none.
But this year she is here!
Continue reading “My Christmas Baking Days”