The First Christmas Concert

I got tickets for the “Merry Chicago” concert in the CSO for Nadia and me on December 16. It was a little bit of a stretch because they could not leave until Nadia’s school was over, but it ended up being not a little bit but a lot of a stretch. To be precise, Nadia was dropped off in front of the CSO a minute before the concert. But we were not late, and we had terrific seats in the second row on the aisle.

It’s hard to believe, but Nadia sat through the whole 1 hour 50 min concert completely focused on the music! Even during the intermission, after we walked around for a little while, she insisted on returning to our seats and anticipated the concert’s second part.

And nowadays, the Christmas concert is very different from when my kids were kids – there is no story, no dances, so it is pretty much music all the time – shorter pieces, for sure, but still!

Christmas Rush, As Usual

The past week was another week of extreme sleep deprivation, packing and mailing cookies, writing postcards, and figuring out and ordering the remaining presents.

In addition, there was a holiday party in the youth shelter on Tuesday, a party at Igor’s office on Wednesday (I went to see his workplace), and a VIP reception at the Chicago Architectural Center on Thursday!

The weekend was “Christmas in Chicago” for Anna and her family. With infections rising in Illinois and worldwide, I worried till the last moment that something might not work out, but nobody got sick, and we had a fantastic weekend! Although we had to skip some of the things we had planned due to the extremely cold weather, most of our plans worked, sometimes better than expected. More to follow.

Our Magical City

When I see Chicago decorated with holiday lights, the only thing I can say is, “What a beautiful city we live in!”

Several years ago, at one of the Caroling at the Clod Gate concerts, I heard somebody near me say this. And I remember I felt I could relate: you come to Millennium Park, look around, and see this beauty as if for the first time. And you are breathless!

Each time I come to the Chicago Architectural Center, I fee the same way! I want to repeat it over and over: what

Continue reading “Our Magical City”

Christmas Cookies Day 3

Today, I started the day by making a big pot of borshch because I knew that people would be coming to help me with the cookies, I would need to feed them, and the oven will be in use. For that reason, I made baked salmon and roasted potatoes last night before going to the theater. I thought that salmon might not be enough, and I was right! Another thing I did last night – I made three kinds of dough: the gluten-free dough for sugar cookies, the regular sugar cookies dough, and one more portion of kolacki – all of them had to stay in the fridge for several hours, so it all worked great.

After I was done with borshch in the morning, I baked the gluten-free cookies to be done with them first and won’t contaminate them with regular flour. and then finally people showed up for cookies decoration:)

One more day of baking, and then packing, and all non-international shipping. And giving:)

Christmas Is Getting Closer

Yesterday, we were decorating cookies in the youth shelter. It was very challenging this time to find a day that could work. Thursday was the only one that was somehow acceptable, and the only time I could come was after six. The staff was decorating a tree, and there was a lot of motion, so first I was not even sure whether I could fit with my cookies.

I brought a whole bunch of baked undecorated cookies and also some dough, but when I came in and saw how busy everybody was, I realized there was no room for more baking.

After all, I was happy with the results: several residents came to decorate, and the little kids were amazingly patient, so we went through about two dozen. There were no amazing artistic talents like in 2019, but we did decently. I loved this very unexpected decoration of the snowflake:

Today I took the whole day off to catch up on life and decorate the tree. It was the first time I ordered delivery and installation; all things considered, it was worth it! Same as last year, I ordered from the Gethsemane Garden Center. I picked a tree on Wednesday, and it was delivered today.

Ideally, I wanted it to be a little bit taller, but turned out that eight feet is a non-standard size! Also, I realized that I didn’t bring one of the boxes from the storage, so some of the missing stuff was found, and I remembered that I wanted a new star… well, now, there will be a lot of amazon returns!

About Holiday Lights (And Those Who Don’t Have Them)

On Tuesday, when I walked from my office to the Orchestra Hall, the city was all illuminated. That’s one of my favorite things during the holiday season: I like to walk in the Loop and stare at the office and shop windows at all the Christmas trees and decorations. The weather was very nice, above freezing and no rain, and I had my red coat on and a new small black hat.

I took a couple of pictures, and then suddenly I thought: how lucky we are to have all these lights, and how horrible is it that cities in Ukraine are not only without holiday lights but lights in general, and also without heat and water. And when I thought about it once, I could not go back to blissful ignorance. That is one of the things I was trying to explain last week – the feeling is not precisely Christmas – like.

Technical Difficulties Again

I planned to pack all the cookies I am sending internationally on Sunday evening, and I do not understand what happened. Lena left a little before 2 PM, so I had half of the day ahead. I talked to Boris since we didn’t have much opportunity to talk while I was baking. Then I went to see mom, had dinner and did all the cleanup. Even though we are baking next weekend, I do not want to leave any food for mice and cockroaches. And then, all of a sudden, the day was over! I only had time to pack five boxes, not even half of my international shipping! And I still went to bed late, realizing I was behind on everything in my life!

I had to finish packing and printing the shipping labels on Monday. The whole day at work went wrong; same as at home, I completely forgot about several tasks I needed to complete, and while one of them still could be done, another one (the corporate giving) was a total miss! 

What will you do when your whole life is going the wrong way?!

I left work a little bit earlier, with lots of things not done, but I also needed to see mom and then go to our annual condominium meeting, which ran late because everybody was so happy to see each other in person…

So – it was late, and I was still packing. Then I wrote all the remaining cards, which went to the packages. Then, I finally started customs declarations and labels. It was already 11-30 when I was ready to print them. On the fifth page, my printer ran out of paper. Not a big deal, I loaded more, but it was still saying that it is out of paper! What was wrong???

I stopped and started the printer – nothing changed. I checked the paper tray one more time – the paper was there. I could not leave it for the next day – I had already paid the postage and scheduled the pickup! After several unsuccessful attempts, I realized it was already late morning in Helsinki and facetimed Boris. His printer is identical to mine, which often helps to identify problems. 

After some remote diagnostics, he asked me to check whether the stoppers in the paper tray were set correctly to the Letter format, not A4. I checked, and indeed, they were set to A4 – I must have accidentally moved them. Everything was set up correctly, but the printer still insisted there was no paper!

I was at my wit’s end. Boris suggested I try the rear load, but this didn’t change anything. It was already way after midnight, and I told Boris that it did not look like he could help and hung up. Then, out of desperation, I removed the printer from the system and added it again – which worked! It started printing! Now, I had to put all the boxes into padded envelopes and attach all the labels to the packages.

Finally, I went to bed after 1 AM, and I still had to be up early to assemble the cookie tray to take to the office. The next day was Tuesday, and I had a CSO concert. I was so afraid I would fall asleep, but I didn’t – the concert was outstanding! However, after I got back home… I had to pack five more boxes! And I went to bed at 1 AM again!

634 cookies!

I am so thankful to Lena for coming and helping me this weekend! I don’t know what I would do without her! Also, four people were helping us to decorate today, and I do not know what I would do without them!

Lena’s gingerbread cookies
My Outrageous Double Chocolate Cookies in making
And ready to go into the oven
Continue reading “634 cookies!”

It’s a Cookie’s Weekend!

(Once again, forgot to publish yesterday!)

Lena and I worked so hard that we didn’t have time to take pictures. We took two breaks – one to walk my mom home after she stopped by (also, we somehow ran out of butter and needed to get some more, and the closest grocery was by my mom). That break was unplanned, and the one we planned was to go to the Loop to Christkindle market and see the Chicago Christmas Tree. to our huge disappointment, there was a long line to enter the market, so we didn’t go: and there was even a line to come closer to the Christmas tree, and we made it 🙂

Lena gave me this t-shirt last Christmas
Lena and I by Chicago Christmas tree