28 December 2012

Little Christmas Presents

Christmas is already over, so I am going to show you the presents that I got for my family and friends - in the wrapped state :)I bought lots of tea and cake cutters and some cosmetics this year.

Only the closest family and best friends got a bigger presents, the others got a little Christmas greeting card with a beaded decoration. Making these was really easy and fun - just some hard paper, funny crafty scissors, my handmade decorations, tw holes, wire or string to tie them to the card and golden gel pen to write the wish.

 
The larger presents I wrapped in  my handmade wrapping paper that did not cost anything - I talked about it before and I am talking about it now - every time I bought something at IKEA and carried it home wrapped in brown paper, I saved the paper and later stamped snowflake stamps all over it. At first, the snowflake pattern was much denser, but later, inspired by Unify and her Christmas wrapping paper, I only stamped a flake here and there and I was quite pleased with the result.



I enjoyed making and wrapping all this, but to be honest, I will not miss the Christmas-themed crafty clutter that filled half of my already disorganized room : )

27 December 2012

Ice Sculptures in the Košice City Centre

Last year it was the first time that ice sculptures appeared in the Košice city centre. This year, they are here again, very beautiful and slightly melted as the temperatures go up and down. Unfortunately, I didn't see how they were made (which, as I am told, also happens directly in the city centre and people can come and watch), but even simple seeing them in the lights of festively lit city was quite an experience. The theme of most of them was "The End of the World".
 
The Singing Fountain is not working in winter, but the water in all
fountains is replaced by lights.


 
More photos of this amazing city of mine can be seen here.
Photos of fresh sculptures and video of their making can be seen here.
You can also take a little summer virtual tour here.

26 December 2012

Free shipping on everything - from now on until my birthday!


All shipping prices have been set to 0.00 worldwide in my Etsy shop. I am repeating this action after last year's success. Everything will be shipped to you for free - in reused envelopes - no matter where in the world you are!  This special action lasts until my birthday, which will be on 20th February. It is never too early to buy yourself something nice for next Christmas, some summer gifts and jewellery or just a decoration to make your winter time more pleasant.

24 December 2012

Cozy old home

 
So I'm at my old home in Slovakia. It's kind of cozy :)

23 December 2012

The Unexpectedly Difficult Journey

 
Every year, I travel to Slovakia for Christmas by train and every single year it's almost the same.  Waiting around the whole day, packing, tidying up, eating the leftovers, being really bored, doing the last dishes, making sure that the plants are watered and the pets are fed... Until it's so tidy and I am so tired, that I don't really want to go anywhere.


Then I drag the suitcase from the apartment, squishing through the half melted dirty snow on the uneven pavement, scratching the suitcase against the gravel that stayed on the ground from our early icy slippery winter days into the bus, then underground and then train.

 
And then I usually excessively enjoy the almost nine hours of irregularly interrupted sleep in a clean but overheated coupé, listening to the calming, almost meditative sound of the train that I love and occassional snores of my companion passenger or (worse) someone from next door.


As soon as I got into the train, however, this journey took a slightly unexpected turn. As soon as I got into the train, I was asked to show my ticket and a card.
-What card?
-Student ID. Your ticket says you have a student discount, I need to see your ID.

*Ooops*

Had I not spent the day getting ready for this journey??! Had I not taken care of everything?! Apparently not. My purse and my ISIC stayed in my backpack, now resting on a red chair in that unusually tidy empty room.

-Is it a big problem if I don't have it?
-Yes, it is.
-Yes it is like I will have to pay the difference or yes it is like I won't be able to get on the train?
-You will have to pay.

*Phew*

-Do you take card?
-No.

*Grr*

-So I'll run to the cash machine and will be right back.
-Go straight to where the tickets are bought, why pay on the train when you can pay there? We leave at 21.40.

It was 21:20. So I ran to the desk. There was a queue, but it was moving. 21:28 - my turn.

-Oh, but I can't do this.
-But they told me in the train that you CAN.
-But it's an international ticket, how am I supposet to calculate the difference, well, let me seee....

*Tick-tock, lady, tick-tock!!!*

As she finally realized she really couldn't do it, I ran to the closest cash machine and took the money out, then ran back to the train. where I paid the difference with my Christmas money and then ate the cheap chocolate biscuit they give us for breakfast, because my nerves were totally wrecked.

Even better, in the train I learned that ISIC itself is not enough to have a student's ticked sold and I would need some special card to be able to apply that discount. The explanation "Well, you know, they will sell you anything you want" really made me want to punch someone.


So happy holidays, love, joy and peace. And calmness.
And no stress.
And don't forget your documents and cash or better - don't travel by trains... Stay at home.
x

21 December 2012

Winter cardmaking

The tradition of giving Christmas cards to each other is not really a Slovak tradition. Of course, we do send Christmas cards to those who live far away from us, but it wasn't until I visited England in 2005-2006 that I fully got into giving Christmas cards. About one week before Christmas, suddenly cards came from everyone. Not only from my friends, but also from our teachers and even from students that did not talk to me very much. And the weirdest part of all - they did not come by post, people would just give them to us or leave them on our desk. Some cards I liked more, some less, but I was feeling really bad about not being able to get out of the (very isolated) school grounds to buy my own. So my and my friend decided to make some. They were made of white paper painted bright red with some acrylic paint, a piece of dark green paper with thin gold-painted trees cut out of something like polystyrene - all of which we got from our school's art room. I must admit, they were pretty horrible and I don't think I gave them out eventually (just thinking about them makes me go brrrrrr!).


These, I believe, are one step better than that. I am really thrilled about my snowflake stamps that have been bought from Lucy65 on Fler.cz and also about my funny crafty scissors. Right now, I am unable to cut anything resembling a regular shape with them, so I decided that rather than making it look like they are not done properly, I would make them look like they are irregularly cut on purpose.


Each card is made of four layers of paper, the three types of blue paper were bought in a craft store and the lined torn pieces are the remains of the old Papelote writing pad that I would throw away otherwise. Some of them even have writing on the other side.


They are not regular, they are not the same and they are all on their way to their new homes. Taking the current speed of the post offices into consideration, they will arrive in the new year. I am sorry, friends :)

20 December 2012

What I brought home from Christmas origami workshop by Papelote

 
My friend and I have visited an origami workshop organised by Papelote - a Czech stationery shop - which was advertised on their Facebook fan page . The theme of the workshop was "Christmas stars", but we also learned how to fold a crane and how to make about three types of stars.


All of these can be stuck to cards or hung on the wall or Christmas tree. And made of some really nice Christmas wrapping paper, they could look really gorgeous. One more thing I can do during my Christmas holiday :)

19 December 2012

Getting into the Christmas mood

 
When I said that I want to have all the presents bought long before Christmas and then just sit at home and bake and sip hot tea, I didn't really think about all the work- and uni-related stress that was about to come. Things need to get done before everyone leaves and people started to stress. The post offices are full, shops are crowded, people worry about not having the presents yet, about messy homes, not having baked yet... And it sometimes makes me wonder why is Christmas still considered to be a holiday of joy and peace, when eighty per cent of the people that I encounter daily are not happy nor peaceful.
 
So right now, as most of work is finished, I decided to spend more time at home, tidy up, bake and decorate a bit. I do not have a tree this year, but I have put the lights up about a month ago and I hung all my pretty cards on a string above my desk. A few Christmas cards have come in the post and I believe I might be getting some more during the holidays, so I will have a nice display eventually.

08 December 2012

Into the fields

 
In spite of my getting better but persisting cold, I decided to go out today, for a walk around the neighbourhood. So far these days are the coldest that we have had this winter. There is still no snow, but all puddles and the pond are frozen and everything around is covered in frost. And in the sun, I swear it sparkled more than vampires from Stephenie Meyer's novel.
 
I met a woodpecker, some other birds that I did not know and even found tracks of some larger four-legged forest visitors in the field.
 
I even walked through the “alley” that I nicknamed “the undergrowth of dread” sooner in the year when I moved in. With no leaves on and sun shining onto them, the trees are much less scary.

06 December 2012

And here comes Mikuláš


Today is a special day for all the kids and many adults in Slovakia, Czech republic and many other countries. Mikuláš is a Slovak/Czech name for the Greek saint Nikolaos of Myra – who is believed to bring sweets to children during the night from 5th to 6th December. Even American Santa Claus is based on this historical figure, although he brings presents at Christmas (in my country we say that the Christmas presents are brought by little Jesus).
According to Wikipedia, there are many versions (some quite rough, not really for kids) of the legend which resulted in this custom. The one told to me when I was a kid is this one:
There were three daughters in a very poor family. Because they were poor, the daughters could not marry. Every night the daughters cleaned their shoes and put them into a window. One night, as bishop Mikuláš passed their window and filled the shoes with money. The girls found out about this when they woke up, on the morning of the 6th December. Therefore the girls did have enough money to get married and they were happy.
So nowadays every kid should put their shoe into the window on the evening of 5th December and as Mikuláš will go around, he will fill it with sweets (usually he knows well which ones you like and even though he does not fly, does not come in though a chimney and does not have a reindeer, he will usually get to you, even if you live in a high floor of a block of flats).
Mikuláš is pictured dressed as a bishop with tall cap. Santa dressed in red and white is often getting into his place but I personally prefer to buy chocolates that look properly bishop-like.
He comes to people with two helpers : "anjel" (angel- the good one, usually pictured with wings and in a light dress, mostly with long light hair) and "čert" (the opposite of angel, he lives in Hell, has horns and tail, sometimes also hoofs and sometimes is pictured with long tongue), who is supposed to give coal to the bad kids. When I was a kid, we used to go to my Grandfather’s work and when Mikuláš came, we had to say a short rhyme, sing or play something to him and we were rewarded by a bag of candies, chocolates and nuts. “Čert” was spitting fire and everyone was scared of him, some even cried (even though we knew exactly which Grandpa's colleague it was).
Here in Prague, you can even order Mikuláš to come to your home, he puts many leaflets on bus stops and similar places.
This year, thanks to me, Mikuláš will come to England too (I gave him my boyfriends address). However, can you please give him my new address too?? He is probably lost, because I move so often now, so he always leaves my sweets at my parents place.


02 December 2012

Stressless Sundays

I have recently established Sunday as a free and stressless day. Of course, I do the basic stuff around the flat, tidying up, doing the washing, cleaning the flat when it’s my turn, but I never go to work on Sunday, nor do I bring my work home. It’s my day, it’s free and lazy. It is a day that I look forward to all week. Now I am absolutely no expert and definitely not a person to give advice on relaxation, but setting one day aside for nice and enjoyable things, sleeping enough, meeting friends and finding enjoyment in the basic household chores works well for me : )

Today, I woke up ill, so all I do is drink ginger tea with honey and lemon and make bracelets. I finished the one pictured below and I would list it, if only the sun came out for a while, allowing me to take brighter photos.
 

26 November 2012

An (extra)ordinary tree

 
There was a tree last weekend that I could not take my eyes off. A single tree, ordinary from the distance, but wonderful in a close-up, covered with mosses, lichens, even mushrooms and resting insects. I saw a lot and yet I probably only saw a fraction of what lived on it. And all of it looked even more charming in the light of afternoon autumn sun.

mosses just above the ground

higher up
 
different moss growing on a tree-trunk

resting on the tree-trunk


amazing combination of colours



where it splits into branches

the tree
 
 
 

25 November 2012

Beyond civilization

•trees, grass, mud and water

That is exactly where I spent this weekend. My friends and I have decided that the successful passing of our final uni exams needed to be celebrated, however, it took us 2-4 months to bring that celebration into reality. Eventually, this Friday, off we went to one of the most remote places that we have ever been.
Eight of us have journeyed to the big house, lost between the peat bog and the woods, surrounded by trees and muddy swampy meadow, where the floors are cold, the water in the well is not suitable for drinking and the fire has to burn at all times to keep us warm. Every urge to go to the outdoor dry toilet is followed by a series of careful thoughts and then supressed, because you'd rather be in urge than cold and if you have to go eventually, possibly accompanied by a good friend (who will possibly not talk to you about criminals hiding in the woods and not lead you into thinking horror movie thoughts like mine did) with head-torch as a necessary piece of equipment,
Nevertheless, cooking goulash on the stove, geocaching, playing board games in the light of gas lamps, sleeping in a sleeping bag near the cracking fire (unless you fail to wake up every two hours to put another log on there), talking absolute nonsense and drinking Cuba Libre until half past two in the morning was great.


•little bits of forest

23 November 2012

Pre-Christmas baking



Coconut cookies
Christmas is still one month away from now, but last week we made some Christmas-like cookies :)

First of all, because the next time that A and I will see each other will be after Christmas and second of all - because the supermarkets have already started selling pre-made cake doughs of different flavours. I know that it's the best to make your own mixture without all the additives and preservatives, but this time I decided not to gamble (my cooking skills are still nothing to boast about) and just enjoy the baking process with the good feeling that the result will not go crazy/melt/burn as soon as I put it in the oven.

First, I played with the coconut dough. As the only currently available cutters in my kitchen were a spider, a caterpillar, a fish, a seal, a shark and a snail - definitely no Christmas-related shapes, I decided to use a tiny little shot glass to cut the circles out of dough. Oh yes, I also used a mug to roll it, because you wouldn't find a rolling pin around here - students' flat, what more do I need to say... (We used to have a bottle of rum for that very purpose at the old place, but that got dumped somehow during the process of moving).


And now the best part comes - based on a magazine suggestion, I used old glasses with 3D bottoms to press shapes into the cookies. It's incredibly simple and the result is wonderful. The only thing you need to keep in your mind is that you need to work as quickly as you can and do the pressing just before putting the cookies in the oven - otherwise the shapes might be less distinct.


Some of the glasses also had the shapes on the sides, so I tried rolling them onto the dough before actually cutting out the cookies and the result was nice as well. There's nothing as old-fashioned as a cookie made with an old-fashioned glass.

 
A few days later we had a go at the gingerbread dough, this time using the aforementioned cookie cutters. It wasn't nearly as much fun, but the result was nice as well. Moreover, we had some sugar icing in a tube for decorating, so the evening turned into an on-floor cake decorating session : )
 


Yes, they do look a bit (all right then, a LOT) like they were made by a four-years old, but taste just the same and we blame it on the incredible sticiness of the icing  : -b

 
 

22 November 2012

Newbies


My invertebrate family has grown considerably last week, when a friend presented me with ten little (actually - about two centimeters big) giant African land snail babies. They will add up nicely to the other snails that I already have and to a millipede, mantises and beetles that I keep too. They will also serve as source of education - my friend has already taken them to a high school biology lesson that she taught and I hope I will be able to do the same in the near future. Yay snails!!

19 November 2012

So we went to see the "Breaking Dawn - part 2" today...

It was the first cinema date with my man ( and we've been together for over a year now! ). My man not only agreed to that ( he didn't read the book nor has he ever seen any of the Twilight saga movies or read the books - obviously!), but also managed not to fall asleep during the film (it was probably too loud). I did trick him a bit though – first I got him to agree to buying the tickets – he even used his card to pay – and only then I told him all the details from the previous three and half books. That's when he started to look scared. And to be honest, when he ran off to the loo just before the start, I thought I might find him as I will be leaving, sitting on a sofa with some food, claiming to be lost and unable to find his way back from the toilet.

The film itself was quite good, Rob Pattinson was wearing less of the white powder on his face and I have a slight feeling that his ( and her too!! ) acting has improved slightly since the "New Moon"(which is the last film of the saga that I saw), but I still pulled A's sleeve saying "He's wearing lipstic, he's wearing lipstick!" Of course, they had to add a little imaginary battle scene to make movie less of a total boredom for the male part of the audience that was involuntarily pulled in by their girlfriends (and I wonder how many of those guys will demand to get the money back from their girls or at least force them to buy them a beer to level out the incredible emotional harm they suffered and make up for the nearly two hours of wasted time).

As for us, we even shared a little romantic moment by the end of it (me and my man, not me and Edward!), but after we got out, I made the terrible mistake of asking him what he thought of it. Right afterwards, he made a terrible mistake of saying it was „too much fantasy stuff put together that couldn’t happen in real life” – it was about vampires, it was about freakin‘ VAMPIRES !!!! So I’m sorry, so deeply sorry that it wasn’t as realistic as Spiderman, Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, because apparently all of those things are as close to our everyday reality as you can get. But mulled wine made up for that emotional harm and we got home safely, happily and thanks to my low tolerance for alcohol also in kind of a blur. 

17 November 2012

Almost Winter

I felt the blog needed a change. It was too jolly and happy and optimistic and green and lively for the dull, dark and cold weather that is currently making itself at home outside. Instead, I chose this photo - it is a picture from Christmas 2007 taken in a forest above Košice (Slovakia). It was a year when we didn't get much snow, but every single thing - trees, cars, leaves of grass - got covered in hard frost overnight. If I take a more cheerful one this winter, I will replace this one, but so far this one reflects my mood perfectly.


Christmas in Košice, 2007

I don't know whether it's my fault or the weather's or whose fault it is (yet am trying very hard to blame it on someone), but these days are so incredibly unproductive - I start doing one thing, then get distracted and never get back to it... It's all about blankets, snuggles, hot cups of tea and overeating by sweets here. Many people think that as we do not really go out that much during the colder months, we get a lot of work done at home. Sure, in theory, but am I a person strong enough to suppress my inner mammal craving hibernation? Baking cookies during the following week might wake my inner mammal up for a while... but only for a block of time long enough to produce and consume. It seems that Mr. Pianorebuilder will have to do the dishes.

15 November 2012

One evening in Košice

Once last week, I managed to get out and wandered through my city freely, just by myself. I shopped, I walked and I visited a place I haven't set foot in for nearly six years. It smelt and looked just the same as in my high-school times, it brought lots of memories and evoked a feeling of reflection and re-evaluation of life decisions until eventually all felt good and in the right place.
 
 




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