Archive for ‘Holidays’

2018, February 2

The Bohemian Quater Guest House in Skopje, Macedonia

I was so thrilled with Bohemian Quater Guest House in Skopje, Macedonia, I have to write my review of it here as well not only leave it on Booking.com. Hope some of you will find it useful.

Pros:

The place was clean, comfy, cozy and quiet even though there is a large boulevard around the corner. I have trouble sleeping if there’s noise, but had no issues here.

The property is in a perfect location! We could walk basically everywhere – we didn’t use the car once after arriving. One can reach the city center in about 15 minutes, the old bazaar in 20, the mall in 20 minutes, and there are several 24/7 bakeries, pastries shops and groceries around reachable in up to 10 minutes.

The bus stop is reachable in 5 minutes and I was most surprised that any trip (within the city, and even where the bus goes outside of the city, for example to visit Matka Canyon) is 35 Denars ($0,7 at the time of writing this).

The hosts are lovely, they speak English very well, and are knowledgeable, gave us ideas on what to visit, advice on which bus to take, and checked back to see if we needed anything.

A huge plus, I’d say, is arranging our registration and check out at the police station – I wasn’t aware before, but foreigners spending even one night at an address in Macedonia are required to register their place of residence within 24 hours of arrival. The host took care of this and we got to enjoy ourselves.
As far as I heard afterwards, the fine is pretty steep for not being able to present this paper at the state border if asked for it and also results in being banned from the country for a year. I’m happy the host was on top of his legal knowledge.

Cons:

In one place among the property descriptions it says that “Free private parking available on-site”, in other places it only says “Free parking”. I assumed it to be private parking in a garage or yard, but it is street parking.
That said, it is a safe neighborhood and we had no issues leaving our car in front of the property.

Overall we had a lovely time, the property was great and the city is very interesting to explore!

 

PS: If you book a holiday on Booking.com using this link, you’ll get 10% back after your trip. I am not an affiliate, but I can get $15 for referring you, after your stay.
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2017, December 8

Winter in a jar

For this Winter, I had to decorate the apartment very simplistically. That was pretty much the case since 2014 truthfully, ever since we had a very curious kitten underfoot. The next kitten is even more energetic. Didn’t thought that possible, but oh well. Simple decorations it is, so I decided on jar ornaments. I crafted something like it for last Fall and I love the way these Winter ones turned out!

Winter in a jar

jar with a lid, to your liking in size
Winter-themed items to place inside
tissue paper
crafting paper

Wash your jar(s) out well, and remove any labels from its side. Mine were huge pickle jars which I wrapped in a wet towel to soften the labels, then ran them under the tap and used a kitchen brush to rub the labels and adhesive off.
Let dry thoroughly.

Once dried, start adding Winter-themed items into the jar. I made two jars.
In one of the jars I placed red tissue paper, a fairy ornament I received for Christmas a few years back from a dear friend (from Soul Silver by Sally Sutherland), and a car driving home a pine tree. The latter I made myself by placing a cute ribbon around a craft pine tree, then gluing it onto the roof of the car.
Into the other jar, I added a string of battery-operated white yarn-ball lights and covered its on/off switch with some more red tissue paper.

Screw on the jar’s lid.
Mine weren’t a single color, so I cut out and glued on a round piece of crafting paper to cover up the pickle brand’s name on the jar lids.

Place your jar on a side table or where ever you like, and enjoy the Winter decor.

Happy crafting ;)

2017, November 24

The 12 Days of Love Letter Writing, 2017

For the last six years, More Love Letters have been putting a bow on the holiday season by rolling out 12 letter requests over a span of 12 days. I first took part in 2012, after writing my first love letter, then again each Christmas time, and along the years I chimed in with letters just by browsing the Letter Requests page.

The 12 Days of Love Letter Writing is a perfect way for one to show up this season and help people in need around the world. This year it’s taking place during December 4-15.

Each day, More Love Letters will publish a new letter request to the More Love Letters blog.

Love Letter Writing To-Do List:

One

Sign up here.

Two

Whip out fancy stationery.

Three

Clear out time to write love letters.

Four

Optionally, snap a few photos and tweet them to @moreloveletters or post them to their Facebook Wall.
Use the hashtag #12DaysMLL

Five

Write one letter or submit a note to all 12 bundles! The choice is yours!
All letters should be postmarked by December 20, 2017.

Your love letters will be bundled up with other letters from across the world and delivered by the new year!

 

2016, December 23

Christmas: Then vs Now

Recently I read an article, where it said “As you grow older, you begin to experience the “Christmas spirit” in a different way. Instead of counting down the days until Christmas starting Dec. 1, you are caught off guard when someone says that Christmas is only a week away. Your older self doesn’t necessarily become the Grinch, but the excitement that takes over your every thought slowly dims.”
How true! I wanted to come up with my own blog post on the subject. So, keep on reading.

10891570_10152917162037836_8858651081760795478_n

~

What was the holiday season like way back when I was a kid?
~ What is the holiday season now that I am pushing 30?

~~

Starting with Advent, we would listen to Christmas carols all day, every day, and sing along.
~ Now, I mostly forget to play carols or Christmas-themed songs, because I don’t listen to music much anymore.

The night before Christmas I would stay up late because I was too excited to go to sleep.
~ Now, I stay up late because at 10PM there are still a million things I need to get done.

On the 24th, I would wake up very early and all excited. The excitement level would only go up as the evening approached. (The custom is to receive presents on Christmas Eve, not on Christmas Day here in Romania.)
~ Now, I try to snooze the alarm clock five times before getting out of bed to skip breakfast and finish everything that didn’t get done the night before. The stress level only goes up as the evening approaches.

On Christmas Eve, my mom, grandparents and I used to go to church, and I was always in the Christmas play the kids at church would act out in front of more than 300 people.
~ Now, I don’t go to church anymore. (My mom and I go listen to my former high school’s choir concert, but that’s a a week or two before the holidays.)

During the play, one of my grandparents or my uncle would go to my mom’s house to decorate our Christmas tree and place presents under the tree – because I would’ve noticed if my mom wasn’t in the front row singing along carols with us kids. My grandparents decorated their tree and placed the presents under it before they left. My uncle did the same at my great-grandmother’s house.
~ Now, I decorate our apartment, my mom’s and my grandparent’s houses and their Christmas trees. Aside from helping with cooking and baking, and my own cooking and baking. I kinda like the being-surprised-by-a-Christmas-tree-materializing-out-of-nowhere idea better, but that most likely won’t happen ever again.

After the play, on our way out, all of the children at church would receive a small present.
~ Now, I am the one assembling presents for children (both my boyfriend’s and my firm take presents to ShoeBox Romania). An extra present for myself comes from Secret Santa at work.

First we’d go to my mom’s to find that Santa brought us a Christmas tree and presents. Then to my great-grandmother’s, and then to my grandparent’s for the same.
~ My boyfriend goes to his brother’s and they go over to his grandma’s. At home, I skip lunch to finish everything that didn’t get done the night before or in the morning. Then we go over to my mom’s and grandparent’s.

My Christmas wishlist would be a mile long. Yet everything was still a surprise when some of the items off my wishlist made it into the presents, because we couldn’t afford much.
~ Now, my wishlist is still long, but three quarters of it I ignore, and what I really need/want I buy for myself instead of flat-out asking for them. Presents aren’t surprises much anymore, because usually mom asks me if it’s OK to buy me “x”, and I correct her that “y” would be better as I haven’t used up the current “x” yet. Or, she’d call me three times in a row while my phone’s on silent, then immediately text saying “call me urgently!!!” to ask what color PJs I’d like, because she knows I needed to sew mine twice in one month.

We’d have dinner at my grandparent’s.
~ We have dinner at mom’s.

At the end of the night, my mom and I would go back to mom’s house. During school holidays I stayed with her, not with my grandparents as was my living situation during school time.
~ Now, my boyfriend and I go home to our cat to spoil the little fluffball rotten some more while watching a Christmas movie and maybe having a cup of hot chocolate.

On Christmas Day we would all go to church and have lunch at my mom’s place.
~ On Christmas Day, I try as much as I can to get out of the church part, but given I can’t, we all go to church together and have lunch at mom’s place.

~~~

I still like the holidays, and I do get excited. However, I do find this season stressful now, and sometimes I really wish I was a kid again and just enjoy it rather than be the one to do the work…
What do you think? What are your holiday preparations and holidays like? Do you find it more or less stressful now than twenty years ago?

Luckily, twinkle lights and hot chocolate help keep my spirits up!

Here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!!!

2016, December 9

What do You gift writers?

2016 is nearly over and I’d like to thank every single one of my readers for making it such an amazing one, and my bloggy friends who have filled it with so much awesome blogging, flash fiction, poems and even essays to read, each week!

Here’s wishing you all an early Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

tea-book-gift

As for my blog post’s title? I wrote this back in 2011 for FFDO, but wanted to share here on my own blog now since that website closed.

This is the season of gift giving, and more often than not, we end up with gifts we like, but which aren’t too related to our field. When I give a gift I like to really think about what the person would enjoy and use. Shopping for writers is rather easy, in my opinion, as we all have access to the basics.

While I do not personally have the one formula you could use to determine what each of your fellow scribbler and avid reader family members or friends would like to receive, I have put together a short list of things which could tickle their fancy.

  1. Gift baskets. I know what you’re thinking. Gift baskets come in all shapes and sizes, but not one shop or website carries one named “Writer’s gift basket”; right? They don’t, or at least not the ones I looked through around here as research for this article. So why did I include this here? Because, you can make it yourself!
    Grab a pretty basket and fill it up with: pens and pencils, pencil cases, bookmarks, journals, stapler & staples, ink (either for a pen or for a printer), notepads, erasers, post-it notes in any or all shapes and sizes, stationery, note books (maybe something fancier, like a leather note book), day planners, diaries, bookplates, writing-themed magnets (magnetic scrabble fridge tiles), a book light, memory sticks, and chocolate. Every writer loves chocolate.
  2. Books. Kind of obvious, yes. But every writer I know has a never-ending wishlist. Many have books on the craft of writing, technical books, collections of writing prompts or all those wonderful novels and poetry out there which they would love to own, yet simply can’t afford or feel that they shouldn’t indulge.
    See if they are willing to share the wishlist (or they might have one online on Goodreads, Amazon, or BookDepository so you can check it without them even suspecting what you are up to).
  3. I’d like to include Literary Magazines, either Single issues or Subscriptions under this category, too. This is a luxury most poetry or short story writers would appreciate as it’s always nice to hold a magazine in hand while reading rather than the average e-mail subscriptions.
  4. Amazon Prime might be a good idea as well. I think if there weren’t the added benefits like free same-day or two-day delivery, unlimited streaming for movies and series, hundreds of playlists and unlimited photo storage, the single reason a writer would choose Amazon Prime is: borrowing one book per month with no due date from the collection of over 800,000 books of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library!
  5. Other Software or Updates. In this very tech-y day an age, most writers use a laptop for writing, on a daily basis. The key software for these writers is a word-processing software. Most PC users use Microsoft Office-based Word, however there are other ones out there as well, like Scrivener or White Smoke.
    If you’re feeling fancy, ask if they’d like to switch from their free blogging platform to their own self-hosted domain. They’re not as expensive as eight years ago when I first started blogging.
  6. An editor. Let me rephrase that since editors might not let you tie a pretty red bow around their neck and agree to sit pretty under the Christmas tree: An editing session. Are the writers in your life in need of a second opinion? Are they letting their masterpiece collect dust on a shelf, or putting off writing/sending out query letters because it needs more editing? An editing session could help them out big time.
  7. A creative writing class, workshops or conferences. Either in “real-life” or online, many writers would like to further perfect their craft. Have they got fear of writing, issues with time management, or are in need of fresh creative energy to move out of a rut? There are several websites you can check out, and in case you can not decide on your own, include the writer in the decision making process. They are the ones who best know what they need.
  8. Customized items. Great for stocking fillers. In this area of gifts, there are many things you can customize, like jewelry: cufflinks, pins and badges, pendants, bracelets engraved with their favorite (short) quote, earrings;
    clothing: T-shirst, neck ties, hats, scarves;
    and even kitchen items: mugs, serving trays, bowls, wine bottles, etc. And you can never go wrong with writing-themed Christmas tree ornaments!
  9. High end pens. Quill pens, fountain pens, ballpoint pens. These are good choices for every writer of course, but especially for pen-enthusiasts.
  10. Book ends. They seem underrated, but I think they are worth keeping in mind because they not only keep books from falling off not-yet-filled-up shelves, they allow for building a bookshelf anywhere – on a windowsill, a desk, etc. They also come in all shapes and sizes and are customisable to your writer’s dreams.
  11. Time to write. This can be as simple as arranging play-dates, taking the kids to a movie one day per week, going to visit the grandparents without your spouse on a weekend, taking over some of the chores or cooking dinner yourself so your writer will have a bit of time to themselves, to clear their head from the everyday worries and write without interruptions.
  12. A place to write. If you are in the mood to make over a room in your house, how about giving your writer a cozy space to read and write in? A door to shut would be ideal, but even simply rearranging a shared space to make room for a bookshelf, a comfy chair, or a desk will go a long way. Build them a book lover’s Christmas Tree!
  13. A writer’s retreat or travel for research. If you can afford it, check out a few places close by and send your writer on a short writing retreat. Or if they have a trip coming up, offer to extend it by a few days. Send them on a short trip for research, if for example, they are city-bound yet writing about a beach setting.
    A weekend away from a noisy house, in a cute little bed and breakfast is guaranteed to make their year!

How about you? Would you be happy to receive any of the above listed? How do you shop for the writers (and readers) in your life? Any ideas I could steal?

~~~

As a disclaimer, the above listed are things I use and love, or I would love to receive.

I have personally worked with Karen Schindler in the past, and she has edited my work in such a way that she kept my voice throughout the stories; sometimes sending them back with edits that I didn’t even notice at first were not my own writing. I highly recommend Karen’s services.

In April 2012, I took Milli Thornton’s Ace Your 10K Day online class. She has several classes to choose from, her insight for the issues I had were more than helpful as they were easily applicable; and overall, Milli was a pleasure to work with.

If you’re crafty, a while back I made myself some classy handmade bookmarks, and cute corner bookmarksa writer’s clock, pretty calligraphy ornaments and a travelogue and built a Booklover’s Christmas Tree! With a little imagination, they can easily be transformed to your own needs and even crafted with your children to gift to the writer in their life.

Happy gift giving!

2014, December 20

Simple holiday decor ideas that will survive a kitty attack

xmas kitten proof 3

When I first started thinking about holiday decorating at home and at my boyfriend’s, I was a bit concerned about the latter.

As you may have seen from my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts, we have a really cute, but at-times-beyond-hyper kitty, Pixel. Almost nothing is out of reach unless shut behind a cabinet door, and everything is easily turned into a toy. A toy which usually gets destroyed in five minutes or less if we don’t notice in time. And we usually don’t.

I started searching for ideas of Christmas decorating when one has pets around. The tips I found were good, but not fully applicable for our case. We live in an open plan apartment, which means that Pixel can get into and onto anything and everything.

There are no tips out there for leaving a kitty alone with all the holiday decorations up while the owners are at work and out of the house for 10 plus hours.

This whole thing got me thinking. We’d just have to be creative when it came to holiday decorating this year. And I’m sharing below just how we achieved it.

xmas kitten proof 1

Simple holiday decor ideas that will survive a kitty attack:

Keep it simple. And I do mean Simple with a capital “S”!
Go for an easy yet effective design which will still be festive, but won’t grab your cat’s attention too much.
We’re going for the “Hmm, a new thing’s placed there, let’s see what it is. It doesn’t sparkle. I can’t make it move around much. Doesn’t smell interesting. Okay, I’ll go sleep now.” reaction from your cat.

Go with a small fake tree, and place it out of the cat’s reach.
Also, if you have a real pine center piece, only leave it on tables or nightstands when you’re at home, and place them out of reach before leaving the house.
You wouldn’t want your cat nibbling on real pine while you’re at work all day long (it’s toxic if ingested in larger amounts).

For the Christmas tree avoid using tinsel, glittery and breakable ornaments.
I found that using simple clothespin ornaments, plastic or metal balls, or securing the ornaments to the branches with a ribbon works perfectly. You can also use homemade decorations like salt dough ones, dried fruit and cinnamon sticks, nuts and pine cones – these usually won’t get a second glance (especially dried fruit, kitties dislike citrus-y aromas) and even if they do, they’re not expensive to replace.
Add bells, if your cat is afraid of the sound they make; or use them as a precaution so they’ll alert you if the tree is being tampered with.

Place decoration out of reach.
Decorate mantels, shelves, window sills and other areas your cat doesn’t get to. You can safely display holiday photos and Christmas cards you receive, Christmas stockings, and breakable decorations this way.
Hang wintery and Christmas-themed paintings, wreaths and simple garlands on the walls and doors.
Plants on window sills will get a festive feel from some bows over the pots, Christmas themed planters and plant stakes.
Secure Christmas lights by lining the window frame with them for a both indoor and outdoor decoration. Use the “all lights ON” setting instead of letting them twinkle on their own.

Make some jar ornaments, which you can leave even at your cat’s reach.
You can create very cute decorations with jars, using even your favorite glass ornaments, since your cat won’t be able to touch them after you place the lid on. You can even add tea lights to light inside them and place the lid back on once burnt, or go with battery-powered tea lights. If you have snow spray, go ahead and add a few puffs of it into the jars.
Just make sure they’re not someplace they can get knocked off from too easily.

Decorate with throw pillows and blankets.
Fun, Christmas and winter themed pillows and blankets are all around us in stores especially during winter and right before Christmas, and other than give your home a holiday feel, they’re also quite comfy, warm and snuggly.
You can even make your own sweater pillow cases.
The worst your cat will do with these is get all comfy and have a good long sleep on top of them.
Choose some Christmas themed table cloths for the dining area, dishtowels, oven mitts, aprons and refrigerator magnets for the kitchen, towels and fun-shaped soap for the bathroom.

Have pine cones and fruit on tables and counters using Christmas themed bowls and plates for them. Same goes for the cookies! Don’t leave them out overnight or when you leave for work though, if your cat might knock them to the ground. (We’ve fished apples out from under the kitchen cabinet before.)
Christmas themed dishware in general will give a more festive feel to your meal time. If you feel like it, buy a new bowl for your cat, too, to use during the holidays.

Light scented candles, or use aromatherapy oils. There are tons of candles out there you can buy! Scents like cinnamon, pine, apple, oranges, cloves, peppermint and vanilla are all great! You can even make your own natural room scents.
Also, cats usually won’t go near lit candles.

Place Christmas themed books on shelves and on coffee tables.
You surely have a couple of Christmas novels or anthologies laying around, and also craft or cookbooks. The colorful covers will decorate all on their own when placed on shelves with the front cover showing or all the Christmas themed ones placed together, stacked up on coffee tables, and in baskets.

xmas kitten proof 2

Do you guys have pets? How do you decorate so that they don’t destroy everything? Or have they already grown out of that habit?

Hope you enjoyed my tips! ;-)

2014, January 13

Recipe of the Month: Delicious Coffee Brownies

My mother used to make this recipe when I was still in high school, and it was the only form of coffee I could stand. Now that I occasionally drink lattes, I thought I’d give this a go at baking it myself and adding a little twist to it. What better time to try something new, than one day before the holidays, right?

The lemon juice and sea salt weren’t in the original recipe, but as I experimented, found that they bring out the flavor of the chocolate and coffee very nicely!

page coffee brownies

Delicious Coffee Brownies

Ingredients

  • 250 g butter
  • 500 g sugar
  • 200 g flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 g cocoa
  • 100 ml coffee
  • 100 g chocolate
  • 2 g baking powder
  • 2 g sea salt
  • half a lemon

Melt the butter and sugar, cocoa and previously brewed coffee. Set aside 20 tablespoons of it to which you’ll add the diced chocolate.

Cool down the remaining mix, after which add the egg yolks.

Pour it all onto the beaten egg whites. Add the flour a couple of tablespoonfuls at a time stirring gently. Mix the sea salt and baking powder in half a lemon’s juice, then mix into the batter.

Bake for about 40 minutes at 180-200 C.

When it’s done, spread the glaze on top and let cool.

Optionally, make markings with a knife as to where you’ll cut the slices once it’s cooled down.

Happy baking! ;)

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