Simple advice for a better life.

Party foodAnother year is passing us by, and a new one is just around the corner.

There is no better way to farewell an old year, and welcome in the NEW YEAR, than to do it with food and friends.

If you are planning such a fun gathering, and searching for some tasty appetizers, you stumbled upon the perfect site to get this information.

Since I am still dealing with leftovers from Christmas, I will not be posting new recipes this week, but will provide you with links to yummy recipes already posted.

Selection A:

Selection B:

Selection C:

If you are looking for a more substantial food selection, in addition to the appetizers, you may want to check these out:

I believe this list should be very helpful for you, and by next year, I should have more recipes for you to try.

Enjoy your party.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

My Special Christmas Tree Ornaments

Christmas TreeChristmas holiday is very special to all Christians, from a religious point of view,  but also in regards to the myriad of decorating ideas many of us love to experiment with.

Christmas Tree takes the center stage in decorating the home for Christmas.

Everyone has a certain theme they follow for Christmas Tree decorating.

My Christmas Tree has a Ukrainian theme, since it is adorned with numerous handmade decorations, as well as other ornaments purchased at Ukrainian church bazaars, and ethnic arts and crafts stores.

Last year I shared my collection of angels Christmas Tree decorations, and this year you will get to see my Ukrainian ornaments.

These are ceramic ornaments with traditional Ukrainian designs, which can also be found on various embroidered  cloth items, or wood art pieces.

Ceramic ornament 1 Ceramic ornament 4

The shape of these two ornaments remind of a Ukrainian church dome, or steeple.

Ceramic ornament 2 Ceramic ornament 5

The intricate geometric pattern is very prominent in Ukrainian designs.

Ceramic ornament 6 Ceramic ornament 7

Aren’t these just lovely?  So elegant, yet festive, at the same time.

Ceramic ornament 8

This ornament incorporates some of the traditional Christmas motif, hence the hand painted Holly leaves and berries.

Ceramic ornament 3 - commemorataive ornament for 1000 years of Christianity in Ukraine

This is my very special ornament, a contemporary version of a hand painted image of the Virgin Many, dressed  in a Ukrainian traditional attire, holding baby Jesus, wrapped in an embroidered cloth.

This ornament was created to commemorate the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine, thus the dates 988-1988.

If you are interested in Ukrainian Christmas Tree ornaments, or other art articles, you may want to visit these websites:

SURMA GIFT SHOP – New York City

UKRAINIAN GIFT SHOP – Largest Ukrainian mail-order establishment

THE UKRAINIAN MUSEUM GIFT SHOP – New York City

UKRAINIAN STORE-YEVSHAN – Mail order store

If you still did not find what you were looking for, you can always stop at Ukrainian church bazaars, or visit their gift shops.

If anyone is familiar with other such establishments, please share them with us, and I will include them in this post.

Ukrainian Christmas Eve Tradition

Christmas Didukh with Oat stalks from my Grandfather's farmUkrainian Christmas Eve is not only very rich in traditional foods prepared freshly that day, and shared by the family during the Christmas Eve 12 course meatless dinner, but also myriad of traditions are practiced before and after the meal.

This holiday was a lot of fun for children in the olden day, especially village children, as they had more freedom to frolic in the straw and hay brought into the home, and strayed over the floor and dinner table.  This act was a reminder for everyone of the nontraditional environment Mother Mary and Joseph faced that night, as they were awaiting the birth of Jesus.

Once the meal was all ready, and the children announced a siting of the appearance of the brightest star, the head of the household, normally the father or the grandfather, would bring into the home a beautifully arranged sheaf of wheat, and greet the whole family with a special greeting, and place the sheaf on wheat in the corner of the dining room.

Today, we usually have a flower arrangement with wheat stalks, or a dainty, miniature sheaf of wheat tied neatly with a red ribbon, and displayed in the home.

The above displayed picture of a miniature Ukrainian Ceramic Vase with Oats stalks, is my family replica of this Christmas tradition.  the Oats were grown on my Grandfather’s farm in Europe, and brought here on my last family visit.

A sheaf of Oats, rather than a sheaf of Wheat,  was our family tradition for Christmas Eve.  The sheaf was present in our home until the Jordan Water Blessing Day (Epiphany/Theophany), after which time it was sprinkled with the freshly blessed water brought from church, and given to the farm animals to consume.  Also, the Oats seeds were pulled off the stalks on New Year’s Day, and sprinkled at relatives homes, by the youngest boy of the family, visiting and greeting them with a special New Year’s greeting, to bring prosperity, health and good luck, in the new year.  He would be rewarded with tasty baked goods, and money.

In the city, these traditions were not possible to follow, due to small living space, so a handful of hay was placed in the middle of the table, or under a freshly pressed, pure white table cloth, rather than strewn all over the floor.

Kolach - Christmas Bread

Kolach, a special bread adorned with a burning candle, takes the center stage on the dinner table.  Picture of this kolach was taken at a cultural display during a Ukrainian Festival in PA, prepared by an unknown to me contributor.

Bread-garlic, Oplatek-honey

On the other side of the Kolach is a dish of honey, accompanied by chunks of bread, and peeled cloves of garlic (I use chopped garlic in flax seed oil).  Our family display also includes a special Christmas Eve wafer (Oplatek), normally used by Roman Catholics to share on Christmas Eve.  These wafers  are presented to us  by members of our family who also practice Roman Catholic traditions, as this unites us all together at least in spirit, on Christmas Eve.

This special arrangement is passed around the table and shared by everyone, right after we finish our before meal prayer, and  greet everyone with a special greeting “Khrystos Narodyvsia” -  Christ Is Born, with an appropriate reply “Slavyty Yoho” -  Glorify Him.

Kutia

Another very important item for that evening is the Kutia. A  whole wheat grain dish, cooked and flavored by honey, poppy seeds, walnuts, and raisins.

In the past, the head of the household, would take a spoonful of the Kutia and toss it toward the ceiling, and the more of the grains that stuck to the ceiling the more bountiful the future crop would be.  This tradition died out over the years, for practical reasons of course.

Christmas-Beet-Borsch-with-Vushka-300x214

Next dish served is the Christmas Eve Borscht with Vushka.

These special traditional foods, are followed by, several different fish dishes, including pickled herrings, a must at Christmas Eve.  Next you will be served varenyky (pierogi) with various fillings, holubtsi (cabbage rolls) with rice/mushroom filling, or buckwheat filling, mushroom gravy, cabbage with beans, other bean dishes, pickled mushrooms, kompot (compote -cooked dried fruits drink), jelled fruit dish, and a nice selection of baked goods.

Easy-Paczki-Quick-Donuts-300x178

Pampushky (homemade donuts), were always my mom’s favorite dessert, prepared just before Christmas Eve dinner, so they were very fresh, and absolutely delicious.

After dinner, the whole family gathers around around the Christmas Tree to sing Christmas Carols.

Ukrainians normally do not exchange gifts on Christmas, since they already received gifts from St. Nicholas on December 6th, but in the Diaspora, the children receive small gifts from St. Nicholas, and then again additional gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve, after dinner and caroling is all done, but before the midnight liturgy, which everyone is obligated, and encouraged, to attend.

Khrystos Rodyvsia – Slavite Yoho!

Merry Christmas!

Holiday Stress Affecting Children

Taking care of businessChildren can be so cute, adorable, loving, and entertaining, most of the time, but we all know that they also can have their patience trying moments.

Stressful situations surrounding the environment our children live in, can add to their behavior pattern.

Children are like little sponges, soaking up unbelievable amount of information on daily basis, not exactly understanding it all, but nonetheless, absorbing it all none stop.

Someone sent me this very interesting link to a video of a child having a temper tantrum, and how  adults should act, or react, to this situation.

I am sharing it with you all, since during the hassle, and bustle, of the holiday season stressful time, you might benefit from being informed about such scenarios.

Here are a few quotes from that article, but you should click on the link to see the video and read all the details.

Tantrums turn out to have a pattern and rhythm to them.

“Screaming and yelling and kicking often go together,” Potegal said.

“Throwing things and pulling and pushing things tend to go together. Combination of crying, whining, falling to the floor and seeking comfort — and these also hang together.”

“You know, when children are at the peak of anger and they’re screaming and they’re kicking, probably asking questions might prolong that period of anger,” said Green.

“It’s difficult for them to process information. And to respond to a question that the parent is asking them may be just adding more information into the system than they can really cope with.”

The trick in getting a tantrum to end as soon as possible, Potegal said, was to get the child past the peaks of anger. Once the child was past being angry, what was left was sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/12/05/143062378/whats-behind-a-temper-tantrum-scientists-deconstruct-the-screams

After you watch the video, please share your comments, or advice, for other parents to benefit from.

Gingerbread HouseWhile most children are awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, many others are expecting a visit from St. Nicholas.

My grandchildren are very excited about receiving  gifts from St. Nicholas, since they also get to participate in plays and poetry recitals at our local church, and youth organization.

It makes this holiday that much more special, feeling like a star, performing on a stage at such a young age of three.

This year, my granddaughter received a Gingerbread House kit from St. Nicholas, and could hardly wait to get home, to get the project started with her mom.

She was very patient, following all the instructions from her mom, and very meticulous about positioning all the candy in the proper places ( sampling few here and there…that’s part of the fun).

She was so proud of her completed project, and so were we, so I promised that I will post some pictures on my blog.

The front entry

This is the front entry to the Gingerbread house.  She was deciding on the colors and type of candy to use, and the positioning of the figures. Her mom handled the icing part.  The white base was part of the kit.

back entrance

She decided on a back entry as well, including additional windows. How cute is that.  Maybe that’s grandma’s private entrance?

Side view

A side view.  As you will see, she decided to decorate the house from all sides.  Good thing there was plenty of candy with this kit.

Side and roof

View of the other side, and top of the roof.  Not sure what all the gum drops represent on the roof top??

Close up roof and chimey

Close up view of the roof with a chimney.  She was very excited about the chimney, so I needed to point it out as well.

If you are looking for fun projects to do with your children, or grandchildren, putting together a Gingerbread House is a wonderful idea.

It lets you spend quality time with them, and makes their imagination run wild.

If your children, or grandchildren are older, you may want to make a Gingerbread House from scratch.

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