Wednesday, October 5, 2016

DYI Paper Helicopter for Rainy Days with Kids

Are you inside on a rainy autumn day with nothing to do and an energetic child who  loves helicopters (and planes and trains and buses)?

Here's a tip for an activity you can do with him (or why not her?), old school or maybe Montessori: build something like a paper helicopter using sticks from ice creams you ate during summer and cardboard paper? Really easy,; I found this in a kid's magazine.

All you need is cardboard paper, 4 wooden sticks like the ones for ice creams (the "propellers" are from Magnum), glue, a cardboard tip from the separators inside the boxes in which eggs come in - goes under the propellers. My 3 year old was happy to cut, fold and crease (as instructed by me) and even happier to play with his new toy. There is room inside for a little toy friend.

PS. I also had a baby screaming for attention so I made a mistake and put the windscreen on the side - the green paper is rotated 90° - but I actually like it better this way, otherwise I would have had to paint a white square in front.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Homemade Kid's Play Kitchen

My 3 year-old loves to cook for us. Of course it's just make belief but he is learning a lot and I also get to see what he's picked up from us. I often cook with him around and I get him to help me either by peeling a carrot or stirring the eggs for an omelet. This way he feels useful, he learns new things and hopefully will get to appreciate the food.

Until recently he didn't have a play kitchen at  home, he just had fruits and vegetables he received at Christmas, the Ikea ones are really well made and some dishes made out of plastic food containers, his own invention. Once, he decided his oven was under the couch, another time he had an imaginary sink by the bar. I like his creativity and imagination so I was in no hurry to buy him a kitchen but he played with one at our friend's houses and in the play areas at restaurants.

The second reason I wasn't in a hurry to buy him a kid's kitchen is that those things are expensive! Most are branded and they sell them for a bucket of money which I don't think is fair. On top of it, many are just plastic and not very pretty in my eyes. Wood kitchens are even more expensive, even second hand ones. Again, Ikea have a nice one but do you do when the kid outgrows it? Ok, probably not happening soon.

I liked the idea of making the kitchen myself so I turned to the internet and found ideas for cardboard kitchens. You can buy the cardboard boxes with the cut outs and drawings from these guys KiddoBox Toys, thanks Miruna for the tip.

But still, the idea to make it for him with him was still there. So I started gathering boxes in the garage until the light came up in my head that my husband had this nightstand/cupboard he had bought for his dorm room which was now gathering dust with only a sweater in it. The end result is below:

I scoured the cheap shops to find the bowl for the sink and the metal gas stove protection I used as a...gas stove, not that difficult to find. I wanted to put some sort of fake faucet but decided against it because he is using the screws and buttons from the wood workbench as buttons for the stove and faucet for the sink. I don't ask questions. it's like it is. The fruits and other produce stay in the cupboard and his mixer and laundry machine on the lower shelf. And voila! You might be asking why the wood tools there? I just needed a place to put them and this seemed perfect, out of the reach of a crawling little brother.

The young chef cut the double sided tape himself as I instructed him and we put everything the way he wanted it. I could've bought the cardboard kitchen, or the one from Ikea which has the added advantage of storage space but the excitement in the kid's face as he was sticking the sink bowl to his dad's old nightstand...priceless.

Tonight we had salmon soup with hot peppers, coconut and yogurt, all together. Yummy! :)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Getting All Dressed Up - Milotice Castle

In the heart of Slovacka area of the Czech Republic you can find the usual, the vineyards that go on for miles, the little houses that the winemakers use to produce and store the wine in and you can also find the less likely: a baroque castle with an immense collection of costumes you can try on.

This is Milotice Castle. When you walk in you are surrounded by these baroque statues of dimple cheeked angels and fat Madonnas. You won't expect to like the dress up but trust me, it's fun.

The Castle café is like going back to grandma's old house, lace, old pots and embroideries welcome you in this odd space that serves pretty much the same sweets and beverages you're used to, coffee, lemonade and cake. You'll realize by this occasion that the Saecher cake is just nothing much.

The light is a little off in this place, You'd think you stepped into another time. It gets even more weird when you get to the beautifully tended castle gardens and you notice what seems to be characters from a vampire movie, going around in broad day light, or maybe princes or characters from a play all dressed up in fancy costumes. It seems the big attraction in Milotice is not the baroque building or the statues, not even the garden but the collection of costumes. You can try one out and go take photos in the garden in your best Contessa dress. For 30 minutes only and for a little less than 10 €. But don't ask for a pirate or count Dracula, these are real imitations of real 

To visit the chateau, first take a look at thir webpage, they are open all year round Also in the area are the better known castles Lednice and Valtice. If you feel like a change, you can go boating on the Bat'a Canal built by the famous shoemaker.

If you are in South Moravia for the wine, do stop by the castle at Milotice, there are wine cellars in the village you must stop to visit to have a taste of the best this region has to offer. We had a local prepare a wine tasting for us and I have to tell you, Moravians can make some excellent wines, the Palava is one you must try but also the more famous Tramin.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Firefighter birthday party

I recently threw a birthday party for a 3 year old, and yeah, it's been 3 years already, oh my god! Since he's already a big boy, I decided to give his party a theme. But which? There were plenty of choices, an abundance even, he doesn't watch tv but he has so ,any interests. I'll list them all to inspire you and maybe force me to come up with more posts.
  • Airplanes, helicopters and airports
  • Trains
  • anything green
  • the forest
  • the house and the garden
  • Building site and construction trucks
  • Trucks and cars
  • Fireengine
  • Ambulances and police cars
  • Cooking
  • Animals - around the house, in the forest, at the zoo
I chose of course to do a Firetuck/firefighter themed party, complete with a cake, decorations and games to match the style. You can check out my inspiration on the pinterest board I created about firefighter themed birthday parties.

The color scheme is red orange and yellow to represent the flames, I put them against the white backdrop of the table cloth. The blue ballons represent the water drops that quench the fire, very poetical, isn't it? I don't know what the green is for, but there had to be green ballons and the grass, he loves anything green (note for the future, start the theme from the kids favorite color not from the birthday present)

We did some craft sessions the week leading to the party, this is how we produced the flames on the table and posts, and the flames for the game.

The flames were made out of crepe paper following the instructions here. Really easy and the kid loved to cut the paper

We colored the cups using acrylic colors. I let him play with the paint and then did them all over again by placing my fist inside and just going left right with the brush strokes. The trick was to place the cups on the bottom, not upside down, if there are any drops they go down, so eventually it will look like flames going up, once you stack the cups. I used 10 styrofoam cups but really only needed 6. For the water, I gave them a beach handball ball because I had it around and it was blue and soft but you can paint blue a styrofoam ball used for flower decorations and reuse it afterwards.

I went online and printed some easy coloring pages involving firefighters, firetrucks, a flame, a cat, that sort of thing. Easy peasy, for 2-4 year old kids. You can find them on my pinterest page.

For the food, I cut veggies and fruit in the theme colors, I made pigs in a blanket and baked pommes noissette because they look like great balls of fire :)  I ordered pizza because it was too hot to bake some more and served beer for grown ups, apple juice and raspberry soda for the little guests.

The cake was made by my friend Ivana. I just showed her my ideas, either the firetruck like she had already done in the past or a layered cake and she chose the layered one because it was cooler. I think both are hard to make and admire her talent. This is her facebook page if you are in West Bohemia.

Since the kids had fun, I think I'll throw more themed birthday parties, I just need to find an excuse.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Short Walk in the Center of Pardubice

Pardubice, on the Elbe river is one of Czech Republic's most important industrial centers, historically focused on chemistry (this is where Semtex explosives come from), more recently electronics and machinery companies together with an oil refinery have brought new business here.

The city is known internationally for one of the most difficult horse races, the Steeple Chase and the indoor motorcycle race it hosts. But these are not the only attractions, inside the Czech Republic, the renown of Pardubice is linked to the gingerbread made here which saw a rise in production in the 20th century and the cultural life is also booming with music festivals and great theater. Well-known is the comedy theater festival held in the city's beautiful Art Nouveau theater house

If you stop by for an afternoon, start your trip at the information office, right next to the Green Gate, at Nam. Republiky 1. Here you can get your complimentary map and brochure where the main points are highlighted on and you can even follow one of the itineraries suggested there. Since the terrain is so flat, biles are very common with very good bike routes in and around town.

The city of about 90 000 inhabitants  has an old center reminiscent of the gingerbread that made it's fame and an interesting looking castle surrounded by gardens. Noteworthy is also the pedestrian area with cafés and restaurants, one being the Potrefena Husa in the Grand Shopping mall.

Passing the Green Gate, Pernštýnském náměstí the city's main square opens up to the visitor. It is a quiet square on a warm August after-noon but the imposing City Hall provides the background for the many fairs and festivals. A Marian Column and baroque houses complete the décor of one of the mot beautiful center squares in the Czech Republic.

Continuing towards the Castle, one will discover that it is surrounded by beautiful green gardens, a real heart of the city as many families meet here to enjoy the modern playground for children. Many sports events are held on the sports field close by.

The Castle itself is quite unique in Central Europe, a white, imposing Palace surrounded by castle walls, it used to belong to the lords of Pernštejn in the 16th century. Inside, it houses early renaissance murals as well as the Museum and the Gallery of East Bohemia, making it interesting enough for a stop over.

Pardubice is easily accessible by train from Prague or Brno, being an important railway hub in Eastern Bohemia or by car, following the D11 highway linking Prague and Hradec Kralove. Other day trips can include Kutna Hora, where there is a huge ossuaire and Kolin, where there is a Toyota plant. Both of these places are on the way to Prague, following quaint roads through villages.
 More information on


Monday, August 29, 2016

Czech living - Czechs love ice-cream

As soon as the temperature goes up, even just a little bit, just enough to reach two digits, Czechs of all ages line up for ice creams. It's a proven fact that there is no season for an ice-cream, here in Czechia. The weather is normally mild in these parts, the summers not very hot and the winters, cold but not extremely so

Come fall, ice-cream stands in other parts of the world lose their flags and start to disappear or at least try to become invisible as they make room for more seasonal snacks. But not in the land of Kafka. Be it spring or winter one can see small kids and grandma's, big muscle guys or dainty damsels all happily licking away a sweet cone or a popsicle. The peak season is of course summer when people queue up for a cold and delicious zmrzlina.

Yap, you read that right, yes, there are no less than 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! 5! consonants one after the other without a single vowel between them in the Czech word for ice-cream. Makes your tongue twist and turn in your mouth, a good exercise for dealing with the frozen delight may it be on a cone or on a stick.

Ice cream comes in all shapes, sizes and flavors. The flavors are as plentiful and mouth watering as everywhere, or at least in Italy, the country most would associate with ice-cream. As for the size, this is up to everyone's appetite. The dictionary also  knows more than one type of ice-cream. Zmrzlina, or frozen one, comes in a cone or a cup, as a scoop, a "kopeček" meaning small hill or as soft ice-cream - točene - spun from a machine. Then there is the nanuk, the inuit master of bears, this is the name for ice-cream on a stick and finally the Russian ice-cream - ruska zmrzlina, basically ice-cream sandwiched between two waffles. And lets not forget the donut filled ice-cream cone that made a buzz on the internet. In February! Go to for more on this caloric bomb.

Don't worry, Czechs still love their beer. Not the kind to fear a soar throat nor an upset stomach, they indulge in both, all year round. And after all, why not, it's such an innocent treat. What's your favorite?

PS: I was thinking of making a series about Czech culture. Already wrote about beer, remember?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Depo2015 - a Space for Creativity and Art in Plzen

2015 marked the year that Plzen was European Capital of Culture. Linked to this, an old bus depot was transformed in a huge exhibition and events space. The outside parking, once used for buses and trolleybuses has hosted events as diverse as street food festivals, giant puppet shows, and an exhibit on public transportation.

The blue tanks are the guardians of the area
The armadillo - Ford Ka is inviting everyone for a visit
The space continues to be alive even now that Aarhus in Denmark and Pafos in Cyprus took the relay as European Capitals of Culture. Depo2015 intends to combine art and culture with entrepreneurship. Inside, it hosts young artists and entrepreneurs who can rent space and tools they need for their projects and meet each other in a co-working environment. Workshops are also organized, teaching sewing and woodworking to the public of all ages.

Probably the most prominent feature of the grounds is the art installation of Čestmír Suška workconsisting of re-purposed beer, water and gas tanks some of which can be climbed for a view of the neighborhood and the river Radbuza, not far from here. Although huge, these metallic structures seem delicate and fragile, almost made of lace.

Some of Suska's work

Map of the area

With a very nice café and the workshops organized here, the old depot is coming back to life and harbors creativity just it once sheltered the city's buses. The Depo2015 is at 15 Presslova street in Plzen, open Mo-Fri 11.00-19.00, Sat-Su 10;00-18.00. It is accessible by trolleybus no. 10, 13 or 14 or as a short walk from the city center.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Hugging Pillow

As found on the door of a toilet stall in Ikea, Prague, if your guy isn't home, just put his dirty tshirt on a pillow and hug it.

I guess it can work with a breastfeeding pillow.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Hospital Food Pictures

Over the past 7 years I have had the dubious pleasure of being hospitalized 6 times. While 2 of those occasions were in the maternity ward, I was in the children's hospital 3 times and once in the neurology department but I don't remember that one :)

I have to say the service was very good, I always had everything I needed, for myself and for the kids but the food is still diet and typically Czech. Breakfast almost always included bread rolls and a slice of bread with cumin and dinners were light, fruit and yogurt wit ham and cheese and bread. Lunch was the biggest affair, of course, always 2 courses, soup and main dish.

The children's hospital is private, smaller than the maternity so they let me choose my lunch. The kiddo had a separate diet every time, according to the age he had, the last time he was a toddler already but he was there for a stomach bug so the poor thing got the bread banana biscuit rice diet. As much of it as he wanted. Pictured below is one lunch I had there, rice with a meat roll which was better than it looked and a yeast soup, very Czech but the jury is still out, not one of my favorite soups anyway. I had the same carrot bouillon they served the kid, pictured below, it needed salt.

The food in the maternity is the same as in the university hospital so I didn't get to choose. You can see the plates it came in to keep it warm. A bit bland and not so appropriate after a c section but still good value for money. The minced meat and veggie dish below was surprisingly good with a pinch of salt.

I'll post more hospital food pics if I find them on my phone or you can send me some. Hope your lunch today is not a hospital one :) Have a nice week.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Super Easy Delicious Yogurt Cake

I'll let you in on my go to, super secret super delicious recipe for a great loaf of cake. Did I mention it's super easy AND super fast? It's the basis for all the cakes I make, very easy to adjust to what I have in the pantry, easy to mix and virtually impossible to miss (unless you forget the cake in the oven)

You need to take one pot of yogurt as measurement unit.

1 yogurt (125-150ml)
1 yogurt pot oil
2 yogurt pot sugar
3 eggs
3 yogurt pot flour
5 gr baking powder
1 small bag vanilla sugar

Method: In a bowl, mix in all the liquid ingredients. Add the sugar and vanilla and mix until the sugar is melted. Mix the baking powder with the flour and add over the other ingredients, one cup at a time, making sure the flour has blended well before adding another cup. Oil a standard loaf pan and sprinkle flour to coat the pan evenly. Pour the batter in the pan and cook in the oven at 180°C for about 30 minutes or until a bamboo skewer or tooth pick come out clean.

Options and variants:

Apple or other fruits : for example add 1 big apple or 2 smaller ones - peeled and cut intro small cubes to the batter. Also works well with peaches, apricots, berries, etc.
Cacao marble cake: Set aside about 1/3 of the batter and slowly incorporate 1 measure Cocoa powder into it, until it is evenly brown. Put one spoon of the cocoa batter in the pan, next 2 spoons of regular batter and so on. You can make a mark with your spoon, be creative.
Banana : Like above, slice about 2 bananas and add to the batter but be careful, cooking time could be higher.
Coconut : add about one pot coconut flakes and about 50 gr chocolate chips.

Let me know if you have other ideas ow to personalize this cake. Enjoy!
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