Pancake Week 2017 p.1

Hello-Hello! Welcome to Pancake Week 2017! Because I have a not-so-secret addiction to pancakes, everyone who I can get my hands on during this week shall eat pancakes!

Maslenitsa – aka the Pancake Week / Butter Week / Crepe Week – is a folk and religious holiday for the Orthodox Christians, celebrated during the last week before the Great Lent. A whole week to eat pancakes!!! To gain some fat before long and exhausting fasting, basically.

Maslenitsa is probably the oldest Slavic holiday with origins deep in the Pagan festival of the Sun, a celebration of the end of winter. Personally I think that Pagan tradition makes much more sense than this appropriated Orthodox Christian.

You can read more about Maslenitsa in Wiki or simply Google it and scroll through dozens of images – it will give you a pretty solid idea of what the hype is about. For me, it’s about family to gather around a tasty festive meal. Pancakes just happen to be the perfect reason!

Pancake week 2017. Day 1: Done! And consumed 🙂 Oladyi* with apples.

SAMSUNG CSC *oladyi are palm sized pancakes made with eggs, flour and buttermilk. Traditionally, oladyi are Ukrainian pancakes. Mine are thinly sliced apple rounds dipped in /covered with pancake dough and fried.

Stay tuned for more pancakes from around the world  throughout the week!

P.S. Here are my posts on Maslenitsa from the previous years:

  1. Pancake Week! 2014

  2. Pancake Week 2015

  3. Pancakes Around the World, part 1

  4. Pancakes Around the World, part 2




Where Winter Wonderland Comes From


We have discovered where winter wonderland comes from! It’s from a tiny mountain village of Idyllwild in Southern California. For us, it is undoubtedly one of the most significant discoveries of 2017.

The place is exactly what is sounds like – Idyllwild. Say it. Taste it. Feel the tremble of expectation, the urge of discovery rising inside? That’s the subtle magic of Idyllwild.


img_20161231_120006Silence and grandeur enwrapped us upon arrival. For city dwellers like ourselves, silence was quite a unique pleasure.  And as if the majestic surrounding was not enough, there were squirrels and elks right at our doorstep. This squirrel is almost like a pet of our hosts – it comes daily at breakfast time for his share of peanuts.

Speaking of magic, Idyllwild sure enjoys a pun or two with a gullible visitor. For us, the Mountain Center pun was the best played. For you see, from its name, we expected it to be a Visitor Center of sorts, on the top of the mountain, of course. But what do we know?! It’s an actual geographical center of the mountain! Without a visitor center but with a lovely homey cafe (Mountain Center Cafe) and a gas station (with very reasonable prices).


The other trick – quite literally, the Riddle of the Sphynx type of trick – is getting to Idyllwild. Since Idyllwild in located in the mountains (on the Hill, as locals say), the road from the surrounding plateau (Valley, as the locals refer to) is winding (from Banning, CA). And believe me when I say it’s winding. The fact that the road is called a Panoramic Highway does NOT compensate for the stress of driving up along it. 80 miles of head-spinning up-going winding-ness!


The trick is to take a less winding route (through Hemet, CA), which is longer and therefore not suggested by the cursed GPS.

We, naturally, took a shorter route. And since we were going to celebrate the New Year there, it was winter as we drove from Las Vegas to Idyllwild, implying that it gets dark early. By which I mean that we got to Banning, the starting point of the 80-mile ascend, at dusk. Those of you with good imagination may easily envision how much we enjoyed the Panoramic Highway, driving in the dark, for the first time, not sure of the road conditions, slowly creeping like a turtle not to miss a turn. Oh, did I mention the screaming baby in the back seat? Well, now you have a full picture. Be happy you were not the driver that day 🙂

But it was all worth it! Idyllwild Nature Center, Humber Park and the downtown are a candy to the eye and joy to the heart!

The world’s largest pine cones grow at Idyllwild Nature Center grown  – at least that’s what we were told by the Canter’s ranger. Granted, those pine cones are ENORMOUS,  larger than those we saw at Big Bear Lake, and in this pic they are still closed:


The downtown is all rustic and wooden, with plenty delicious locally-owned restaurants and TWO huge Christmas trees! Both of which are a growing trees, a part of the community. Isn’t that precious?!

If you are not yet convinced that Idyllwild is the most idyllic place to celebrate winter holidays, I give you my ultimate reason: Wishes come true here.  Mine did. Idyllwild made my first wish of 2017 come true! I wished for snow. Seriously, having spent 5 winters in Vegas I longed for snowy New Year. And it happened! It started snowing on New Year’s Eve and on the first day of 2017 this is what we woke up to:     



On Christmas Trees and a Series of Fortunate Events

4 years ago I came to HATE artificial Christmas trees in my home. I still do, very strongly. Before that the issue has never risen as in Ukraine an artificial Christmas tree – although available for purchase – wasn’t even considered an option. But since we moved to the U.S., Love has taken a strong stand against real Christmas trees for several reasons. 1. It’s a waste of money. It’s financially sane to buy an artificial tree that would last 5-7 years. (I agree that $50 for a real tree annually is too much, even for an irreplaceable symbol as it is, especially when a To-Buy list is endless). 2. Artificial trees are more environmentally friendly, since cutting down real trees is cruel. If people stopped buying real trees, the industry will stop supplying them, therefore saving the trees. (This is wrong. See video above). 3. Real trees are a hassle to set up and a mess to get rid of. (Cant’t argue with this, but I am ready to suffer the inconvenience for the pleasure a real tree brings. Besides, it’s not him who cleans up all the mess anyway).

So, for 3 years we fought over a Christmas tree but I managed to get my way (read: Love gave in for the sake of peace of HIS mind).

But in 2015 a friend left his artificial tree to us. I did not want it, but Love took it in and considered that a closed issue. So, for the 2016 New Year I was stuck with this tree. And even though it is a surprisingly beautiful tree, I came to HATE its kind viciously.


I felt so bad about this whole tree issue that I was almost ready to quit this year. I still took that artificial tree out, set it up and straightened the branches but could not make myself decorate it. So it stood for 3 days, sad and hated, until a text message changed the picture. The message was from a friend who told me that they got a huge real tree for $5 from a Lowe’s couple blocks away from my house. Just a day or two before Christmas!

Naturally, I rushed in and got myself a beautiful 7 ft tree for $5. But because it was late when I got to the store, there was no-one to prep the trunk for installation (they usually drill a whole in the trunk and cut the bottom parallel to the ground for easy set-up at home). So, I dragged my tree through the store and God knows how pushed the humongous beast INTO my Ford Focus sedan. This is very close to what it looked like:


At home, after I pulled the tree out of the car (which was a whole long and different story!), I realized that the trunk did not stand quite straight. SAMSUNG CSC

So, I was very diligent paying close attention to drilling the hole as perpendicular to the ground as possible, so that the tree stands perfectly straight in its holder. And this is what I got: Next time you need an illustration to the word “Screwed”, look no further! You are welcome!


At this point Love – who was more than patient with my endeavor – threw in the towel. And we had a great laugh at my craftsmanship and knowledge of elementary physics 🙂 The next morning I had a brilliant idea (I know, I know, need sparkles ingenuity). All I needed was another type of holder! Like this one, which I immediately went and got from a thrift store for $3:


And this is what a true happy ending looks like:

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A nice cherry on my pie was the star to top the tree. For, you see, I have not had any top on our trees, artificial or else, for the past 5 years. So, this is quite special 🙂

Hope you all had jolly holidays!


This is Wrong – on Many Levels!


Is it only me or the slogan “So they can be hungry for more” in an add to help fight child hunger is utterly, unacceptably, enragengly wrong?!

This is an add campaign in my local Albertson’s (a grocery store). This poster is on every check-out stand, just above eye level, passed by dozens and dozens people daily. And no-one has ever paid attention. Even the employees don’t read it. A couple of them came out and started asking what it was that I was taking a photo of.

Here’s my problem with this add and the whole campaign.

How could have such add been created in the first place?? I mean, the process of creating an add is a long one, involving many people of various levels of power and – as we clearly see here – intellect. I simplify, but usually a creative team comes up with a couple of slogans, one of which is approved by a manager, later to be approved by a board. In this  particular instance, How did it happened that NO-ONE saw how outrageous the slogan above is?!

The answer may be in the human nature. We are lazy. We got a general idea of the add from a quick glance – help fight hunger by donating to provide breakfast to those in need. No-one reads the whole poster. Trash magazines with their low-quality photos and screaming headlines are way more entertaining.

Bottom line: hunger is real. It is real for thousands of people even here, in a first world country like the USA. And every penny, every bit, every effort counts and helps.  So, instead of turning away we must pay attention to the problem as well as to an add like this. Begin with paying attention to an add in your grocery store. Campaigns may actually reach their goals if we pay real attention. If not, we will at least get rid of printed adds like in the picture  above.

That’s my Six Word Saturday. Go see what Cate and her guests have to say!

Hidden Jems at Las Vegas Renaissance Fair 2016

Last night I promised to share pictures of the visitors of the Fair that caught my eye. I have made the same promise to the good people who were kind to let me take their photos.    

Last year it were the ladies who shone for me – such taste, such creativity, so much effort invested into costumes! Every single one was an eye candy! 

This year I was pleasantly surprised that whole families dressed up in period costumes to enjoy the Fair:

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Individuals were harder to catch, but I could not resist taking a photo even when they had already passed me by. This girl in particular was so organic and deep in her character that both me and Love just stood there peering at her, instead of approaching and taking decent photos as she deserved! 

Lady Butterfly told me that it took her almost a year to create her magical wings! The frame is welded and attached to door hinges so that the wings could move naturally. The whole construction is carried on a kind of back pack straps and can be taken off when needed.  


More fairies, front and back. Or are they actually birds? 

Princess Xena and Gabrielle20161008_165014A gorgeous elfine princess:20161008_163442

I had a lovely chat with these fine ladies, who are part of a guild. I wish I could stay longer and continue our conversation – it would have been most interesting! Alas – demands of mothering a small kid prevents one from having intellectual discourse… 

20161008_172845All in all, it was a diverse crowd:  

Speaking of diversity, I could not recognize this gentleman, even though I instantly felt I know him. What’s your guess, who is this white-haired guy?


This is all for this year, no more Renaissance here in Las Vegas for me, but it’s a moveable feast 🙂 

Next year I hope to finally have my camera (not a phone) with me and spend a LOT MORE time at the Fair. And I already have a costume!!

Thanks for visiting with me and again – thank you for all the participants and guests for making Age of Chivalry such an amazing event!

P.S. If you see yourself or someone you know in the photos, do make yourself known in the comments! 



Las Vegas Renaissance Fair 2016

Disclosure: I have to warn you upfront that this post is by no means an exhaustive account of the Age of Chivalry 2016. The festival lasts three days, Friday through Sunday, from 10am to 10pm. There are more than 40 guilds and troupes, over 60 craft vendors, up to 20 stages for performers. I attended only on Saturday and had to leave at around 8pm (yes, right when the real fun was about to begin!) Below are my impressions of the day and characters who caught my eye and touched my heart (some – quite literally!).

Useful info: Location is Sunset Park. Entrance fee is $15/person per day or 3-day pass for $30. Food and drinks, including alcohol is sold by numerous vendors on site – you won’t go hungry! Parking is ample and hassle free in the designated areas, with free shuttle service to and from the festival, every 5-15 minutes.  

Costumes: If you are a costume enthusiast like myself, you will surely arrive dressed up in the best fashion. However, if for some reason you came unprepared, do not fret! You will find everything you may (and may not!) want at the vendors. A shopping-hater in me dies a quick death as soon as I find myself among those fabrics, delicate umbrellas, intricate jewelry, shining armor and noble weapons, precious stones, leather pouches, fairy-tale dust and spices. 

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In the Roman Empire, Caesar was promising to build a wall to keep the “wildlings” away. The crowd was quite amused.

The Barbarian Bourg (aka “the wildlings” 🙂 ) have actually established a strong presence throughout the Land this year. An impressive force they are:

Speaking of the wild side, Pan, an ancient Greek god of the wild, hunting and companion of the nymphs, was a wonderfully amicable creature: (wonder if my friend Aqueliana wrote about him? 


These guys know a thing or two about self-promotion:


I suppose by now you have gotten pretty hungry. Let me walk you through just a couple of taverns with their adorable hosts:

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Have you considered going back to school? Here’s a good option:

And what’s a good knight without a kingdom? Pick wisely, My Lord: 

As the sun sat we found ourselves in the Enchanted Forest (where we met a couple of very cute dragons last year) and I was once again convinced that it is my favorite place! Look, a fairy wagon! 20161008_18275120161008_182943

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The spirit and the guardian of the Enchanted Forest is the Dragon (Norbert?) and he is absolutely magnificent! Thanks to one of the fairies of the Forest for taking these beautiful photos:


Unfortunately, this is where I had to draw the curtain… BUT!! when the sun rises again, you will meet the good men and women of this Land, those whose spirit keeps the Renaissance alive in our dull reality – I mean us, the visitors, of course 🙂 Until next time!  

P.S. If you see yourself or someone you know in the photos, do make yourself known in the comments! 

Las Vegas Renaissance Fair is Here!

Age of Chivalry 2016 is working its magic and transforming our dull reality into a Renaissance fairy tale once again. Even if for a weekend, we are given the precious gift of time travel and not just to anywhere, but to the most romantic period in history! Kings and Queens, knights, pirates, Vikings, craftsmen, magicians, exotic dancers, street performers, noble ladies and gents, and so much more – a whole world which is even better than the reality of that past as the festival gathered the most interesting and anyone will find a place they feel they belong. 

We are heading to the Fair and I’ll have a full report for you on Monday.

If you can’t wait till Monday, here is my post on last year’s Festival 🙂

Here are a couple pictures from the past years, to warm you up for the upcoming: