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 www.zamekmilotice.cz. 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 www.visitpardubice.com/

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