Every year on the morning before Christmas Eve there is a tradition in Greece of singing Christmas Carols, bringing the joyful news to every home. There are slightly different details in how this tradition takes place, from the actual time the Carols are being told, to who sings and to what song everybody uses. One thing in common is that mostly children sing them forming small groups and knocking on every door in the morning. Adults would sing mostly in the evening. The women will open the doors and after the Carols they will give a sweet treat, homemade or bought, winter fruits or nuts, a drink for the adults and a small amount of money to each group. The Carols always end in wishes for the home and family.
Here are a few Greek Carols if you’d like to hear some!
These are the most known Greek Christmas Carols:
And these following Carols are the most dear to my heart, they are the Carols of my village and my grandparents, that they brought with them when they had to leave their homes somewhere in the 1920′ due to the war. How wonderful it would be if nobody would have to suffer anything like that anymore!
And here is a beautiful, modern version of the above Carols.
With that, I wish everybody peaceful and joyful Christmas time!!!
Each year I try to find time to make some Christmas ornaments together with my kids. It’s kind of tradition. Once we made ornaments out of citrus fruits, but mostly, we make ornaments out of dough. But I really didn’t like the salt dough most people recommend. The shapes would not be clean and the colors weren’t what I wanted. So, I tried a white dough, which only needed three ingredients and they really turned out amazing! Exactly like I wanted them to. Here is how we made them…
For the white Christmas ornaments you will need:
– white dough
– ribbon (I used a red one with white dots)
– snowflake cookie cutter (or whatever shape you like more)
– plastic straw for making the holes
– baking paper
– sealer (optional, I used a spray sealer)
To make the white dough you will need these easy to find ingredients:
– half cup cornstarch
– one cup baking soda
– 3/4 cup water
– 1/3 cup glitter (or more if you want) – optional
– damp paper of fabric towel
How to make the white ornament dough:
To make the dough, just take a pot and mix the cornstarch with the baking soda and the glitter. Add the water and stir the mixture until you will have a smooth but still runny cream. Take the pot and put it on your stove on low to medium heat and stir all of the time. As you stir and time passes, the mixture will start to get thicker.
As soon as it resembles a dough consistancy (more like mashed potatoes) take the pot from the heat and cover it with a damp fabric or paper towel.
Wait 10 to 20 minutes (or more) until it has cooled down. When it has cooled you can take the dough and knead it until it becomes a smooth, soft dough. Now you can roll it out (I lined some baking paper on my working surface) and cut out your snowflakes (or whichever shape you chose).
Don’t roll it out too thin or your diy christmas ornaments will break easily, but don’t make them too thick either, since they will take longer to dry and they could also break easier because of that. 1/4′ thick should be good.
Make holes using the straw. Transfer the snowflake ornaments to a pan which lined with some baking paper.
Now it’s time for drying. You can either let them over night air dry (as I did) or maybe you could try drying them in the oven on low temperature for a couple of hours (didn’t try this, so I don’t know for sure!). As they dry, you will need to carefully turn them over from time to time.
Once they are dried you can use fine sanding paper to smooth out the edges and you and your kids can paint them, stamp them or leave them white as they are like I did and you can add a sealer to make them more resistant.
You can find lots of videos or step by step photo tutorials on how to make this white clay online if you want to do more research.
My kids painted them and added their own ribbons and used theirs as gift tags for their Christmas presents, as well as for decorating their cookie treat bags we would left out for Santa!
Add the ribbon you like and there you have your very own Christmas ornaments!
As I love red and white Christmas decorations, I bought some red and white christmas balls for our tree and these white snowflake ornaments with the red ribbon are just perfect. The white snowflakes with the red ribbon make a great contrast and they look great on the tree!! I think this year, after making these wonderful foam glitter photo ornaments, I will make some of the other ideas I found on Pinterest as well, using the same recipe. I would really love to make some of these angel ornaments with my kids! Aren’t they cute?
We continue making some Christmas crafts. One of my favorites each year is to make ornaments. We have made ornaments out of citrus fruits and out of clay in the past, so this year I wanted to do some photo ornaments. They needed to be easy and cheap, since we wanted to make a lot. I want them to be gifts for grandparents and friends, as well as for children from our kindergarten.
I searched online and tried a few things. The idea I finally chose was to make some easy foam glitter photo ornaments!
So here is what you need to make them:
Foam glitter sheets. I chose white ones, but you can pick any color you think will go with your tree! I think silver, gold, red or green glitter foam sheets would be great choices, too!
Your frame template (you can find a lot of frame templates online and just choose what you like most. A bubble ornament shape, rectangles, ovals, stars, hearts or one like I used – you can find it here – are all great ideas). You can make one by yourself, too, by drawing it on cardstock or by even using different sized cookie cutters as a guide.
Silicon glue gun
Scissors (or craft knife), pencil and ruler
Your favorite photos, printed dimensions 6×4,5 cm (height x width)
To make them:
First adjust your template so it will be the size of your choosing (and capable of framing your photos). I made mine so they would suit my 6×4,5 cm photos. Next, print out your templates on cardstock. You can print two templates – one to make your frame and the other to leave without cutting out the inner shape.
Now it’s time for the glitter foam (I love that stuff!).
Using your template, pencil, scissors and ruler, cut out two pieces, one frame and one back side for each photo. To cut the inside piece, I used the knife to make a “x” first, so it was easier to use the scissors afterwards.
Using your hot glue gun, glue your ribbon to the non-glitter side of your back side piece. Next, glue your photo onto the same non-glitter back side piece. Finally, put some hot glue on the back of your frame piece and glue it onto the back side piece, so you will end up with a frame that both front and back is glittery.
Let it dry, cut off any excesses, remove any silicon residue and your beautiful Christmas ornament is ready to be given away or hung on your tree and bring joy!
I really loved how they turned out and they look so great on our tree! The kids loved them, too, as they got to choose their photos and hang them on the tree and they are really easy to make! I used black and white photos as well as colored ones and they all look gorgeous. You could also add some decorations to the frames and make them even more fun!
Try making them for loved ones or just to add to your family Christmas craft traditions! They will make a wonderful keepsake for many many years!!!
Every year as December begins, we prepare advent calendars for our kids. Sometimes we take the easy road and get some of those chocolate count down calendars as well, what can I say!
It has become kind of a family tradition to make a book advent calendar. It’s easy and kind of inexpensive, since we use a lot of loved and treasured books as well as a few new ones. I also include some Christmas activity books and even a Christmas Recipe booklet for kids – we will be making a lot of cookies I can tell you! You just wrap the books up and number them and open one book each day! It’s super fun and the kids really love it!! And so do I to be honest!!
The other advent calendar we made this year was my husband’s idea and he did all the work! He used cardboard and toilet paper tubes to make it! In each tube he placed a couple of treats, chocolates mostly, and a small piece of paper. On the paper he added a variety of “coupons” and activity suggestions that we can do on that day. The first was to decorate the actual calendar! We have coupons to watch a movie, make some DIY ornaments, bake Christmas cookies, sleep all together in the big bed, make some Christmas crafts and so on. The kids are really excited and can’t wait to open all of the surprises!
These calendars are really easy to make and all you need is some inspiration and to put love into them! Here are some other ideas to make DIY Advent Calendars, there is still time!!!
We had a short but nice trip today and decided to take a detour to a river. It’s the Aliakmonas River (the longest river in Greece). According to Wikipedia “the name Αλιάκμονας is composite and derives from άλς (salt, sea) and άκμων (anvil). In Greek mythology Haliakmon was one of the Potamoi, who were sons of Oceanus and Tethys, according to the allegorical obsessive-anthropomorphic concept familiar to the Ancient Greeks, on geological upheaval after Deucalion’s deluge.”
I wanted to take this route for a long time and thought that this time of year it would be stunning. And it was! So I wanted to share a few pictures I shoot with you! Enjoy!
The place the exhibition was set up is the same place where the International Fair of Thessaloniki takes place. We arrived there just a little too late (as always) but since there were many people as late as we, they did let us in. At first it was not that impressive and we grown-ups did had second thought about whether it would be worth the money spent. But the kids were all super-excited and looking forward to see the dinosaurs, so we waited in line to get the tickets and get started.
Once inside, you could see some dinosaur skeletons and interesting fossils. A guide began to talk about the dinosaur era to the kids and then took us to another room, which was a black light room (so everybody with white clothes was lit up…) and we had a “time travel” experience. Well, at least that was the plan, but unfortunately there was some techniqual problems and we didn’t experience it, ha! But, time travel is a difficult thing, after all! We managed though to move on to the main exhibition area, where they had all the life-sized dinosaur replicas and that was where the fun really began!
The kids where loosing it over how big the dinosaurs where, and since they had motion added to the replicas, they really looked alive! Our guides would tell a story for each dinosaur, describe it in form of a fun tale and incorporate many interesting information into the stories, along with some funny points. It was really entertaining, both for kids and adults!
After seeing many of the dinosaurs, we ended up seeing the king of them all, the T-Rex! 6 meters tall and 14 meters long!! Well, you wouldn’t want to meet this guy ever! Although, you might be able to dodge him, given how small we are compared to him!
All in all, there were about 25-26 robotic dinosaurs displayed and all where explained to us by three different guides. At the end of the tour, there was a “living” tree waiting for the kids (another robot), which told them a story about trees, nature and dinosaurs.
Lastly, we were guided to a room where the kids were able to be paleontologists for a brief moment, trying on a safety hat and digging around in a sand pit filled with “dinosaur bones”. They had a little party and were given a “paleontology diploma”. After that, you could buy some souvenirs or a picture of your kid on a special dinosaur displayed there!
All in all, it was a really informative and fun experience, especially for the kids, of course! They had a great time, learned a lot, and got to see their friends, too! What more can a kid (or a parent for that matter) ask for?
While I am not the most artistic person, I try to keep my kids creative and so I am always searching for some easy art projects, especially on rainy days. One project I liked specifically, was painting a canvas using paint and painters tape. It is really easy, and the results are great! You can choose whatever colors you think will complement your home or use metallic colors for vibrant art work. The possibilities are endless.
You will need:
Various paint colors
You can begin either by painting your canvas with a base color and leave it to dry or leaving the canvas plain white. Tape pieces of painters tape in any way you want, covering the canvas edge to edge. You can keep it symmetrical, geometrical or just chaotic.
Next, choose your colors and paint each distinctive part in the color you want. The paint will help you keep the edges clean, but try not to get into other parts of the canvas. Let it dry completely and carefully remove the painter’s tape. And voila! There you have it: a great, easy, handmade piece of art!
My kids loved the outcome and they wanted me to make some simple shapes with painter’s tape, so I made the first letter of their name, a star and a heart…
I think they turned out quite nice! And they look great on their wall, too! And if you are more talented than me in arts, here are a few projects from Pinterest that really look professional!
So, my son is one of the biggest Star Wars fans I know. He has a huge collection, and so it was a given that he would have a Star Wars Birthday Party. For two years in a row! I am going to write about those two parties, what we prepared to keep our guests (and us!) entertaint and I have to admit, we had a blast both times!
When I think about making pinatas, I always think that I can’t make one that is cute or with a character I like… for example, I could in no way allow kids to hit Yoda or another Yedi, pinata or not! So, when the time came to decide on the pinatas, we had these two ideas: the first one was a very easy Death Star Pinata and the second one a slightly more complicated but still easy Darth Vader Pinata.
Easy Death Star Pinata How-to
All you will need for this pinata is a white round paper lamp shade (I bought mine from IKEA), a piece of cardboard, grey spray paint, black marker, some fishing line or other kind of string and of course candy!!!
Assemble the lamp shade per instructions. Cover the bottom hole with a small piece of cardboard (secure with some tape). Go outside and spray paint the whole thing grey (if you find a grey lamp shade, by all means, buy that if you want, and just skip spray painting it!). With the black marker, add a few features (rectangles to the lampshade so it’s resembles to the Death Star. Fill the Death Star carefully with candy. Since it is made out of paper, take care not to overfill it or else it will bend or even rip. Add the string to the wire on top of the Death Star for hanging. All you need now is a stick and children to hit the pinata and get all the bounty!!!
Darth Vader Pinata How-to
To make this Pinata we really simply followed the image – steps from mini.reyve.fr adapting it slightly since I didn’t want a string pulled pinata. You will need a cardboard box (I use a cereal box or use some thicker cardboard), painters or other tape, craft glue and black crepe paper and a Darth Vader Mask Template. Print the Darth Vader Mask Template in a size that will suit you and your box and use it to cut the back and front of the box so they resemble the shape of the mask (you will end up with two mask-shaped cardboard pieces). Don’t worry too much about details, they will most likely get lost when you’ll add the fringes. Use the box’s sides or cut out a few 4″ wide strips (the longer the better) to use them to connect the two mask-shaped pieces to each other. To do that, you will need to use the adhesive tape like shown in the pictures from the blog, that is kind of the most tricky part, especially at the beginning. Don’t forget to fill your pinata with goodies before sealing it completely. Also, remember to use some string or rope to make a loop for hanging your pinata on top. When you have finished with the cardboard pinata, it is time to decorate it. Cut out 2” wide strips of the crepe paper and cut fringes into them. Try to make them as long as they need to be to cover the pinata from end to end in each row, so the result will be nicer looking. Now, with patience, glue all the strips onto the cardboard. Repeat on the back and the sides. This is the most time-consuming step for making the pinata, but it is a rather fun process. Lastly, cut out the Darth Vader mask highlights from your template and glue them to the front of your pinata. We painted Darth Vader’s eyes red, for a fierce result! Didn’t it turn out great?
To make the invitation, I used the Star Wars Crawl Creator and finding the story to tell was so totally fun! For the rest of our first party I prepared green Yoda plates for the cake (just green plates where I attached some green Yoda ears I cut out with a stapler), a softball target shoot game (took an old big carton, painted the whole thing black, glued some rocket stickers and then we just cut out different sized circles, glued some Star Wars Villains on the circles for targets), a “Pin the lightsaber on the Yedi” game and we gave out foam swords for everybody after the “Jedi Training”.
At the end we did even have Darth Vader invade our party to steal the birthday cake, but fortunately all of our Yedi friends fought him off and so we could eat the cake after all!!! It was really fun and all of our guests and the birthday boy had a blast! The second party’s highlight was our Darth Vader Pinata of course, which did need to take a lot of hits before it released it’s bounty, being a true Darth Vader Pinata…
Using this same technique you can make virtually any Pinata you can think of… I for one am looking forward to making the next – girly this time – Birthday Pinata 🙂
Every year in Thessaloniki, a major international fair takes place. It’s kind of a tradition to go and see some of the exhibitors and events that happen there. This year we went as a family, which has its pros and cons. On the positive side, the children see things they don’t see every day and have a fun day, but on the negative side we adults don’t get to see all that we want because kids do get tired so soon (know what I mean?). Well, anyway, we had fun and I wanted to share a few photos I took – one of my new hobbies – with you! The Fair is open until next Sunday (17th September) so if you’re near you really should go!!!
First Things First: A Snack
As always, food is an important part of every one of our days out! So, as soon as we saw something worth eating, we took the chance! We got a couple of the famous Thessaloniki’s “Koulouria” which are delicious! You can find them on what it seems every corner of down town Thessaloniki or in any bakery and they are perfect for breakfast or a snack.
Entering The Fair
Although there are a few portals to enter the Fair, I usually prefer the one that is closer to one of Thessaloniki’s landmark “The White Tower”. It is an impressive entrance, as you get a close view to Thessaloniki’s tall Radio Tower (also known as the OTE Tower). If you want you can go and get a drink or food in the Café-Bar-Dinner that is located on top and that rotates, so you can catch a breath-taking view. It is kind of expensive, but definitely worth it!
First Stop: Recycling
The City of Thessaloniki organized a wonderful informative corner about recycling, where art made of different reused items or scrap metal – like this impressive horse – can be seen. Also, they had a craft table ready for children, where they could make things like flowers or caterpillars out of material that would normally end up in the trash!
A horse made of scrap metal (artist Spyros Kontoulis, company AEIFOROS S.A.
A tree out of bottle caps and soda cans
The caterpillar, made out of plastic bottle caps
Flowers made of reused items
Moving On Into The Fair
We then moved on into an area that was dedicated to producers of high-quality Greek, delicious food, like cheeses, olive oils, honeys, pies, herbs, nuts and so much more incredible things from all over Greece. Wines and other drinks where also on display. Most producers would advertise their products by offering you small samples, and you can move to buy something you like.
There are areas for other exhibitors, like manufactorers of machinery or cars etc., but we sadly didn’t have the time to go and see them all.
We saw for first time the train wagon that will be moving in the subway of Thessaloniki once it is finished (hopefully sooner than later!). There was also a wonderful old train wagon to see, which actually was a royal train wagon! What a contrast!
Subway Train Wagon
Old Royal Train Wagon
One thing we did go and see was the place of E-Gaming! That was amazing, we could try new technology and cutting-edge computers, VR devices and we could even try out some new video games. There was also a booth where they would produce your own video-game Avatar, but unfortunately the line was too long to wait with the kids!
Honored Country: China
Every year the organizers choose an honored country, and this year they chose China! Their area was fascinating, as you can imagine, since they showed off on one hand their amazing culture with traditional clothing, art, foods and on the other they had on display high-tech products, train models, helicopter models and robots, among other interesting things! One thing that was also impressive was a 3D energy map of Greece (China is a major investor for the energy sector in Greece)!
Chinese Art Work
Chinese Siluette Art Work
A robot that can serve you drinks!
A 3D Map of Greece
An amazing model of one of the fastest trains of China
A Wonderful Visit Ends
After seeing all of these things and many many more, the children got tired, naturally and so we slowly made our way home.
It was a great Fair on a wonderful, sunny September day! Can’t wait for next year! Honored country? The USA!!!
After a long time I finally found a little time and energy to start a couple of hobbies. One is photography and the other is learning about decoupage! I hope I will be able to fit in some time for walking or other physical activity as well!
1. Photography – first steps
Photography is really an amazing hobby! It is much more complicated than one would think, especially if you want to get off auto mode. But I am at the beginning and who knows, maybe I’ll end up discovering my talent!
The most difficult thing is to switch to manual mode where you have to decide about depth of field, iso settings and shutterspeed, among other things. Getting your head around all these settings, when to use what and how your camera works is really not easy, especially if all you can do is reading about it online, whitout some kind of seminar. But, as most sites do point out, the most important thing to do is to shoot many, many, MANY pictures, so you can learn. Another fact I was suprised by, is the amount of photo editing most people are doing in order to get the best results! I mean, it sometimes takes more time to edit than it took to actually get the shoot done! But the results are amazing!!! You can see more on my profile at flickr here!
2. Decoupage – first lesson
As for decoupage, I just had my first lesson a few days again and it was really fun! Although I am not the biggest fan of vintage look, I really loved how an ordinary item could be transformed in a couple of hours and while having a good time, too! The first item we did was a plain plate and allthough it isn’t perfect, I believe it’s a great first attempt! I am looking forward to learning more about this technique! To add to the fun, my little daughter came with me and she is such a great companion! She even helped gluing a butterfly image to the plate. I will share a photo as soon as I’ll be able to make one. The process is really easy to understand, and I think with a little practice and some imagination, the options are limitless! The next lesson will be about decorating a bottle! Can’t wait!
So, hopefully I will be able to do a lot more photography and decoupage project to write about and share from now on. It is difficult to manage everything, day job, family and home!!!