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Friday, December 24, 2010

Recipe: Gingerbread House

Food is one of my favorite things to learn about!!! You can find all of the recipes I've picked up around the world here!

A Christmas Miracle!

Creating and decorating a gingerbread house is magical... the smell... the taste... the creativity and freedom you feel while building your own, colorful dream home! It is a wonderful tradition for kids to grow up with. Best of all, it let's us adults rekindle that magic for a little while!

1. Gingerbread dough

Butter 200 g or 0.44 lb
Sugar 200 g or 0.44 lb
Flour 300 g or 0.66 lb
2 Eggs
Cocoa 2 t sp
Ground ginger 2 t sp
Ground cinnamon 1 t sp
Ground carnation 1 t sp
Baking powder 3 t sp

Mmmm the spices!

Sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, carnation, baking powder and cocoa. 

Add the softened butter cut in slices and chop it to lumps. 

Mix with sugar and egg, roll in a sphere, wrap in plastic and cool in a fridge for 1,5-2h. 

Then unroll and cut out the house parts. 

Bake for 13-15 minutes in a 180С or 356F oven. Let it cool down.

2. For the icing:

1 egg white
sugar powder 0.5 cup
lemon juice 1 tb sp

Cooled egg white whip with a mixer, add powder, in the end add lemon juice.

3. Construct the basic house, mortaring the pieces together with icing

This is where it really helps to have more than two hands working on a house, and why making a gingerbread house is so much more fun with company than alone. If you are working on this alone, it may help to grab some canned goods from the pantry and use the cans to help prop up the pieces while the icing mortar is drying.

4. Decorate the Gingerbread House!

Here's the fun part! This step requires a trip to the candy section of your local grocery store. You can decorate your house with whatever types of candy pleases you. Everyone can participate. Give each family member a wall or roof to do!

You can use dough scraps to roll out added decorative cut-outs to be applied with icing glue. These cutouts can be impressed with designs before baking. For example, you could make window shutters, doors, or figurines! They can be "painted" with colored icing.

My first ever Gingerbread House! Happy Holidays, dear Friends!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Petersburg Tale

Привет, my friends! Last summer I took a trip North from Moscow on the overnight train to magnificent St. Petersburg!

St. Petersburg was founded on a swamp in 1703 by Peter the Great, the emperor of Russia, to become the heart of modernization in Russia and the capital of the country. Moscow became the capital after the Revolution in 1917 when the Soviet Union was established. St. Petersburg is considered the most "westernized" Russian city - it’s also called Petrograd, Leningrad, Piter and known as the “Russian Venice” because of the numerous canals that burst through the city.

The imposing St Isaac’s Cathedral, standing not far from the shore of the Neva River, is one of the world’s largest churches.

Often considered a symbol of Russia, St. Petersburg is actually an entirely atypical Russian city. Situated so close to Europe on the shore of the Baltic Sea, it expresses everything European that Russia has to offer, but in a unique and strange way that also incorporates old Russian tradition. Some think it's a mad city; some find it very inspiring! Many great Russian writers, poets and dancers began their work here. To get a feeling for this one-of-a-kind place, read one of Russia's most prominent authors - Feodor Dostoyevsky (Crime and Punishment, Notes from the Underground, The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov). Even nowadays, people in St. Petersburg are considered a bit more intelligent, refined and polite than Muscovites.

 Peter the Great has me on his lap.

The city is situated on the banks and islands of the Neva river and Finsky bay. There are many natural and man-made canals and islands.

The city center is well organized - all of the streets are perpendicular. The main and oldest street in St. Petersburg is called the Nevsky Prospect. It runs from St Petersburg’s center of religion, the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, to the symbol of Russian power, the Admiralty, and passes by everything else along the way! The 4.5km length of the Nevsky Prospect goes over four different islands and across multiple channels and rivers. It is truly one of world’s great promenades - anything you'd want can be found along its course: stunning architecture, incredible palaces, world-famous museums and grand opera houses; the most fashionable shops and the latest fashions; sparkling five-star hotels, small bed and breakfasts and all manner of restaurants, cafes and nightclubs!

The Bronze Horseman - another Peter the Great Statue in St. Petersburg.

Here are some special things you can do with your time in St. Petersburg:

- Walk along the Nevsky Prospect and have a banana milkshake for breakfast in one of the little cafes.
- Take a boat trip along the channels.
- Climb up St. Isaac cathedral for a view of the city.
- Sunbathe on the green grass of the Summer Garden under the northern sun.
- Visit the wonderful Hermitage museum in Winter Palace! (Of course) But not all at once. It's so large that it's better to choose something specific you would like to see and to go especially for that.
- Walk along the Moika river embankment in the evening.
- Spend a sleepless night out during White Nights to watch the moveable bridges and The Scarlet Sails.
- Pet the Griffin Statue on the Bank Bridge over the Griboedov Canal and make a wish!

A good Russian tradition - to pet the Griffin's foot and make a wish. Does it mean I could make 2 wishes if I climbed it or even 3 if I made friends with this creature?

And here are some basic words and phrases which can make your life much easier. Even if you don't have any plans to speak Russian, learning these can be a real ice-breaker when you meet a Russian – they'll love it if you can say "hi" or "thank you" in Russian.

Yes                              Да                                                  Da
No                               Нет                                                Net
Hi!                               Привет!                                         Pri`vet
Bye!                             Пока!                                             Po`ka!
What                            Что                                                Ch`to
This                              Это                                                `Eto
I                                   Я                                                    Ya
I love you!                    Я тебя люблю!                              Ya tebya lyublyu!
Banana                         Банан                                             Banan
I don't understand.        Я не понимаю.                              Ya ne poni`mayu.
Thank you!                   Спасибо!                                        Spa`sibo!

The Winter Palace, well-known for the Hermitage collection. 
Spasibo and Poka, dear Friends!