Passport to Fun - Russia

Travel the world from the comfort of your living room with this Passport to Fun series!  Whether you use these ideas as a date night, family fun night, or homeschool study, you'll be sure to have fun and bring a bit of the Russian culture right into your own home!

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You'll remember that I came up with a pretty awesome idea for G's Christmas gift this past year.

If you're new here and don't know what I'm talking about, then feel free to wander on over to this post to read all about it.

I'll wait.

For our next "trip," we visited a country that just makes sense for winter: Russia.

I mean, there are plenty of countries that come to mind when you think of cold places, but the whole Russian Winter party theme thing just jumps right to the forefront of my mind.

December - Russia

Set the Stage

I added the next stamp to G's passport so he'd see where we were going, then left it out where he'd find it the next morning before he went to work:

What to Decorate With

The flag thing is our go-to wall art for each trip.  It's something fairly simple for Gv and I to do together, uses supplies we already have, and still lends an air of the locale.

We've come to the end of our supply of construction paper, so we're re-using old pieces until we stock up again.

I coordinated this trip with our Shepherd on the Search's trip to Russia (it was so fun to learn about how they do Christmas there), so the other bit of decoration was Hezzie hanging out with our set of Russian nesting dolls:

What to Dress Like

I wasn't too sure if we'd be able to come up with something to wear for this one, but I think we did all right:

This picture is why this post is going up several days late - I'd thought we'd gotten one that had all of us in focus, but alas, no. This one with blurry Gv was the best of the bunch and I'd planned to retake it, but none of us (mainly me, since my costume was so lame) wanted to repeat it.

I think G's outfit was the best. Gv looked adorable in a dress my mom had made me when I was little, but I couldn't come up with anything good for myself, so just attempted to do something with my trusty old red sheet...

What to Listen to

I created a playlist consisting of about a bazillion different composers (Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky), but also included my umpteen versions of this song:

and this one:

and also this: 

What to Eat

This trip's meal was full of snuggle-up food that would warm our bellies and trick our brains into making us think it was cold outside.

It was still 87 degrees for several hours after the sun went down, so trust me, we needed all the help we could get to pretend that it was actually winter around here!

We started with some Shchi (hot cabbage soup) and Rzhanovi Khleb (rye bread), then moved on to some Kotlety (meatballs) with cooked cabbage and mashed potatoes on the side (you know how much I love those!) for our main dish.

Dessert was Vatrushka and I was thinking of making a White Russian (I'd never had one) for a special drink, but then I remembered how much I hate coffee liqueur, so we just threw down a little vodka, which I think it pretty much a requirement for any trip there!

Bread Machine Rzhanovi Khleb

What You Need

1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of warm water (although you know I used whey!)

2 Tablespoons honey

1 1/2 Tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup bread flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup rye flour (I used 1 1/4 cup wheat and 1 cup rye)

1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1 1/4 teaspoons yeast

What You Do

1.  Dump everything in your bread machine and hit "start."


What You Need

3 Tablespoons butter

1 large, chopped onion

1 head of shredded cabbage (this traditionally uses regular cabbage, but I went with the purple variety to get this beautiful color)

1 grated carrot

1 chopped celery rib

2 chunked potatoes

14 ounce can diced tomatoes

8 cups stock (chicken or veggie) or water

1 bay leaf

salt & pepper

What You Do

1.  Cook onion in butter until soft and translucent.

2.  Add in cabbage, carrot and celery and cook about 3 minutes more.

3.  Throw in the bay leaf, stock and salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer (covered) for about 15 minutes.

4.  Add in the potatoes, bring back up to a boil, then reduce heat again and simmer (covered) about 10 more minutes.

5.  Add in the tomatoes, bring back up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes.

6.  Fish out the bay leaf or play our little game with it (whoever gets it in their bowl is the winner!) and serve with that yummy bread you just made.


What You Need

1 pound ground meat

1 minced onion

2 slices bread

1 whisked egg

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup breadcrumbs

2 Tablespoons oil

What You Do

1.  Put the bread slices in a bowl with a little water to get them all mushy.

2.  In a mixing bowl, dump in the ground meat, egg, onion, salt & pepper and mushy bread slices. Mix it all up and form into patties or meatballs.

3.  Dredge these in breadcrumbs and then fry them in the oil over medium-high heat for about 7 minutes per side.


What You Need

For Dough:

1/4 cup water

2 Tablespoons honey

1 packet yeast

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 egg, separated

1/4 cup milk (although you know I used whey!)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons butter

For Filling:

1 Tablespoon butter

1 pound of this cheese (you can also use cottage cheese or ricotta, just strain them a bit first)

1 egg

2 Tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

chopped dry fruit (completely optional)

What You Do


1.  Heat water to 110 degrees F, add 1 Tablespoon of honey, yeast and 1/2 cup flour. Stir it together, cover it, then leave it in a warm place for about an hour.

2.  Heat milk to 110 degrees F. Add to yeast mix along with egg white, salt and remaining honey. While stirring, add in the rest of the flour (stir more in the middle, not along the sides) a little at a time. When it gets too stiff to stir, knead it by hand until it forms a ball of dough that's smooth and doesn't stick to your hands.

2.  Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place about an hour. Punch it down and let it rise another hour.


1.  Melt the butter and mix in all the filling ingredients.

Assembling & Baking:

1.  Roll out the dough onto a floured surface until it's about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 8ish squares.

2.  Place filling in the center of each square and roll up all the edges to make little walls. Spread the filling around within these walls.

3.  Place Vatrushkas onto a greased baking sheet and let rise for about 15 minutes.

4.  Mix melted butter with the egg yolk and carefully brush it over the tops of each Vatrushka. Let them stand another 10 minutes and then prick the tops a bit with a fork (2-3 places and don't go all the way through).

5.  Bake for 20 minutes at 450 degrees until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

6.  Allow them to cool on a rack at least 15 minutes and brush with a bit of remaining butter.

What to Do

Since I coordinated this trip with our Shepherd on the Search's visit to Russia, this nesting dolls craft was a two-for-one activity:

I also thought of decorating a plastic egg with glitter glue, jewels, sequins and paint to look like a Faberg√© Egg, but we were just so busy with Christmas prep that I decided to save the activity for a future visit.

We tried to figure out how to play Gorodki (using wrapping and toilet paper tubes). I found this little video here to demonstrate things, but it didn't help us much, so we just made up our own tube-smacking game.

Finally, we had a contest to see who could dance this little jig best (we were mainly after the prisyadka part, which is that squat dance that I know sprang to your mind when I mentioned it!):

We all pretty much ended up on our bums, but it was fun trying!

What to Read

For Gv, I found this little story (The Cat and the Rooster is actually Ukrainian, but since I couldn't come up with any other Russian children's books, I decided it was close enough):


and then read her several of the folk tales from this page.

For the grown-ups, you pretty much have to go with one of the classics - although if you don't have fifteen bazillion years to sit around and read, you might want to just go with the Cliff's Notes version!

Anna Karenina

The Brothers Karamozov

War & Peace


Crime & Punishment

Eugene Onegin

Doctor Zhivago

What to Watch

My mind immediately jumped to several Bond movies for this trip (From Russia with Love, Goldeneye and Quantum of Solace), but since I knew that would take us down a watch-a-Bond-a-night path for the next month and a half, I went a different route.

Believe it or not, I'd never seen Doctor Zhivago, so that was my choice.

Other movies I love that would work for this trip are: The Hunt for Red October, The Last Station, Dr. Strangelove, The Bourne Supremacy, Fiddler on the Roof, White NightsThe Jackal, or The Saint.

Gv recently watched Anastasia for the first time and she loves the Peter and the Wolf portion of this movie (Disney's Make Mine Music), but since it was Christmas time and I was coordinating things, we just watched The Nutcracker instead.

And that wrapped up our twelfth "trip" together for the year.  It was another huge success and we can't wait to jet off to someplace new next month!

Travel all over the world, without leaving your living room!  Come back each month to see where we head next.  Can you think of any other ideas to add for a trip to Russia?  I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

Also, if you don't want to miss a single minute of great tips like this and all the fun around here, be sure to sign up for free updates and then look forward to having each post delivered right to your inbox.

Want more?  Check out some of our other trips:

Italy - India - France - Africa - Ireland - Switzerland - Canada - Greece - England - Germany - China - Jamaica Egypt - Mexico - Japan - Brazil Cuba Scotland - Australia - Scandinavia

Love this idea, but want the easy, made-for-you-and-all-you-do-is-print-it version?  Click here to get your own pack and see what inspired me to create this series!

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1 comment:

  1. I'm always so amazed by your trips each month and how you put everything together!! It looks like such a fun family time!