Monday, November 12, 2018

A Return to the Blog

This blog first started after we arrived in Ukraine and set up house on the 14th storey of an apartment on the outskirts of Kiev. Since then, we added a cat, two children, moved apartments (up to the 19th floor) and have most lately purchased the title of "Home Owner". The home is a fixer upper - though not in the same category of our infamous mud hut. A friend suggested that I document the remodel adventure and I re-joined that what I really needed was a go-fund me page.  I decided to return to the blog, but have added those annoying ads to see if perhaps the adventures of Ukrainian building codes and interior design in a post soviet country could possibly be monetized. I've kept the blog name and it's history - while originally a pun on where we lived, the name evokes a tale in a long line of adventures.  Like Sheherazade, I will keep telling them until I have no more tales to tell. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Now that we live right across from a market, I find I'm doing most of my shopping there.  Most often I am with the kids, and the vendors love it when I am and ask about them when they aren't.  They often give something to them, and I feel bad sometimes because I don't often buy things, or sometimes what they give is worth more than what I buy.  Take the fruit vendor who always give the kids a banana.  Or a peach.  Or a pound of plums.  And I bought 2 pounds of potatoes.  That means she just about broke even.

And then there is the salo lady - she sells pork products.  But we mostly eat chicken, or beef, and pork maybe once in three months.  She always gives the kids a big slice of salo.  it isn't expensive - but all she gets back from this relationship is the kids' enjoyment.  And do they ever enjoy it.  I had T out of the stroller recently and we were in the market and as soon as he saw the meet counter he got very excited and was pulling my hand to get me there faster.    He loves his salo.  The ukrainians say it isn't fat.  They say it is something different.  They swear it is healthy - but whenever I've seen it, I've always thought LARD.

Today though, something in my mind triggered and I thought SALT PORK.  It was a light bulb.  isn't it interesting how words can have so much weight?  You say salt pork, and you think I could use that to flavor soups or frying pans and you say LARD, and you think oh my arteries.  Here, the main salo that you buy doesn't have lean in it - but in the grocery store you can buy something that looks similar, with more lean - still not bacon - but something between the two.

As an american from the North West - Salt pork doesn't mean too much for me really - it is an old fashioned word found in historical novels.  I imagine people in the northwest buy it and use it - but it has never been on my radar.  In the south, I understand, it is still used and eaten.  Anyway it was quite the brain wave for me, 6 years in coming, to reach a better translation than the standard one of bacon, which we all know it isn't.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Pochemushka

When you learn a foreign language, there are words that are just better than others - that capture things do ingeniously that you can't forget them.  And so it was that when our babysitter dumbed Saphira a pochemushka (почемушка), we were delighted - at least with the title if not fully with the actuality of the fact.  Почему  - pochemu - in Russian means "Why" and ushka is a diminutive, feminine ending (like in Babushka) and so the best translation of the term would be "the little why girl".  Not quite the same ring. While stories could be written about a pochemushka, the little why girl becomes an abstract entity.
And so we have a pochemushka.  So many "whys".  I think the problem is my strategy has always been to answer them to the best of my ability.  This defeated my Russian early on and my English is also giving under the barrage.  Last week, I was ready to wave my white flag by 10am.
I think this is where having other people around you who are also parents of young children is at its most valuable, (and is something that is harder for us to replicate as we interact with our Ukrainian friends mostly on the playground and so don't always see how some situations play out) because it can give you other ideas of how to deal with the issue at hand.  I had tried asking her to repeat my answers to her whys and soоo realized that for the most part, she wasn't listening.  The whys flow in an empty babble of sound that start before a full answer can even be given.
It was only when were were out with some friends and they turned the flurry of whys around on her . . . now why do you think that a cow couldn't take care of a person? The stream of whys stopped - not so much because she had an answer but because the start of thinking through the whys was actually presented before her.
But old habits are so hard to break and I often find myself explaining why this and that until I'm exhausted and frustrated.  I forget that I need to wait, and to ask back, to encourage her to look and observe and deduce.  That a wrong deduction isn't a set back, but is rather one variant closer to a right answer later.
I'm so thankful for the tools I get to steal from other parents, if only I could remember to use them more.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Shoe giveaways and little bit of luck

Well, 1 year post surgery and we are trying to figure out what to do with Saphira's footwear.  My sister gave us some winter boots last year, and they seemed to be wide enough, then we had some boots that crossed over from fall to spring that were Soft Star and then we  bought some cheap canvas shoes and sandals in the rinok for summer.  The Sandals are great - with three velcro straps they are completely adjustable and so are always wide enough.  The canvas shoes however - beside the fact that she ran them into the ground - she is now in tears if we try to slip them on.  Either she isn't used to how they feel after the sandal or the length/width ratio no longer works with her foot - though length wise it "feels" like there is room.  It is hard to figure out if something hurts or what the problem is with a 3 yr old.

And then there is Thaddaeus, a friend who has a boy Saphira's age gave us ALL his old clothes, including a lot of shoes. As Thaddaeus has normal feet - everything fits, but the interesting thing is that I noticed he walked/ran best in the Soft Star shoes that we had from Saphira (despite the fact that they were a bit big owing to being very wide and he has a narrow foot).  Now that I actually have "proof", I feel completely on-board about the barefoot shoes philosophy and foot development in children.  Though as active as Thaddaeus is, buying shoes that help him run faster might not be the best idea . . . .

Though I love the product,  I do cringe about the cost of the shoe (any shoe, not just soft stars) that may only last 3 to 6 months.  Also the fact that by the time I realize we've outgrown a shoe and we need it NOW - it's a bit hard to figure out a secure and timely way to get it over here.  Even with the help of the super friendly and accommodating elves, I always find ordering a bit stressful as I worry about if it will make it and how it will fit (and how long) as we can't return anything (Normal USA people can - but really pretty impossible from 5,000 miles away.)  Now we are facing the need for fall shoes for both the kids and I'm waffeling - do I do Soft Star?  Do we try to find something in the UK for Saphira's 1 year appointment??  What to do?

In the mean time,  if an opportunity comes up to save some pennies in in our budget - I say, go for it - and work out sizing and shipping when you come to it.  Currently, Inspired by Savannah is giving away a $25 gift certificate for Soft Star Shoes.  A mom to two girls, (age 3 and 2 - where does she find the time??) Robin reviews and gives away products that are aimed at children and their parents.

So here's hoping for a little bit of luck and a discounted future order from Soft Star!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Because you do not ask

My 3 year old, after a very joyful 20 minutes of morning, somehow stumbled into the dark side and decided to scream, wail, and gnash teeth for close to 45 minutes today.  Aside from the fact that she had probably woken up too early from yesterday's activities, the reason for the tantrum was unfounded.  She decided she couldn't pull on her trousers without help and rather than ask for help, she decided to cry, grunt, and throw a fit.  She knows how to put on her trousers; she knows how to ask for help; she was reminded throughout the tantrum that I would be very happy to help her if she would only ask.  She stubbornly refused.  Each reminder served to intensify her cries and her refusal that she couldn't do it.

The entire time I'm watching her I'm thinking of James 4:1-3 (NIV).

What causes fights and quarrels {tantrums} among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Why didn't I just help her?  Why did I "stubbornly" refuse to help? Sure, I knew what she wanted, but I also knew that 1) she knows how to ask properly and 2) she even knows how to put her clothes on herself.  I want her to ask because I think it shows practical humility - she isn't the center of the universe.  A request can be denied while an expectation or demand should normally be based on some fact or authority that implies its fulfillment or ability to be fulfilled.  I expect my daughter to ask me a question in a nice tone of voice and to say please because she has been taught to do this and has demonstrated that she is capable of it.  I also believe that the asking reflects an understanding that you need help, that you are not fully independent and all-powerful.

While my older, socialized, and civilized self no longer throws physical fits with kicking and screaming, I think that my emotional or spiritual tantrums and stubborn refusal to acknowledge my dependence are just as ugly to God  as my daughter's tantrum is to me.  As a parent, I see tons of things I could help my daughter with.  So many things that would make life simpler and easier, or that if I took care of now, it would not be a problem in 15 minutes time. I'm sure that God sees many more of those moments in my life.  Yet, he stands back and watches, serious and saddened, but letting me try to huff it all  by myself.  You do not have because you do not ask God.

And then, when I finally do ask, in an exhausted pile of frustration - I do not receive, because I ask with wrong motives, still not a request but a demand - barely an acknowledgement that God is standing there and "hey, why don't you make yourself useful and help!", not a request and not a recognition that he could do it all; that he could have done it all without any huff or effort on my part, but still a demand that He do something  for me -- not because I recognise his greatness, but because I find it inconvenient and impossible to accomplish the task on my own - not that I couldn't have done it, if the situation had been different of course.

I find, that teaching disciplining my daughter is very much more about teaching and disciplining myself as I seem to feel that this parenting bit gives me a better understanding of how our heavenly Father sees me and my arrogance and independence.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


There are times when living abroad is a chore.  Especially with the two kids, on really rough days I can't help but think it would all be easier if we were back home . . . wherever home actually is for the two of us.

There are other days, like today, when it is just such a joy to live abroad.  Today's joy was brought on by the simple pleasure of making this tasty dish.  We invited our Pastor and his family over and the last time they were over, ages and ages ago, we had a nice meal - but Alister was upset because it was something they could have made themselves.  So today I decided to have fun and try something new, and warned Alister ahead of time that if it didn't turn out, he was to blame for me not playing it safe :-) (I had told him, after all that my alternate career path would have been a culinary institute had I not gone the four-year- college route - so he should have known that telling me my dinner was boring could be a bit of a dangerous challenge).

The reason the pomegranate chicken gave me particular joy, was that I was able to find the key ingredient, pomegranate molasses, in the nuts and fruit section of the market by our house.  Some things are impossible to find here - corn syrup, peanut butter, rice crispie style cereal - and then sometimes you run across something that you think - wow - what is that doing here? And so, after reading through the recipe for Pomegranate chicken, I was buying nuts from my fruit and nut guy and I look over and  see what appears to be a bottle of Pomegranate molasses.  Now, I know Walla Walla has moved up in the world since I was a wee lass, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to find Pomegranate Molasses there or anywhere outside of Seattle.  And so with the greatest of ease, I was able to pull off a tasty and unusual meal.  I did make apple pie for desert - just in case it was all a bust - but it wasn't, we all enjoyed it.  I have just enough molasses left to make this other recipe - which I nixed for tonight because of the chili content.  If I had a had a bit more time I would have done a whole pomegranate theme and served these sprouts as a side and had panna cotta ala pomegranate for dessert.  Maybe when you come to dinner?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cranberry Vodka cookies

This is not a food blog.  There will be no fancy pictures making you drool.  No step-by step instructions.  Just a recipe and the fact that these are so yummy I had to share.
In Ukraine, vodka is cheap.  You can buy a liter for $2.  Gin, Whiskey, Bailey's - WAY more expensive.
So when I decided to look for a recipe for an odd cocktail - I found this Cranberry Vodka Tonic.
I made it - and in all honesty, it is so so  BUT while I was making it and straining and smashing out all the cranberries through the sieve - I discovered that the cranberries still had lots of cranberry flavour and I thought it was a waste to throw them away.  I decided to whip up my mom's 5-Way Holiday cookies (which are good if you want 5 varieties - but not good if you plan to give all five varieties away.  I just double the Orange Pecan addition by 5 and make a huge batch of it)  And add the remains of the cranberry vodka sludge to it.  WOW!  The cookies were super moist, super vanilla-y, with a lovely tart flavour from the cranberries and a deepening in flavour from the addition of the vodka.
The only draw back is that the cookies will be gone LONG before the batch of vodka.  May just have to figure out how to make the cranberry sludge without the Cocktail mixer.
The sludge left from the recipe (originally 1 lb of cranberries) was enough to mix nicely with 1/2 a batch of the Holiday cookies.

A Return to the Blog

This blog first started after we arrived in Ukraine and set up house on the 14th storey of an apartment on the outskirts of Kiev. Since then...