Tuesday, February 24, 2015

happy birthday Tat

We studied at the University together (which was, wait a minute, more than 10 years ago), and gradually became friends. I've always been a bit humbled by her striking beauty, but she's so nice that it sort of makes up for it.

She is one of those people who can create atmosphere. Any time I came over she would meet me with specialty tea and delicious home-made food, surround me with comfort and care and
treat me to a meaningful conversation. I'm pretty shy and always feel nervous when I come to visit someone, but at her place I felt that tight knot in my stomach melt right away.

She's crafty and generous. She made me a paper-mache Hamlet, knitted me a sweater, weaved me a bracelet and drew me a map to her house so that I wouldn't get lost (as I usually do). These things are my treasures, and I'm so grateful for the time and effort and love that's been put into them.

She has an eye for beauty. I love the way she looks, the clothes she wears, the way she moves and smiles and talks. It comes naturally to her, and it's something I'd love her to teach me (along with knitting, sewing, weaving etc.)

She has two small kids now (yay!) and we live in different cities, but oh how much I love it when we have a chance to meet and talk. Long heartfelt conversations -- you just can't beat them. This is something I love.

Happy birthday, beautiful friend! Miss you here. Many happy returns of the day from the whole Komissariat!

Friday, February 20, 2015

blini, anyone?

It's Maslenitsa Week (the week when everyone is supposed to eat pancakes, after which comes the Great 40-days Fastening), so I'm here to share my favorite pancake recipe.

All right, I admit that it's the end of the week already; but I had no idea it's Maslenitsa. Thankfully, Sensei called from the monastery (he's still building the bell tower there) and asked if I made blini for the kids.


Oh, I see. No, I didn't know it's Maslenitsa (no surprises here -- I'm completely lost in time most of the time), yes, of course I'll be making them.

So today we had a breakfast of delicious pancakes, and I thought I'd invite you over (it's a super easy recipe, and you most likely have all the ingredients in your kitchen anyway):

2 eggs
1 tbsp sugar
a pinch of salt
500 ml milk
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp baking powder (or 1 tsp soda)
200g flour

1. Mix everything in a bowl.

2. Make sure you have no lumps (those things in the picture are bubbles, not lumps -- obvious for most of you, but guys who have poor eyesight like me might get suspicious).

3. Put a pan on medium heat, oil* when it's hot and pour some dough. Spread it evenly (I shake the pan to the sides in circular motion).

4. Turn over in a few seconds.

5. Enjoy super simple, yet delicious pancakes.

They're good with almost anything you can imagine -- fish, meat, chicken, cream, honey, sugar, jam -- you name it.

Blini with salmon are my favorite. Or with honey, if I want them sweet.

Now off to eat them till there're a few left (these are super George-and-Alice-approved).

*this is how I oil a hot pan: take an onion (or a potato), cut it in half, stick a fork into it, put it in a saucer with oil, and then oil the pan with this oiled half-onion-on-a-fork. Do it before you pour dough for every pancake -- it gives it just the right amount of oil. I know there are fancier tools out there, but I prefer it the old school way.

Oh, and hey -- what's your favorite way to eat such pancakes?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


This Sunday Sensei invited me to a cafe of my choice. Now, I had no specific place on my mind, but I do have a favorite area in the town (you guys from Orel -- that would be Leninskaya St. all the way down and the road from Gagarin Pioneers Palace up to the Central Park). We decided to go for a walk there and settle in a coffee room that catches my eye.

We checked out at least five places before ending up at Traveler's Coffee.

Yes, that would be George and Alice in the window.

Traveler's seem to buy organic green coffee from various destinations (and they had my favorite Yemen and Ethiopia - bonus!), roast it, grind it and make it right there for you, so it's super fresh. 

They also had a Chemex! Now, I've been willing to try it out for quite some time (since reading Elise's rad post on it), but as this year was proclaimed a get-out-of-debt year I was going to order it in 2016. Never thought I'd have a chance to try it here in Orel! That was a nice surprise, though the only option were beans from Guatemala which I've never tried before. I went for it (of course). Generally liked the flavor but for a little sour note which is probably typical for this sort of beans; really eager to try the Ethiopian variety once they have it there.

We were looking for a cafe which had some sort of activities for kids, and these guys had crayons and coloring books. George ignored them, Alice was disappointed that she wasn't allowed to eat them, but Sensei really got into it. He was going to color a big turtle while waiting for the food, but it was served really fast.

We ordered a ton of food and everything was good. I mean it. Generous portions -- this is one sandwich on that plate, mind you (Sensei had an American which included french fries and barbecue sauce, and I went for turkey), nice drinks (mulled wine for Sensei, vanilla milk shake for George and, well, coffee for me), delicate dessert (we had Napoleon cakes), a soup (Sensei got solyanka because well, he always orders a soup when we eat out and chooses it over any dish at home -- soup is just his favorite type of dish). They even made pasta with cheese for George (they didn't have it on the menu but made it specially for him cause it's his favorite food). This is what he looks like when somebody makes an attempt at trying his pasta:

I really liked the guys who worked there and the beautiful girl who was our waitress. Open and friendly, and just generally really nice. A+.

This time we took home shoes for both of the kids so that they didn't have to sit there in their winter boots. It made them feel like home.

They especially loved that little nook in front of the window where they could lie and point out letters and look at people walking outside.

And when they got tired of that, Sensei went to follow them around while I was enjoying my coffee all alone.

And then we went home (this is how George and Alice move around when we're with Dad):

Alice got really excited when she saw all the pigeons flying there, and meeting that phlegmatic cat absolutely made her day.

And now, hello from the whole Komissariat!

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeey! I know this picture is crooked, but you get the idea.

And where do you like to eat out? 

Monday, February 16, 2015

getting sentimental

As many Russian people of my generation (I'm 29), I first heard this song when I was a kid, and I never thought it was something special. It didn't touch me deep inside or something. But a few days ago the weirdest thing happened.

I was walking with George (4) and Alice (18 months), and Alice was eager to play on the swings, so I put her on it, and George climbed next to her and put his hand around her so that she wouldn't fall down. 

I started to swing them, and George asked to sing something (they're always asking me to sing something; any song would do, especially if it has cats in it). And I suddenly remembered this song, Winged Swings. I sang it all, and I was freaking crying as I did. George asked to sing it again, and there I was, singing again and crying again. They asked me for this song over and over (how long were they swinging? like 15-20 min at the very least), and I kept singing and crying.

Now, for those of you guys who don't speak Russian I made an attempt at translating this song. So without further ado, let me introduce you to

In the young month of April
Snow's melting in the old park
And winged swings 
Are taking off

Everything's forgotten
Heart stands still within
There's only the sky
There's only the wind
There's only joy ahead

There's only the sky
There's only the wind
There's only joy ahead

Flying higher than the trees
Knowing no limits
Winged swings
Are flying, flying

Winged swings
Are flying, flying

Childhood's going to end
Cause it's not forever
Kids are going to grow up
And fly away in all directions

But for now, we're only children
We're yet to grow and grow up
There's only the sky
There's only the wind
There's only joy ahead

Flying higher than the trees
Knowing no limits
Winged swings
Are flying, flying

Winged swings
Are flying, flying

The planet's turning faster
From the bustle of the spring
And birds are singing above us
And we're sining like the birds

Everything's forgotten
Heart stands still within
There's only the sky
There's only the wind
There's only joy ahead

Flying higher than the trees
Knowing no limits
Winged swings
Are flying, flying

Winged swings
Are flying, flying

You see? What is there to cry about? But as I was watching this video I got tears in my eyes again. Just look at that kid, just listen to this song.

Come on, what's going on with me? Am I going crazy? Am I getting old?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

gather around the table

This is a two-pager using Ali Edwards Story Kit (Gatherings), and it's basically a story of our family through the eyes of our table. It's become too small for us, so we're going to replace it this month, and I made this layout to celebrate his faithful nearly 7-years-old service to our family.

The journaling is about all the stories and secrets and things the table could tell if it could talk. The text is so long I don't really feel like translating it right now, but you get the idea. I'll probably make a video on it as soon as I figure out how to do it without a tripod or anyone to hold the camera.


Another page using Ali Edwards' Story Stamps about what Alice is like right now:

Currently you're 18 months old, and you're so kind and sweet, and you seem to understand everything. You say a lot of words and try to repeat all that you hear. You love walking (stairs are your favorite) more than anything and prefer it to your stroller or my hands (much unlike George did).

Currently you adore shoes and try on every pair you see (that's why you especially like having guests at our place - they all come in shoes you've never seen before). You also like trying on clothes (yours and George's) and always come to Dad to show what you look like (and enjoy his oooooohs and awwwwwwws).

Currently you love books - you call them "uhu-uhu", because the first book you "read" had pictures of owls in it; I told you that owls say "uhu", so from now on this is what you think books are called, too. Charushin and Vasnetzov are your favorites (especially if they have owls and cats in them).

Currently you're a dancer! You move to every sort of music you hear. Together with George's love for signing it is quite hilarious (he sings, you dance; if you don't like the song you say "no" till he sings the one you like; if it's a favorite you also clap your hands).

Currently I love you so much because you're the smallest and cutest thing in the world.

around here

A very simple page lifted from Ali Edwards' using her Story Stamp (Prompts). It's about what each of us is into right now:

Around here Sensei is building a bell tower in the monastery which is 150 km away from home, so we get to see him only at the weekend, when the kids (and I) jump right on him and cling on to him and never let go till on Monday he has to go again. He loves the job but we all miss each other like hell.

Around here I'm writing a blog in English, learning tea ceremony and trying to keep the house in order. Slowly changing my character, habits and lifestyle. Eating real food and walking a lot every day.

Around here George is really into planes and guns (he has a respectful collection of both). Plays with Alice (they're running around the house with guns in their hands, and when he shouts "fire!" she lays on the floor). Loves riding the hills. Asks to tell him stories about cats. Is so cool to have a conversation with.

Around here Alice is carrying Christmas ornaments all around, has mixed feelings about George's remote control tank, and kisses me every time I look at her tenderly.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

january reflections

In the end of every month, I'm going to look back at my 2015 intentions , see how I'm doing, and set some more specific goals for the next month.

Keep love in my heart

I've been thinking on ways to become a more loving person. However, I haven't been taking all the steps I've mentioned (didn't read, didn't watch, and got my Beatitudes project only half way through). So, this will go to Feb goals.

Getting out of debt

30 000 RUB saved. 75 000 RUB left.

Do some scrapbooking

Nothing! Not a single tangible thing done. I've prepared a few photos for printing out for my January part of the album and a have a few layouts planned, but that's just happening in my head (or in my computer). I've also worked out a plan (a plan! again) on my approach to scrapbooking this year - I'll start with the beginning of our story (2008) and will go on from there, simultaneously trying to scrap this passing 2015 year.
I still have lots of started projects to accomplish (december daily 2013, december daily 2014, week in the life 2014, 31 things 2014). And a dozen of classes not even started.
Help! Help! I need help!

Blog daily

I don't have a chance to sit down to my computer every day, but sometimes I can write a few posts in one go. This month I got 31 posts total, so I thought it counts for "blog daily".

And now, actions:


Signed up for FlyLady and really, truly loved it. It brings me peace and puts a smile on my face. Organized bookshelves - they've been waiting for a year, right since we moved in. So happy to finally getting it done. Starting to feel just like I always wanted to feel when doing housework - like blessing my house. Doing it happily and gracefully, with no stress, but at peace (like Koreans). And I really want to buy some of those amazing tools in FlyLady shop - if only this year wasn't a year of savings... if we manage to get out of debt this year, I'm going to get all my housework supplies in 2016!

Letting go of stuff

Made a few pictures of my craft supplies, but really, so much to be done here...


Downloaded "Tea", a great book by Pohlebkin which I've already read once but don't remember a few important details. I've decided to start with it, as it's the most trustworthy source I know, and then I'll get closer to tea ceremony as it is. Again, if we manage to get out of debt this year, I'm buying my tea ceremony supplies in 2016.


This month we had so many guests! Loved reconnecting with my old friends, they help me stay sane. Cooked for my parents twice.
Really want to do something for my kids, to learn to control my temper, make it a priority.


Quite well here! We've sort of developed a plan while Sensei was working away from home and I hope to stick to it now, when he came back. Every day we had syrniky for breakfast, soup for dinner and seasonal fruit/vegetables for supper (here and now they are pomegranates, persimmon, tangerine, oranges and apples). Now that Sensei is here I don't know how it'll go. He's not a big fan of pancakes of any kind, he doesn't like cottage cheese (that's what syrniky are made of), and he'll never have just fruit for supper. I'll have to come up with some ideas... we'll see how it goes.


Of course not. Not yet. Unless you count all sorts of hard physical job I'm going through being a mom to two really active toddlers.

Go to bed and wake up early

Alas, no. The point here is that I need some free time. I get it only when the kids are sleeping. In the evening and at night they sleep very well, so I use this time; but if I try to go to bed early and use morning hours instead, I'm afraid the kids are going to wake up early, too. I need to figure something out on this one.


This blog, if it counts at all.

And then, being:


Thought on doing "three things I'm grateful for" project every day but didn't; I think I need to think of some twist on it to make it happen. Keeping a gratitude journal, maybe? Starting my night prayer with gratitude? I like this one, by the way.


Sunday is now a renew-my-spirit day.


When I remember, I can do things even if they scare me.


Trying to find funny in challenging times.

Notes: I'm considering Leo Babauta's Sea Change program as it touches upon many of the changes I'm working on. The only thing is, it's not free, so I won't be able to take it up this year. Maybe in 2016, if we manage to get debt-free.

This is it; not too bad, really. Writing this out makes me feel like I'm doing something. So, based on these reflections, here come


Read the Bible.
Watch Lazarev.
Connect with my kids.
Make something scrap-related every day!!
Take pictures of my craft supplies and post them for sale.
Read Tea when I have a chance.
Try waking up at 4 a.m.
Remember three things I'm grateful for before falling asleep.