cup

cup

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My biggest wish,
your biggest fear.
How can we love so many things
together,
yet
cannot agree
on one thing, that's
your biggest fear.
My biggest wish.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, everyone!


 As usual, the photo is by the amazing katieriversphoto.com Please, check her out!
 Coming soon:
A report on our trip to DC
A story of a brave family
Recipes for eggnog and marshmallows

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Guilty

I feel so bad about not posting here enough, but life just seems to be a little too hectic right now. I started a new job - my first full-time job in 3.5 years! - at the local college. We are leaving on a road trip to Washington D.C. this weekend (I have to go to the Embassy) and I still don't have all the necessary papers ready, and my bags are very much not packed. Christmas shopping is almost done. 3 gift baskets filled with homemade goodies are packed and delivered. Christmas cards are mailed. The house is decorated. I have to finish one purse a girl is waiting for, make another purse, and make 5 more pairs of baby booties some time soon. I have several things that I made a month or so ago that haven't been photographed and displayed yet, as well as a dozen pictures of new meals I cooked that await being posted here. Add to this cooking meals for a constantly hungry male who is trying to gain weight (while I'm hopelessly trying to lose it) and P90X 3 nights a week...
And I just don't function well in winter. It seems that all of my energy goes on staying warm.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A chance to win

A really cool handmade bunny. Oh, how I want one! 

http://beautifulthings-tatcon.blogspot.com/2010/12/blog-post_03.html

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife. Book Review.

I have just finished reading Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, and my feelings are mixed. On one hand, it is a very engaging novel, a page-turner, an interesting blend of science fiction and romance. At different times, the story made me hold my breath, envy, smile, and (almost) cry. There is one big "BUT" though.

To put it simply, I would have enjoyed the book much, much more if the characters were, well, nicer people. I don't see how casual use of drugs, getting drunk, and (SPOILER!) sleeping with one's best friend's boyfriend/spouse on two separate occasions add to the plot. I'm not trying to ignore reality here - I know that a lot of people practice destructive behavior, but I am against making it look normal. The numeral occurrences of the "f-word" and other vulgarities seem unjustified as well.

Also, there is (in my humble opinion) a major plot issue: until Henry and Clare meet in real time, he leads an absolutely selfish yet self-destructive life. He is the kind of person I would pity, but wouldn't want to have anything to do with. And then Clare comes along, and he suddenly turns into a nearly angelic being. Just like that. "I don't believe it!" - as Stanislavski would have said.

All in all, it was a good read, but not something I would purchase, want a hypothetical teenage daughter to read, or recommend to my pastor's wife.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Panama City Beach. The same Bed & Breakfast. Enjoying being alone as much as we enjoyed having company last time.
I say, "Hello, God!" as I walk into the water.
Sand crabs all over the place.
The water is green. The sky is blue.
I feel renewed, recharged, giddy, relaxed.
Being at the beach is a spiritual thing for me.
It all started the first time I saw the ocean.
Shon is a mountain man. He, who grew up in Maine and is used to the raw ragged beauty of the beaches there, thinks the southern beaches are boring. However, even he can't resist the clear waters and the white sand here in the Gulf.
Isn't it funny that in the middle of October the water in the Gulf is warmer than the water in the Great Lakes in the middle of June?

Friday, October 1, 2010

I know I need to post pictures of my most recent creations and write down a couple of recipes, but here's my silliness for today.

Every time I open my closet to pick an outfit, somewhere deep in my unconscious I hope that something new, and beautiful, and perfectly fitting has appeared in there since I last looked. Am I the only one?

Shon said that every time he opens his closet to pick an outfit, he thinks 'where in the world is that shirt?'

Also, don't ever let me go back to tiffany.com  It's not a good place for a person who doesn't own (or ever will own) either an engagement ring, or a wedding band.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Unflattering Confession

I finished reading House Rules by Jodi Picoult - a story about Jacob, a teenager with Asperger's syndrome, who was accused of murder. It's fairly predictable and very Picoult-ish, but not bad. I knew absolutely nothing about Asperger's before I started reading, so that side of the story was most interesting to me. Knowing Picoult's tendency for thorough research, I suspect the description is pretty accurate.

House Rules would have been just another book though, if not for one thing: I can relate to Theo, Jacob's brother, because I, too, have a sibling with an incurable decease.

My younger sister has the most common form of cerebral palsy - spastic diplegia. Now that she is 24, you can only tell that she walks a little funny if you pay close attention (the mild form of scissor gait - she still doesn't straighten her legs all the way, even though she can). The rest of the issues can easily be taken for personal quirks. It hasn't always been this way though. The reason my sister walks, talks, has a high school diploma, a junior college diploma, and a book-keeping job at a small firm is that my parents fought very hard.

Lu was a normal baby. And then, when she was a toddler (2?), she suffered from some sort of virus, which left her suddenly not quite normal. We all weren't quite normal after that. It was not until she was 3 that Lu was finally diagnosed with CP. At that point she could hardly walk or talk. So my parents sprang into action.

I wasn't exactly forgotten or left behind, but I wasn't getting equal attention either. Much of it can be summed up in a sentence my mom wrote to me a couple of years ago. She said, "I hope you will never have to choose between trying to cure one child and trying to give the other one an education." My mom was not there when I started 1st grade, even though it's a huge deal in Russia. She and Lu just left for their 1st (out of 4) trip to Kaluga - a city a mere 140 miles away, that took about 8 hours to get to, because there was no direct train. That first time they were gone for 4 months. The next three years they went for 3-month-long trips. My Dad & I lived together, with Grammy helping us out. He had to learn to braid my waist-long hair. I had to learn to live without my mother. By the time I was 9, I spent over a year of my life away from her. However, it was in a therapeutic center in Kaluga where my sister said her first sentence: The goat eats grass. It made Mom cry.

I grew up with double standards for admissible behavior and achievements. That was never fun. I guess it happens in every family to a degree (after all, I see "younger sibling syndrome" symptoms in both Lu and Linc), but it's taken to a whole new level when one of the kids has a disability. I came out of it all with a very strong sense of independence pathetically mixed with a deep desire to be taken care of.

I don't blame my parents - they didn't really have a choice. They were heroes who found new treatments and did homework with Lu every single day for 11 years. The only reason they stopped was because she didn't have homework in college. They loved me and gave me what they could - what was left of their time and energy. It is because of them that I devour books, speak English, and know most of what I know about world's best pieces of art and architecture.

I've been angry and bitter for years. Now those feelings are gone, or at least suppressed, and only show their ugly heads at the worst moments of self-pity. There is a certain sadness though. For talks that never happened. For friendships that never developed.


So here comes the actual confession: as much as I want kids, I am terrified of having a child with a disability. Not that anyone exactly looks forward to hearing "your boy will never walk" or "your girl will always stay at a mental level of a 3-y.o.", of course not. But I am truly terrified of doing it all again, only this time as a parent. I am terrified of subjecting another person to being a sibling of a disabled child, because I know what it's like.

It's true that not everyone has the same experience. There are angels among us. My best friend, though, whose younger brother also has CP, will agree with every single word in this post. It's good to know I'm not the only one.

Lu, by the way, has a cutest 5-month-old boy who is perfectly healthy. We just hope is stays that way.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

the 1st time

I've had so many "first time ever" moments since I moved to the US. Yesterday was the day for a new one: I was pulled over by a cop.

As I was returning from the youth group meeting (Shon & I drove separately), I suddenly realized my headlights were not on. Now, I'm still used to the Olds (may it rest in peace), that had the wonderfully convenient automatic lights, so I never had to worry about it. The truck doesn't have this luxury, obviously. What made it a problem was the fact that it was the first time I was driving the truck at night and had no clue where the light switch was! So, I pulled into a gas station, found a switch, turned it, saw some light come on, and started moving again. It wasn't a block later when I noticed the blue lights behind me, panicked slightly, and pulled over.

Well, turned out that I turned the light in the bed of the truck on!

The policeman was really nice, and, chuckling at my innocent idiocy (I mastered this look while dealing with bureaucrats in Motherland), he told me I had to pull the switch instead of turning it. Duh! A shameful moment for a brunette, my friends!

I need to mention that this is my second instance of dealing with the police in GA (the first time happened when I actually had an accident - first ever, of course!), and both times the officers were a pleasure to deal with.

P.S. Shon wasn't happy about this, but he really can't complain. He actually got a speeding ticket on Sunday. The half-of-my-paycheck kind, too.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I am so tired of so many things.
And I'm just plain tired - as in sleepy, but unable to sleep, having trouble concentrating, and having no energy.
I'm bitching, overeating, craving sweets, and letting my mind wander. I don't even want to play with the dog.

P.S. One of the hardest thing for me about living in the States is not really having a family.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mexican Lasagna

Some time ago I realized that most of the time I liked my homemade Mexican food much better than the restaurant Mexican food. I don't like the excess of salty cheese and the lack of variety in vegetarian choices (typically, all you can get is cheese, refried beans, and rice) While my food may not be authentic, it offers more and it's good!

So, let me introduce Mexican Lasagna.



Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 lb zucchini, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can (10 oz) mild enchilada sauce or salsa
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • tortillas
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar

Method:

Heat oven to 400F. Coat a 3-qt round dish with nonstick spray.
Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet; add onion and saute 5 minutes. Add zucchini and cumin, saute another 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans, corn, and sauce. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
Place a tortilla into the baking dish. Top with veggie mix (about 1 1/2 cup) and sprinkle with about 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat 4 times (or as many time as you dish size will allow). Cover with foil and bake 20-25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Usually, you can cut it into pretty neat slices. It looks cheerful and tasted great! 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Joys and Frustrations of Being a High School Teacher's Wife

My beloved hubby teaches 10th grade English in a rural school. He can probably write a book on ups and downs of being here. I have my own things to laugh and get angry about. Here are some.

* Shon teaches only one grade, which means he gets new kids every year. And the kids are very curious about me. I mean very curious. Last Friday, a car full of 10th graders stopped at the library's parking lot next to us just so that the kids could get a look at me. On Monday, when I knocked on Shon's door to get a set of keys from him, several boys got off their chairs and ran to the door to see Mr. R's wife. It's funny and I do like positive attention.

* I help Shon grade whatever he brings home. Quizzes, tests, essays - you name it. I help him create tests, too. I guess he is lucky his wife has an English degree and knows the theory of grammar better than most native speakers (just the theory though!!). I wonder how often teachers get that kind of help from their spouses. Does anyone know?

* I get to read young adult literature (which I love almost as much as children books) as catch up on the classics I missed out. Also, I get to introduce Shon to Russian poetry - he even used some in class!

* For some reason, it's very difficult to reach my dear husband when he's at the school. Their email system is set up so that messages "from the outside" don't go through. Cell phones are not allowed. When I called the school the other day during the break (!), the secretary put me on hold for 5 minutes just to tell me Shon couldn't come to the phone, because he needed to stay in his classroom to see the kids off and welcome the next class in. I told her it was an emergency. She asked me who I was. A couple minutes later Shon was on the phone. He said she never called him the first time. It was important, but it was not an emergency. I hate to lie, but how else can I reach my spouse? By the way, parents are allowed to walk into his classroom at any time, even if their kids are not in there. Makes no sense to me!

* I get to meet other teachers. They are cool. I love the English department.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Life is not slowing down.
The house is still in mild disarray, there are still a couple of shelves and pictures to be hung, and curtains to be purchased, and books/papers to sort through. It already is a home though, and that feels really good. I do miss having the dog inside, however.

My first week at work was a little bizarre. There was a lot of time wasted, a lot of things unclear. There is still no contract (and from what I understand, there won't be one). There might, however, be a chance to do photography for the paper, too, which will be an amazing learning opportunity. I would also love to proofread, since the paper really needs it. All the mistakes and missing commas bother me greatly.

I'm driving the truck. There is no progress in my learning to drive stick, since both of us have been too exhausted to drive anywhere in the evening to practice.

I'm finishing another bag, working on 3 hats, and cross-stitching. Shon is looking at cruise deals. Also, I made some delicious barbecued tofu the other night.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Overwhelmed

Remember how I wrote about the slowness of my life? Well, forget about it! There's been so much going on lately, I don't get a chance to sit down and write it down properly.

So, in the past 2 weeks we:

1. Went to Charleston, SC, to visit our friend from Croatia who was, in turn, visiting there. We met her online 4 or 5 years ago, and then met her in person, when she kindly invited us to schedule our next date in Zagreb. It was really neat to see Zvonka after 4 years, to explore Charleston area, and to swim in the ocean.
From Trip to SC
Zvonka & I on a boat.

2. When we were ready to leave Charleston, the truck we were driving (borrowed from Shon's dad) threw a rod. Right in the middle of heavy traffic, too. We ended up renting a car, driving to my father-in-law's, and borrowing another vehicle from him. Now, this was the second automobile to throw a rod on us since the last days of May.
From Trip to SC
The poor old truck

3. Our friends helped us find a different house to rent! It is bigger, lighter, mildew-free, carpet-free, has a huge sunlit yard, and is CHEAPER! The only downside is that Sunshine has to stay outside. We have moved, but haven't completely unpacked yet, hence no pictures.

4. It looks like I've got a job.

5. Our mechanic offered to sell us an '83 Ford truck for a reasonable price, and literally 2 days after we told him we'd buy it, our friend Katie called and offered us her old Honda for free. We picked up both yesterday. I can't believe that in one day we went from being a car-less family, to a 2-car family. I also can't believe that I have my first car (at the tender age of 27). Who cares that I can't drive a stick? I will learn soon enough!

We feel blessed, overwhelmed, and mostly speechless. I am very, very glad that our God is more faithful than we are.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Newly Recorded Song by our Friends Randy and Mackenzie

<a href="http://4and20blackbirds.bandcamp.com/track/pitter-patter">Pitter Patter by 4 and 20 blackbirds</a>

Friday, July 16, 2010

eventful

My life doesn't move very fast these days - nothing does in the humid heat of Southern GA, I'm afraid. It doesn't mean, however, that the slowness equals boredom. Last week, Shon went back to the studio in Colbert to finish recording the two songs he started a year ago. I went with him (not for the first time) and had fun (for the first time). Normally, recording means there are 3-5 guys in a tiny room, all talking at the same time and sharing their highly knowledgeable opinions about what is being done. I end up on the couch in the living room, reading or crocheting, trying to stay out of the way.
This time though, it was Shon, and Chad (the guy who does the recording), and me. Since it was mostly about recording vocals, I could actually contribute an opinion, and the guys actually listened to it - and even acted on it once or twice. And also I got to help out with background vocals - something I've never done before. It was scary at first, but turned out to be easier than I imagined.

The next day we went to see our dear friends play a show at a coffee house in Clarkesville. Randy and Mack are absolutely amazing. Here is a link to one of their songs http://www.youtube.com/user/mackenziechester#p/a/u/1/IFpWRWffTrk

On our way back from the show, I realized I had a bad headache which turned into a beginning stage of a cold by the time I went to bed. It would have been okay, have we not planned a 2-day motorcycle trip to Hendersonville, NC with CMA! I took NyQuil (the only thing there was in the house), got on the back of the bike, and tried very, very hard to stay awake for the next 6 hours on the road. I survived, but that Saturday night was miserable - the worst fever I had in the last 4 years or so. It was all fine the next day, but it's Friday today and the first day it doesn't hurt as much to swallow. There are sores in my throat. Never had that before!

What else... I did not get the job at Andrew College I applied for - in fact, they never even acknowledged the two emails I sent them. I pray that something else will work out. We did get a lead on a new rental place though. In fact, Shon's on the phone with the guy right now. It will be AWESOME to have a new place!

Well, this has gotten really long. More later.

Hugs,
Jenia

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Very Angry Post

My husband, who works for a public school system, is supposed to be paid on the last day of the month. We weren't too worried when the check didn't arrive on Wednesday, June 31st, because, well, we learned to expect things to be a little slow. When the check didn't show up on Thursday, July 1st, we were getting a bit nervous, but still not enough to call the Board of Education. When Friday arrived and the check didn't, Shon called only to find out the Board was closed. We transferred the meager funds from our savings to our checking account and went up to Bowman for the weekend.

Today, on Tuesday, July 6th, Shon called the Board again (no answer), and then the high school. The principle told him the Board was off this whole week and offered to call the superintendent at home. She called back 10 minutes later and said that the superintendent will not do anything until Monday, July 12th.

Since I haven't been able to find a job in the area, Shon's salary is the only income we've got and it hits us hard when the payment is delayed. If not for my parents, who wired us a little money last week, we'd literally be living on bread and water now. Even though we aren't going to starve, however, we will be penalized for not paying our bills on time.

I am not angry about not having money - I'm too used to that by now. I am angry, because the local Board of Education cares that little about people who work for it. How difficult is it to get to the office, find the check that somehow didn't make it to the post office before, and mail it? To me it feels like lack of common decency.

Also, I am angry with my husband, because he refuses to make the situation public knowledge (say, write to the editor of the local newspaper). He is afraid it will hurt him - or us. I, having grown up in a country where nobody ever complained about things like this, know where this silence leads.

Lastly, I am angry at myself, because I called Shon a coward and because I can't back off the way I normally do when we disagree. I really believe that it's not right to keep silent. I won't go against my husband. I won't send a letter to the editor. Instead, I'm just sitting here, typing away my anger, hoping to replace it with something close to peace and ending up with numbness instead.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Potato-Swiss Chard Curry

Turns out, having your recipes online is very helpful when you are far away from home! So here comes one more.

Ingredients:
3 potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1" pieces
oil
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsps ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups chopped Swiss chard or Collard greens
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained

Method:
Boil potatoes 4-6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain. Heat oil in a large skillet over med-high heat until hot. Add potatoes, sugar, spices. Cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in Swiss chard and tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 4-6 minutes or until the greens are crisp-tender.

From Cooking Pleasures magazine


Believe it or not, the first time I ever had collard greens was when I first made this recipe. Yes, I do live in Georgia.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The best blinchiki ever!

На блинчики:
3 яйца,
2 стакана молока,
1 1/4 стакана муки,
50 гр. растопленного масла,
1 ч. ложка сахара,
1 ч. ложка соли.

начинка:
500 гр. грибов,
400 гр. сыра,
1 большая луковица,
2 зубочков чеснока.

для соуса:
200 мл сливок 38%,
2 стол. ложки начинки

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blah

I need to write, I want to write, I have time to write - but my brain is melting in this humid GA heat, in a house with no air-conditioning or even window units. It's melting, and seeping through my pores, and my only hope is that when we are finally home tomorrow, I will still have some left.

Hugs,
Jenia

Saturday, June 5, 2010

just writing

How is it possible that I have more tan after 24 hours in Michigan than I got up until now in Southern Georgia?!

We arrived at 11.30 last night, after roughly 16 hours in my father-in-law's truck. The Chevy is just a bit younger than me, but it's still really reliable, if not comfortable. I will have to come up with a different seat cover, since the one that's in there now scratches you even through your clothes! It's pretty neat to have such a big seat though. I'm sure Sunshine will enjoy riding with us even more now :)

We were only going to spend 2 days in Bowman, and ended up staying there for almost a week. It was easier on me than usual, though. I did some cleaning and cooking, as usual, but I also made a point of not worrying about it too much. I also somehow managed to stay un-jealous of Shon spending the majority of time with his dad, and instead stayed busy with my own projects (the flower purse, the jewelry, and trying to save the plants).

And now we are visiting Jody and Megan in Michigan. I think we'll be here for at least a week. So far it's been nice and relaxing, I hope that's how the rest of it goes! Tomorrow, all 4 of us are singing at church. I wish I knew about it weeks ago so that I could actually learn the harmony for "Amazing Grace" since I'm pathetic at coming up with stuff like that on the spot. Out of the 4 of us, I am the least musically talented, unfortunately. I think we sound good though!

With this, I am leaving the computer and going to bed.

Hugs,
Jenia

P.S. It is absolutely unfair how cheap the produce is here! 99 cents for a lb huge, beautiful, vine ripe tomatoes! Maybe I could live here, after all!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bragging

Well, I have three things to brag about today. I made all of them within the last week or so. All of them are for dear old me.
 You can't really tell, but the bottom crystal is dark purple.
















When I was in Russia in winter, my mom gave me a string of triangular tiger eye beads that used to be a necklace. I used them as a starting point for this necklace and earrings.














I started working on the motifs for this bag months ago, and since it was not something for sale, I took my sweet time. It took me 3 days to make lining for this bag! I haven't sewn since 8th grade, so it was a real challenge to figure out how to make pleats, how to make them work, how to not screw it all up. The toughest part - hand-sewing the lining into the bag.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

darn it

Our one and only car died yesterday. Completely. So much for a trip to Michigan we were supposed to start on Monday.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A sad funny video

Scott, the pastor of First Methodist Church here in Cuthbert, told us about the video he saw recently and insisted we should see it, too. Now that I've seen it, I can't help sharing it.

It is funny, but it is also said, because I've seen this in real life in churches on both sides of the Atlantic.

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.


Scott, by the way, is as different from the pastor of this video, as you can be. He is definitely among 3 or 4 best pastors/preachers I've ever met. There is so much love, concern and sincerity in him, and he is a great speaker as well... When I listen to him at church I thank God that people like this exist.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Most Amazing Weekend, Part 1

Ever since October, when we found out that we were only 3 hours away from Panama City (the closest I've ever lived to a beach), I've been wanting to go back there even if just for a day trip. I really wanted us to go for the weekend after my birthday, but the money was really tight. Then a fellow blogger wrote about their wonderful trip to Panama City Beach, and by then I was absolutely dying to go. There was still the money issue though, so it looked like it will have to be a 1-day thing, if we got to go at all. And then, within 2 days I got 2 phone calls offering me small temp jobs this coming Friday and 3 days next week. It meant we could go and actually spend the night!! I told Shon in the morning, that I will call the Bed & Breakfast my friend was so taken with and see if they had rooms on the 22nd or the 29th. Well, it turned out the only time we could come was that very day! As soon as Shon's got off his Triumph, I asked him if he wanted to go now (I've already packed the bag!). On hearing yes, I called Penny and booked a room. By 5.30pm, we were there.

The B&B was cozy and private. Penny, the innkeeper, was very sweet. I definitely hope we will get to go there again some time.


One of the best things about the place - and the trip! - was the couple we met. What are the odds of diving into a 3-hour-long conversation with complete strangers you meet at the breakfast table in a small B&B in Florida? I say "diving" because the conversations were deep. It wasn't small talk! What are the odds of these people sharing the same views on things varying from Christian music to immigration laws to homeschooling? It was beautiful, and refreshing, and simply fun. We both hope we will stay in touch.

And then, of course, there was the beach. Shon isn't too much of a beach person. He is the mountain person. I always thought that I love the mountains and the beach equally. This time, however, I realized the it was not so. As much as I miss the mountains, as much as the Smokies make me want to cry, it is the ocean that keeps tugging at my heart. It's to the ocean that I always want to go to. Simply seeing the waves, smelling the ocean air, tasting the salt on my lips, and feeling the sand between my toes unties knots inside of me. It is a religious experience for me, too... It was so powerful to go to the beach at 6.30 in the morning, alone, and to be the re alone. Just me and the nature, and God, of course.                                                                                        

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fruit Pizza


Ingredients:
  • 1 package refrigerated cookie dough 
  • 1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream 
  • 1 Tbsp of instant pudding (optional)
  • 12-16 strawberries, sliced or cut in half
  • 1 can (11oz) mandarin oranges, well drained
  • a square of dark chocolate or some semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp oil
Method:
Preheat oven to 450F. Shape cookie dough into a ball, place on a pizza sheet or a baking stone and roll into a large (about 12") circle. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges are set. Do not overbake! The cookie should still be soft! Remove from oven, and cool 10 minutes before moving to a platter.
Combine cream cheese and sugar in a small bowl. Mix well. Whip the cream with instant pudding, and gently fold into cream cheese mixture. Spread the mixture over the cookie.
Arrange fruit over the cream cheese mixture. Place chocolate and oil in a small dish, and microwave for about 30 seconds or until melted. Stir well and drizzle over fruit. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.

P.S. I made this "pizza" twice, and it was a hit both times. The original recipe asked for 1/4 of powdered sugar, but that was way too sweet for us. I don't really measure sugar for this recipe, I just add it a little at a time and taste for sweetness.

P.P.S. The recipe was adapted from "Fruit-Topped Triple Chocolate Pizza" recipe from The Pampered Chef recipe book.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mexican Baked Fish

I found this recipe on the package of frozen cod and it became one of our favorites. It is quick, easy, and inexpensive.

Ingredients:
Frozen cod or tilapia fillet (cod works better for us)
Salsa
Corn chips
Shredded cheese

Method:
Preheat the oven to 400F.
I do not thaw the fish all the way - I just take it out of the freezer not long before I start cooking, put the pouches in a bowl under cold running water, and let it sit there while the oven is preheating.
Rinse the fillets in cold water and pat dry. Lightly grease a baking dish. Place the fillets in the dish, cover with salsa and cheese, and crumble corn chips on top.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until done.

We usually serve it with brown rice, sour cream, and avocado.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

the truth about birthdays

I hate my birthday. I honestly do. It's the most depressing day of the year. I'm old and wise enough by now not to expect anything special to happen, and I know ahead that nothing special would take place, but there's still that tiny grain of hope that ruins at all.
I just want to wake up one morning, on my birthday, and hear "Happy Birthday, babe" from my husband, before I hear anything else. I want to get cards (not even gifts, just cards!!) from more than 2 people. I want friends to come over. I want a party. I don't want to have to bake my own cake. Again. I'm not even bothering with it this year. I'd love for a friend I haven't seen in awhile to finally reply to my emails - or give me a call. I'm not asking for anything big, not really.All I want is for this day to be just a little bit better than the other days of the year.

Argh! I don't even remember the last time I had a birthday party. Since I can't have a birthday party, I think I'll have a pity one.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Yay!

As of 10am (GMT +3) on Friday, April 23, I am an aunt!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Our Sunshine is not exactly bright

That's what we have to think when we leave her hitched outside for several hours and come home to see this:

This, in case you can't tell, is Sunshine's bowl. When I left the house in the morning, I filled it with water. By the time I came back, she filled it with dirt. Judging by the fact that most of dirt was wet, there was still water in the bowl when she started digging. The same happened to her food bowl once or twice before.
She started doing it about a month ago, and we have no clue why.
And here is Sunshine herself:

Monday, April 19, 2010

new booties

As much as I dislike making things where I have to sew parts together after I've crocheted them, these booties were fun to make!


 I sure hope I will have a baby girl one day!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Salmon with Marmalade-Balsamic Sauce

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 lb salmon fillet
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1/3 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup red onion, sliced or diced
Method:

Rinse salmon, pat dry, and rub the pepper into it. Place skin down in a lightly oiled casserole dish. Bake at 400 F for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Boil, stirring constantly, until reduced to about 1/2 cup. 
Serve the sauce over the salmon. That's it!

Delicious, nutritious, and EASY!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Two Little Girls: A Memoir of Adoption. Book Review

I have just finished reading 

a book about adoption that a friend of mine let me borrow. I feel very strongly about adoption. I've been wanting to adopt at some point in my life ever since I first entered a so-called "house of infants" (an orphanage for children of 3 or 4 years old and younger) as a teenager. I looked into those cute little faces that would stare back at me so intently and was shocked by their inability to smile. I was equally shocked later, when I learned that after "graduating" from an orphanage at 18, a huge percentage of the kids end up on the streets, doing drugs, drinking, etc.. A friend of mine, who's been working with orphans for some time now, once said that thanks to various sponsors, several of the good students at the orphanage she was connected with had several digital cameras each. They did not, however, have any clue about spending or saving money, cooking, cleaning, writing resumes and dressing for job interviews. All this to say - I do care about orphans, my heart aches for them; I do want to adopt one day. This is why I started reading the book.
Boy, was I in for some disappointment!
It was interesting and easy to read, I will give it that. I also have respect for this couple simply because they did choose to adopt. But I also feel like wringing their necks, choking them to near death, or, at least, telling them to mind their manners. As my darling hubby said, "Well, at least it's getting a response from you!"
It sure was getting a response - I was seething with rage as I was reading! Here are some issues I had with this book:

1.I knew before I started reading that adoption was a long, difficult, expensive process. I appreciate the author being honest about the kinds of obstacles they had to deal with. I do not, however, appreciate the whole "we have sacrificed so much to get this second child of ours! We are martyrs!" attitude.

2. The way Mrs. Reid talks about Russia, Ukraine, and the people there just tears my heart to pieces. I am a Russian citizen with Ukrainian heritage. I have not been to Russia - I lived there for 24 years. It is a very difficult country - corrupted, mismanaged, bundled up with red tape. But it is also hospitable, generous, beautiful. The same goes for Ukraine. The Reids didn't seem to notice anything good while they were there. They call it Trashcanistan. The author is aghast when their cheerful interpreter asks how they are liking her hometown.  "Your town is a pit!" she's thinking, but not saying.
They come in, seeming to know nothing about the local culture. They are disgusted with the apartment they will get to stay in, even though it's perfectly clean. They don't seem to grasp the idea that a family that normally lives there moved out (probably to stay with some friends or family members in a tiny crammed condo) so that they could stay there for a week. Yes, of course, they will be paid for it. But how many times have the Reids been willing to move out of their 3-story home in Chicago so that another family could stay there for $50 a day?
They seem to be constantly angry at the people who are trying to help them out. They refuse to feed the child the food that had been cooked especially for her. "OMG, she is going to feed her gruel!" (most probably, referring to something like wheat cream - the food all Soviet children were successfully raised on). Another sign of complete lack of cultural knowledge in the beginning of the book is not crucial, and it makes me laugh more than cringe. She writes, "Shriveled old women - called "babushkas" for their head scarves." Hello! Babushka is a Russian word for grandmother. All old ladies are referred to as babushkas. Yes, many of them do wear the head scarves, but it's the scarves that are named after the ladies (and only in English, btw) and not the other way around!
Mrs. Reid writes about women in Russia and Ukraine with something close to contempt. Yes, their manner of dressing is unusual for most foreigners, especially as well-off and polished as the author herself, but, once again, a little bit of cultural digging would have explained that phenomenon to her.
Basically, the Reids present the very image of Americans Eastern European people have (I wonder why!) - rich, spoiled, snobbish, self-centered, unaware. The only thing that doesn't match the stereotype is the weight.  The generous gifts of peanut butter and handwash add to the idea.

3. Some things about the child-parent relationship seemed disturbing to me, but I really shouldn't comment on them, because, being childless, I don't have experience in raising children.

If you would like to read about the horrors of adoption and international traveling - this is a perfect book for you.
If you are somewhat culturally sensitive, poor, or religious - you may not care so much for it.

P.S. I sincerely hope the Russians and Ukrainians mentioned in this book will never get to read it. If I were them, I'd be outraged, hurt, and embarrassed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Seat

Shon put the new (more comfortable seat) on the bike yesterday. Boy, can I feel the difference!! His old one, which he traded for this new, softer one, felt like a wooden board. I still don't know how I will feel after 8 hours on this thing, but even after a roughly 40-minute ride I can tell that my rear end likes this seat much much more!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is Alive!!

Christ's not dead, no, He is alive!
Happy Easter!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Weekend in Bowman

We are spending most of the weekends in Bowman this month. It can be both good and not so good :)
Today is somewhat busy - I already performed CPR on all of the house plants and replanted some of them. Once it gets a tad warmer outside, I will plant carrots, radishes and baby spinach in the backyard. Then there will be a trip to buy groceries, cooking of the dinner, and baking of the Kulich - traditional Russian Easter bread. 
Oh, the life of a woman!

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Bag!

Here's a bag I finished last week.





Originally, I was making it for myself, but now I think it came out nice enough to try selling it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fields of Grace

I have iTunes playing as I sit in the office crocheting or stitching. It got to "Fields of Grace" several minutes ago. I've heard the song multiple times before - we even sang it with the youth group at Harvest, and I always liked it. Now, however, it struck me in a different way.
I grew up in a pretty conservative Baptist church. The kind where the girls who wear pants to church are frowned upon, the married women are to wear head coverings, playing cards is a sin, and dancing is not allowed in any way, shape or form. This song could never be sung at that church, even without the drums. I suspect that if I wanted to sing it at the church my mom goes to now (which isn't overly conservative), people wouldn't get it. 
It's okay, in a way. I believe that there should be different kinds of churches for different kinds of people, since there is such a variety of personalities out there.
On the other hand, however, I am so glad that I can fathom dancing with and for my Father God; that the image brings not confusion, but tears to my eyes. I am not, by any means, a "swinging on a chandelier" kind of Christian, and I feel uncomfortable at highly emotional churches as much as I do at highly unemotional ones. It is such a relief, though, to realize, after years of being limited by man-made restrictions, that I can 'dance, like David danced.'

P.S. "And nothing, nothing, nothing can take this away from me!"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Another Beautiful Sunday

Yesterday was simply beautiful, in spite of the wind and the rain. In the morning, Shon and I decided to go the United Methodist Church that is just down the street from our house. We are not Methodist, I've never even been to a Methodist church before, and we did not really know anyone who went there, but several people in the area mentioned that the pastor and his wife used to be missionaries in Russia. So we finally went.

Scott and Patty have indeed spent 3 1/2 years doing mission work, but it was in Kazakhstan, not Russia. They did work with the Russian population though, and they did learn the language. Turns out, people had been telling them about us, too, but no one knew for sure who we were or where we lived. They were thrilled to meet us and invited us over for lunch. We both had such a great time!!

It was neat to talk about our international experiences over some hot tea (in southern Georgia!!) and Russian chocolates. It felt like we've known each other forever. 

Yay for new friendships!!

Hugs,
Jenia

Friday, March 19, 2010

Polenta Wedges with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp oil
  • 1 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup broth
  • 2 Tbsp cream
  • chilled cooked polenta wedges
  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed

Method:
Heat broiler, with rack 5 inches from heat. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Season. Add broth and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Stir in cream and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place a rimmed baking sheet in oven to heat, 5 minutes. Pat polenta dry and lightly brush both sides with oil. Toss asparagus with 1/2 tsp oil.
Place asparagus on one half of the hot sheet, and polenta on other half of sheet.
Broil until polenta is golden brown and asparagus is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes, rotating sheet and tossing asparagus halfway through. Serve polenta wedges with asparagus and creamy mushrooms.

This came out really good and quite filling. I was surprised, but one wedge + asparagus and mushrooms was enough for Shon!

P.S. recipe from Everyday Food

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tofu Parmigiana

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 5 Tbsp grated Parmesan
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, divided
  • 1 package extra firm tofu (firm will work, but it's prone to breaking)
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 jar your favorite spaghetti sauce (the original recipe calls for 8oz tomato paste, but it's not enough for us)
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4oz shredded Mozzarella (I only had Cheddar)
Method:
In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp Parmesan and 1 tsp oregano. 

Cut drained tofu into 1/4" slices, coat with bread crumbs mix.
In a skillet, heat oil. Cook tofu slices until crisp on both sides.

 Combine sauce, oregano, basil, and garlic in a small bowl. Cover the bottom of a pan with the sauce. Arrange the tofu in the pan. Spoon sauce over the tofu slices. Repeat. 



Top with Mozzarella and remaining Parmesan. Bake at 400F for about 20 minutes.



I served it with spaghetti, lettuce, and garlic bread. 
If you cut the tofu thinly enough, you can't even tell you are eating tofu! It tasted very similar to Eggplant Parmigiana, but I like this version much better, since tofu doesn't seem to soak up oil like eggplant does.


So this was our dinner last night. We enjoyed it!
P.S. The original recipe was found on allrecipes.com

Long Road to the Kitchen

In Captivating Stasi Eldridge writes:
"I somehow believed that upon saying "I do," I would be magically transformed into Betty Crocker. I imagined myself baking fresh bread, looking flushed and beautiful as I removed the steaming loaves from  the oven. [...] I had failed."
My housekeeping skills still need a lot of improvement, but, unlike Stasi, I have mysteriously turned into a cook. Not that I had any choice, having married a man spoiled by home cooking from scratch, who also happened to want to gain weight. Us being broke vegetarians and me being Russian didn't help much either. But here I am, with no pages left in my recipe book, having compiled a cookbook for my sister, and having menus for at least one week at any given moment. I even own an apron! Now, I am not a chef by any means. But I'm very good at following recipes!
I figured I could use this blog for saving the recipes I liked, since I can't afford a nice new recipe book at the moment.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring crochet

Here are some of my newly-made items. I really hope they sell, because we could use the money.
Here's the cow purse.








Here's the bunny purse:









Here's the bunny hat:








and the bunny booties (I am NEVER making these again!)








And here are the two things I am working on at the moment.
A baby afghan (the first afghan I ever made):
I came up with the pattern myself!






and a purse:

Sweet Sunday

I am so glad I talked Shon into going to Harvest with me today! I mean, I would have been fine by myself, but I wanted him to come, too. And he ended up enjoying it, even though he said all the physical attention made him uncomfortable. I, however, thrive in it.
It is nice to be a part of something, to know that I belong, to know that I don't have to go all the way to Russia to find people who miss me.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring is in the air

I think I always loved spring. I even loved it in Russia, where it came late and brought rain and mud. Here, in Georgia, you just can't help loving it.
I love the robins in our front yard, the daffodils blooming all over the place, those tiny purple flowers that add color to the fields. The sun seems to shine differently, the air smells like change. I can't help bending down and touching the green fuzz of the new grass (Shon says I remind him of an autistic guy he used to take care of). I wish I could draw, write songs, and make movies to convey how spring makes me feel.
And to know that this is just the beginning!! There will be longer days, and hummingbirds coming back to our parts, and lilacs, and sandals, and the feeling that this world is not as hopeless as it often seems to be.