December 7, 2012

Goodbye Moscow

My last days in Moscow (for a while at least) have been pretty awesome (despite getting pushed on a metro and witnessing the flight of a really gross snot rocket). One of those “coming full circle” kind of feelings. I said goodbye to some of the closer friends that I’ve made, venerated relics of Saints, was fed by super nice nuns (who also had their driver give me a ride home because I was pregnant and had to carry stuff), ran in to Lydia while chatting with said nuns and got to say goodbye, ate most of the things that I will miss, saw an interesting exhibit about the New Martyrs of Russia, and brought another successful baked good to the volunteers…a lenten one that I kind of made up:

I rolled out store bought lenten pastry dough, spread a mixture of melted margarine, sugar, and apple pie spices on it, then added tiny diced apple pieces (that also had some of the spice on them) and rolled it up. I cut the roll into slices and baked them until they looked done. I also wrapped some up like a little croissant, but the big roll thing was easier. They were a little messy, but good! I’m just glad the last thing I brought wasn’t a total disaster.

THINGS I WILL NOT MISS  (in no particular order)

Snot rockets

“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” on constant loop at Merei

Russian TV (except the religious channels, Voronini (Russia’s remake of Everybody Loves Raymond) and Kontrolnaya Zakupka)

The stink eye for not having small change

The super icy sidewalks

Smokey streets and restaurants

Trying to say English words in a Russian accent – does. not. work.

The guys from the tatoo place and the Erotic Museum trying to hand me flyers all day, every day

5000 rouble bills

THINGS I WILL MISS (in no particular order)

Baklava from Merei (grocery store on Noviy Arbat)…possibly the best!

Nostalgia brand sirok

Borcht from Shtolle, Anderson Cafe and Taras Boulba

My darling volunteer group

The birch trees – during each season

Packed churches

Sretsensky church bookstore and Sofrino (make that most church bookstores)

Friends that I saw, old and new

The regular bookstore near our apartment on Noviy Arbat with the best children’s section

Pickles, cheremsha

Soyuz Orthodox TV channel

Blini in the parks during Maslenitsa

Hachapuri from JonJoli


It’s not goodbye forever. But for a big chunk of time. I am so ready to go home, but little pieces of my heart are spread across the city of Moscow. Hopefully someday soon we will come back and collect them with the baby.




November 30, 2012

A Definite ‘Up’ Day

In recent posts I have shared stories about how I am a babbling idiot or that some Russians are mean. So I think it’s time for a happier recollection of a pretty great day I had.

A couple weeks ago I spent a few days volunteering at a children’s hospital (one that I visited with the youth conference in July). There wasn’t too much I could do there being pregnant and the hospital having recently transfered many of the kids to a new location, so eventually we all realized it was best that I stop, but this story is from before that.

To get to the hospital I would take a half hour ride on a metro, wait for a mini-bus thing (called a marshrutka) and take that for about 40 minutes to the last stop. Marshrutki can be kind of unpredictable as far as departure times go. My second day going to the hospital the wait for a marshrutka was incredibly long. Nothing was coming. And the line is outside. And of course it was freezing. And a few minutes in to the wait it was drizzling. And my umbrella was at home. Thankfully my coat is waterproof and my schedule at the hospital wasn’t strict, so I was ok waiting. Just a little nervous since I am now two people and not just one.

A little old couple was standing behind me in line. They were using this martrushka in this particular area for the first time. After a while of waiting, the little old lady looked at me and politely demanded that I stand with her under her umbrella. She generously held it over us as she told me they had never used this marshrutka before and she wondered what was taking so long. Unfortunately I couldn’t shed any light on the situation since this was only my second time and the first time I took it, the marshrutka basically came right away. Our conversation topic basically stayed the same the entire wait, but it was pleasant none-the-less.

When the marshrutka finally came, I sat behind the couple. Before exiting, the little old lady turned around and said she wished me much happiness and health. A very sweet wish to offer someone you only ever spoke to about a mini-bus and the weather. I smiled and returned her sentiments. And of course thanked her for her kindness.

I arrived at the hospital to spend another afternoon sitting with Lydia. A woman who takes care of a 9 year old boy in the hospital. Kyril was abandoned by his birth mother and adopted. While riding a bike he was hit by a truck and severly injured. Incomprehensibly, his adoptive parents chose to also abandon Kyril who was now lying in a hospital bed, unresponsive, but alive. Lydia was assigned to him and for a very long time never left his side. When we came to the hospital in July, one of our parcipants was able to relieve her for the first time in weeks so she could go take a walk. Kyril is doing much better now than he was in July, but he still cannot speak, control his movements, or get out of bed. I pray someday he can run around and play like little boys his age. And I admire Lydia for her dedication. She has a life and a family of her own, but she gives it all up to support Kyril. She loves him as one would her own child.

I knew this day was her birthday because I overheard her telling someone the last time I was there. Despite the fact that I didn’t know her that well, I wanted to bring her something. The only thing I really had to give her was a little paper icon copy of the Kazanskaya Mother of God. I had just received it a few days prior after venerating the icon itself. The icon was in Moscow for the Kazanskaya Feastday (November 4th, new style calendar). Andrei and I were fortunate to go to services that day at the Kremlin where the Patriarch was serving and the icon was present. Later, the icon was brought to an Orthodox “Expo” and that’s where I had the opportunity to venerate it. To be able to do this while pregnant was especially significant for me. After venerating the icon, they handed me the paper copy. My plan was to take it to the hospital with me when I, God willing, give birth in April. Knowing that Lydia, in her situation, would not have the opportunity to actually venerate this majestic icon and I did, I decided this would be my gift. She deserved it much more than I ever could.

I had no idea how much it would end up meaning to her. She told me that what she wanted for her birthday was to buy an icon and to be in church. Although it didn’t exactly happen that way, it turned out that the hospital priest came by to give Kyril Holy Communion and blessed Lydia for her work. Then I came and gave her an icon. This was enough to fulfill her birthday wishes. Her intense gratitude and tearful joy was incredibly humbling for me.

It definitely was one of the best gifts I ever gave.

And a pretty great day in Moscow.

November 20, 2012

In Moscow Only Spongebob Makes S’mores

A while ago I wanted to introduce some of our friends to the amazingness that is s’mores. That plan got a little messed up, but I recently got to try again.

While hanging out with Andrei’s cousin and her son I told them about my rice krispy treat/Russian ‘marshmallow’ disaster. That reminded them that they had a question for me.

“Do people in America really roast zephyr (marshmallow) over a fire?” The son had seen it on Spongebob Squarepants and was intensely curious. Since I had recently found the American style marshmallows here in Moscow I decided I had to introduce them to this childhood rite. It’s hard for me to imagine someone going through their entire life not even knowing what a s’more is! Or the simple joy of roasting a marshmallow! When I went to Italy in high school, the family I stayed with was fascinated by the fact that we eat frittatas/omelettes in the morning for breakfast instead of in the evening for dinner (something they had also seen on T.V.).

The next time Andrei and I came over, we brought the s’more fixings. Using chopsticks and their stovetop we brought them up to speed on what it is to be American. And it was a success! Unless they were just being nice, they were thrilled with the results. It’s fun sharing different foods.

Andrei’s cousin and her son hope to visit us in America this summer. I can’t wait to pull out our little fire pit and show them s’more making in all its proper glory!

November 13, 2012

The Big Reveal

The Big Reveal is not very big – surprise wise – considering many of our family and close friends already know the ‘secret’. Also, depending on timing you probably saw something on Facebook before reading this post. But it is big in happiness, in excitement (and scariness)…and in blessings.

Andrei and I are expecting our first baby.

Due April 16. So, sometimes lenten birthday cakes – woohoo! At least I have good practice in that (my birthday is always during lent).

Most everyone’s first question (after the due date) is how I am feeling. Actually scratch that. Everyone asks if the baby will be born in Russia. That answer is no – I am leaving Moscow in a few weeks and will stay until the baby is born. After that, we will see.

Back to the other question though – I feel pretty good. Have not had any morning sickness. I’m mostly just tired and hungry (I think 2nd trimester energy is a myth). That’s about it. I also kind of feel like a bit of a poser. There are about a bazillion pregnant girls I know in my Russian community back home as well as some old college friends. In Moscow I’ve noticed the smoke more, the lack of being able to order a huge veggie salad, and my very strong desire to go home and start setting up our house already. I have been eating lots of pickles. But I do that normally so I don’t think it has anything to do with the baby.

Mostly I feel blessed. Cliche, I know. But here’s the thing:

In July (2012), I participated in a Russian Orthodox Youth Retreat/Conference in Moscow. My cousin’s husband was the organizer and I helped him a bit with coordination before and during the program. The conference was centered around the idea of Orthodox marriage and family. We started our conference by participating in Moscow’s For Life Conference (they call it a Festival – but it was more like a conference) which began on Russia’s Day of Family, Love and Loyalty/Faith. This national holiday coincides with the day the church celebrates Peter and Fevronia – patron saints of marriage.  So the theme was strong and prominent. The For Life program was essentially an anti-abortion conference discussing and presenting many social programs in Russia that help families. The goal is to reduce the number of abortions in Russia (which is astronomical). There were also focuses on other social programs, but for us that was the main interest. It was interesting that rather than having an ‘anti-abortion’ approach to the public, most of the participants of these social programs said they focus on  defending family values and duties. Our little group of ‘foreigners’ was inspired by their courage in standing up for these important principles, their successes, and their spiritual approach.  Although implementing these social programs in America would be much more challenging, perhaps someday their courage will rub off and there will be hope for us too.

After the For Life program we went to Ekaterinburg to visit the site of the murder and martyrdom of the Royal Family. We also met with local Orthodox youth to share our experiences in the church and different religious socializing groups. To me this place was especially important as my saint is Holy Royal Martyr Olga (the eldest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II) who was killed with her family in Ekaterinburg. I can’t express how close I felt to her and the family in this place. A place that was so bittersweet. Where sadness, joy and peace are experienced in one emotion and one prayer. The local organizers told us they wanted us to feel like not only they were hosting us, but that the Royal Family had warmly embraced us as well. And that is exactly how I felt.

In Ekaterinburg we were presented again with the importance of the Orthodox family. The lessons of humility and unbreakable faith that we learn from the Royal Martyrs as well as Sts. Peter and Fevronia were resonant throughout the entire stay. Each day of the whole youth conference I felt the importance of my role in my marriage and of my marriage’s role in our church. I could feel my love for Andrei growing during each visit, each church service. And in each place, at every relic and every service, I prayed that we could start a family. That my children could see and appreciate and know all of this beauty and truth.

Our first little one is due 9 months after I returned from the trip.

There is never the ‘right and perfect’ time to have a baby. But this experience got me a little closer. And I don’t think it was a coincidence.

My Favorite Reactions/Responses to Our News

“You’re my first friend…who did this on purpose”


Brother-in-Law: D. Andrei and T. Olya have some news!

Nephew: What kind of news?

BIL: The best kind of news…

N: They bought everyone an iPad?!?!?!


“…those cold nights in Russia will do that to you”

November 3, 2012

…Aaaand Back Down Again

As a sort of follow-up to my last post, I wanted to share another awkward Moscow story. The awkwardness all fueled by me – not any scary Russian cashier or pulled over taxi driver (who really was a funny guy). Althoug  the woman working at the dry cleaners, where this story takes place, was a little frightening. But she wasn’t mean. Just expressionless and a little cold. I, on the other hand, was a complete wierdo.

The first time I went to the dry cleaner next door (Himchistka No 1), I just popped in to check prices. The place is small so the lady behind the desk/register was about 3 feet away from me. I looked at their price list in complete silence and for some reason the fact that she wasn’t asking me if I had any questions and that we hadn’t even made eye contact was making me really uncomfortable and hot and sweaty. At the same time I was happy because I just wanted to check the price and not necessarily use their services. On my way out I tripped up the alternating sized stairs and almost broke my face. I ran out before I could see if anyone saw me. I returned later with a skirt and gave it in to be dry cleaned.

This was months ago during one of our other trips out here.

Two days ago (only the day after the incident with the taxi driver) I went to the dry cleaner to drop off shirts for Andrei. This would be my second time using their services (but the third time in the place). She inspected the shirts and then asked for my last name. I started to spell out Schafranek (in Russian Ш-а-ф-р-а-н-е-к) and somewhere in there messed up the letters and had to start over. I don’t have to spell my last name out loud in Russian very often, so have pity on me. Plus the lady was scaring me in my already awkward state. Again, she wasn’t mean…I just expected her to be so I was already on ‘Defenseless American Idiot Mode’.

I remembered that the first time I used them, for the skirt, they had completely botched the spelling of our last name (most likely because of me, but whatever). So I knew it wasn’t going to pull up a record when she spelled it correctly this time. Nothing came up on her screen, as expected, so she asked, “Have you been here before?” For some reason my brain thought it would be easier to just say no than to explain that they spelled my name wrong the first time. So I answered no. She asked me again had I ever been there (as if she didn’t believe me) and I lied again, looking down at my hands, “No.” I could feel the look of blushing childish guilt spreading over my face. Why couldn’t I just say my name was wrong the first time? All I wanted to do was throw the shirts at her and run out.

She continued to create an account for me with the rest of my details, “What’s your first name?”. Easy, Olga – everyone in Russia can spell that on their own. Then she asked for my number. And I had a mini panic attack. In my 2 second pause before answering I realized that perhaps my old record with the messed up name would come up because the phone numbers would match. Even though the name was mispelled it was close enough to see that I was the same person (plus my first name would be there too). And then she would know that I lied, possibly about the stupidest thing you could ever lie about. Within those 2 seconds I decided that if it did bring up my account I would just say that Andrei must have come in with something and left my name and phone number for who knows what reason. Luckily nothing alerted her in the system, or if it did she stayed silent for which my ego is forever grateful.

She printed out a pick up slip and receipt for me that I had to sign. I signed my initials. At home when I sign initials I sign, OSS (Olga Stephanie Schafranek). Without really thinking, but sort of half thinking, I went to sign in Russian and signed OCC (an O with two Russian S’s). Which is wrong. My initials in Russian are ОСШ (Ольга Степановна Шафранек). I just stared at the receipt as I gave it back to her…defeated. I wasn’t going to try to write over it or cross it out at this point. I had already messed up my name once in the last 5 minutes, I wasn’t going to show her that I did it again. Although she could figure it out for herself if she looked.

At least I watched my step on the way out that time.

I’ll have Andy go pick up his shirts.

For those interested: one pencil skirt cost 600 roubles to dry clean; two dress shirts also cost 600 roubles. 600 roubles is about $19.

October 31, 2012

Success and Awkwardness – The Emotional Rollercoaster That is Living in Moscow

For me, life in Moscow is an emotional roller coaster; a series of ups and downs usually based on my comfort level in a given situation. Most often, my comfort level depends on my command of the Russian language that day – yes, that changes…Every. Day. My comfort level can also be dictated by the amount of confidence I have in the moment. These levels and moments shift quickly. One minute I am so proud of myself for navigating the metro maze, until I ask for directions above ground and realize I went to the completely wrong metro stop. Or the days I am ‘owning’ living in Moscow only to be belittled to nothing by a cashier because I can’t give her a 10 rouble coin to make the change easier (or worse, when I give a coin thinking it will help make change, and I’m totally wrong). As if I purposefully planned to ruin her day by not having the 10 roubles – like I would intentionally put myself into a situation where I have to apologize profusely and wish I could just disappear or fear one of the 45 unnecessarily staffed security guards will shoot me on the spot. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad. (yes…it is).

Yesterday started as a success story. My last post described my disaster of an attempt at making rice krispy treats for my volunteer group. Fortunately, I was able to find American marshmallows and started all over again.

The rice krispy treats were new to everyone and loved by all. I drizzled mine in chocolate which makes them more fun and cool and complicated looking. Right?

…Just say yes.

In my explanations on how I made the rice krispy treats I learned a couple new words for my ever expanding Russian-culinary vocabulary. There were volunteers there that I hadn’t met yet, and since it was obvious I wasn’t from around here it sparked some major interest. One girl was digging my accent. Everyone asked the usual questions: “How do you know Russian?”, “Were you born here and then moved to America?”, “Where is it better – Moscow or America?”, “How is life in America?”, “Are there many Russians there?”, “Are there any 100% Americans who are Orthodox Christian?”, “Does the Orthodox youth get together a lot?”, “Who are you voting for, Obama or Romney?” (I could have an F.A.Q. post for questions we get asked in Russia). A new question last night was if newspapers are really delivered by little boys on bikes.

The evening was ending very successfully. I was interacting with people a lot and making new friends. I also got to spend some quality time with an old volunteer friend over some tea after everyone had left. She’s been super busy and we haven’t had a chance to catch up. Even though I was happy with my previous conversation, it was nice being able to talk more in depth. Not about the usual “Oh cool, you are from America” stuff, but more girl-chat stuff. I left the church (where we cook for the homeless) thinking I was completely in control. That I am totally awesome at living abroad.

It was slurrying outside and totally gross so I decided to try to find a cab/car to take me home. I saw a car stopped at a red light with an orange box thing on its roof. Preferring a legit cab over a gypsy cab I ran up to the guy’s window and started waving. He didn’t see me right away so I started waving more frantically to get his attention before the light turned green. He rolled down the window and I asked him to take me to my apartment on Noviy Arbat. Only I started the sentence weird and then said Noviy Arbat in a total accent. I have an accent, I know, but not nearly as bad as the one that came out. Oh no, here comes the awkward downfall after the successful evening. I can feel it.

The guy was nice enough, but shook his head and shrugged his shoulders and said (in Russian), “There’s a police man behind me.” There was indeed a cop car behind him, but I thought it was weird that he wouldn’t take me. Maybe there’s a rule if you’re stopped at a light. Perhaps he feared the cop would bust him for something made up by letting me in the car. I had no idea, so I just ran back to my friend (who was responsibly waiting to make sure I got into a cab). I told her he said no because of the cop behind him. We started to look out for another cab when the light turned green and the guy pulled up to the curb. “Oh look, he’s going to drive you,” my friend said. So I quickly walked back to the corner and got into his car. Only to realize the policeman was coming up to his window. He didn’t take me because he was in the middle of getting pulled over. And he didn’t drive up to the curb for me. And I was in his car. And now how am I supposed to sneak out of his car without him realizing I got into it??? Giving up on not being noticed I jumped out of his car and started to run like a lunatic. Once you (I) feel awkward, it’s all downhill from there. I caught up to my friend who hadn’t gone far and we tried again to find a cab. Then the pulled over guy started waving me over and said he would in fact take me as soon as the police finished their business. So I got back in the car. And waited. After about 10-15 minutes and after paying off the police 1000 roubles, the cabbie was ready to take me home! I guess I could have just gotten out and tried for another cab that wasn’t pulled over, but it was warm in the car and I was already beyond awkwardness redemption anyway.

The cabbie rightly guessed that I was foreign…duh. Once I said America he guessed California. I would like to think it’s because of my nice smile and wavy hair that he guessed right, but I think California is one of maybe two states people in Russia know. I did tell him that I now live in New Jersey (which is near New York, to reference state 2 of 2 for Russians).

I laughed away my awkwardness the rest of the ride. We chatted about the hurricane on the East Coast , America in general, and the Russian police. And I think I nailed it in the end by saying, “Drive carefully” (in Russian) before jumping out of the cab.

October 24, 2012

Million Dollar Disaster

The other night I totally Macgyver-ed my Quinoa Pilaf with Cremini Mushrooms. I’m currently back in Moscow, but haven’t met up with Andrei’s cousin to get our bag of stuff. So I don’t have a mesh seive…in other words no way to rinse the quinoa before cooking it so it doesn’t taste bitter. Trying to rinse it in a cup then use my hand as a strainer just created semi-permanent quinoa gloves and elevated blood pressure. So I went with the next thing I could think of which was the french press. It came out well and I was proud of my resourcefulness. This dish is a foolproof dish, by the way, it tastes delicious anytime and anywhere I make it.

I served the pilaf with some veal tenderloin and the whole dinner was a beauty. I was so happy because my week long grace period since arriving should really be over and I need to start making more creative and less boring meals. Maybe I’ll say I should do this once a week just so I don’t raise the bar too high. Anyway, as may be evident, I was super confident in myself after this meal and was ready to tackle the next thing -bringing something awesome and new for my volunteer group. I did a lot of repeats last time so I wanted to bring them something I hadn’t made yet. If I could find the ingredients I thought maybe rice krispy treats drizzled with chocolate would be just the thing.

In one of the fancy grocery stores on our street I found the cereal. Actual Rice Krispies. For $12 a box. But have you ever noticed how when you are outside your own country money really feels more like Monopoly money…like, fake.

The next challenge was the marshmallows. I knew I wouldn’t find them anywhere near me because I had never seen them before in this area. There are aparently grocery stores that sell lots of American items, but would they have marshmallows, who knows. Plus I don’t know where those stores are anyway. So I went for the Russian marshmallow look alike – zephyr.

It feels, smells, and basically tastes like a marshmallow.

If it looks like a duck…right?


It melted into a clumpy mess. A light cloud of vanilla scent hung over the apartment, but I guess all the good smells left the actual sticky mess in the bowl. That did not smell as appetizing. I didn’t want to represent my exotic-ness (ok, ok…American-ness) by harming people with radioactive rice krispy treats so I dumped the bizarre mixture.

With only a couple hours left before my group met, I tried desperately to think of something else to do with the $12 box (worth $4 max back home 😉 ) of Rice Krispies. On their website I found a recipe using sweetened condensed milk. I ran to the store (for like the 5th time that day) and got the rest of the ingredients needed (well, I skipped the coconut and the nuts).

I’ve made a similar dessert before (my Gooey Bars) which are always pretty popular so I figured this would be a great last minute fix.


Disaster number 2 of the day ensued. Maybe I did something wrong, but the sticky mixture would not harden correctly and I could not take it off the foil. Foil doesn’t really taste that great, so I brought nothing to the volunteers this time. Except promises for something amazing the following week. Which now I have to come up with.

That recipe is called Lunchbox Coconut Surprise. As in, “SURPRISE – this recipe sucks!”

I’m irked by the word “Surprise” in recipe names. Same goes for “Magic”. For some reason those words always apply to recipes with sweetened condensed milk.

The whole time I was subconsciously aware that Kellog’s is on the “No-Buy GMO List”. Perhaps that’s why nothing worked out for me. I can hear my mom and sister cringing back home. As am I. Russia band GMOs (which is AWESOME), but they may have forgotten about some of their imports.

(side note: if you are in California, please VOTE YES on PROP 37. Google it. It could really start to make a difference nationwide. The rest of us are counting on YOU).

There is a girl in the group that started baking things too; especially while I was gone. I’d like to pat myself on the back for being her inspiration, but then where would my humility be? She is now inspiring me to get back on the ball before my reputation is replaced altogether. How silly that I feel threatened by the new cookies and cakes on the block…

October 15, 2012


1. What’s it like living in Moscow?

It’s interesting, difficult, exhilirating, spiritually uplifting, frightening, fun, and frustrating all at the same time. We’ve been having a good time.

2. It must be so cold

The winter is freezing beyond my comprehension of freezing. Not the whole time, but a lot of the time. We walked one time on one of the coldest days and I was pretty sure that my legs had gone permanently numb – although at the same time I could feel the ice cold wind cutting through my legs like knives.

3. What is the food like?

The Russian food (so regular food) and Caucaus & Georgian food is very good and the bakeries are also pretty delicious. Almost every Italian restaurant has a sushi menu. Don’t ask me why. Almost every sushi roll has cream cheese in it. Again, don’t ask me why. We have not found the perfect buffalo wings in any restaurant or American chain, but we have come close…sort of. I feel like many dishes in international cuisine restaurants are either exaggerated stereotypes (if that makes sense) or bizarre interpretations. I wish I could get a job fixing menu translations (I’ve seen salmon spelled simon and backed instead of baked)

Ordering at a restaurant makes me feel like I am role-playing in a language class (every time)

4. What are the people like?

For the most part the people are fine. I have met so many nice people and made several dear friends that I always miss when I’m gone. Some people you will encounter seem to have a bad day every day and they take it out on you – especially if you are clueless, helpless, or pleasant.

5. Do you have an apartment there?

No. We jump around different apartments within the same company, although we have stayed in the same apartment for separate trips. They are furnished (mostly by Ikea) and are run like a hotel. They are in real apartment buildings where other Russians live.

6. What do you do there?

I don’t really know. I try to discover new things, restaurants and secrets in Moscow. I’ve been volunteering and hope to add one more project to my current one.

7. You’re Russian must be getting so good

Not really.

8. Have you gone to the theater?

Not as much as we would like. It’s on the goals list.

9. How long are you going to be traveling there?

We don’t really have a definite answer for this. It kind of depends on Andrei’s project. If it gets delayed, we keep coming to Moscow.

10. Do you prefer living in Moscow over the United States?



Updates most likely will be added as more FAQs come my way…

September 2, 2012

How My Efforts to be Healthy Turned Into Dessert

So a few months back Andrei and I got really into the idea of juicing. We talked about it non-stop while we were still in Moscow, “As soon as we get home we are buying a juicer and we are going to be the healthiest people on the planet and lose weight and get fit and start exercising all the time and take walks in the park and try all these cool juices and be amazing! Oh YEAH!”.

Buy a juicer we did. Juice we did. But the excitement sort of wore off when we saw how little juice we got out of some fruits and how much clean up was involved. Not to mention you shouldn’t really store the juice for very long because then the awesome nutrients sort of evaporate. So it really is an every day activity. An every day activity that I was going to do every morning for my darling husband. If I wasn’t part of the working world, I thought I should at least get up early and make a lovely juice/breakfast for my hubby. I don’t think I have to explain how that plan went.

Anyway, we still juice ocassionally, and I am still totally in favor of the idea. And the juicer is still in the kitchen – which is a good sign (once it resides in the basement, forget it). I love how natural and delicious the fresh juice is. It doesn’t taste like there are other secret ingredients in it – oh right, because there aren’t! One of the juice combinations I like, which I discovered at a random cafe in Kiev (Ukraine), is pineapple-fennel-pear-mint. I had problems keeping the mint in the juicer (it usually just gets spit right out, even after trying to roll it up into a hole in the fennel or pear), so I would usually eliminate it. The flavor was still good. Anyway, I recently bought a fennel bulb, a pineapple and two pears for the juice, but as a result of Andy leaving for Moscow for a solo trip and me being incredibly lazy, the pineapple was eaten plain, the fennel rotted in my fridge and the pear turned into a tart for a Labor Day picnic. I shake my head in shame that I can’t keep up with the juicing efforts, but my house smells so delicious right now that I’m not sure how upset about it I really am.

I used this incredibly simple tart recipe that I found on another blog,

I recently watched Food, Inc. (a MUST FOR EVERYONE) and have perused homemade food books so my next efforts are to “buy only grass-fed beef and antibiotic-free and cage-free eggs and make my own everything, and plant a garden, and maybe even have my own chickens, and join my sister in the fight for having food with GMOs labelled, and get the right farmers subsidized and can jam and other veggies, and have bees, and be amazing! Oh YEAH!”…I’ll let you know how that goes.

July 28, 2012

Egg Stains on the Kitchen Floor

Wow. So it’s almost been a month since my last post. Didn’t I write something somewhere before about keeping up with it more? That’s embarrassing. And also I think that’s what most bloggers say. So I’m being all cliche. Also embarrassing.

I feel like I have lots of things I could write about which makes me feel like I have nothing to write about. Does that even make sense? My parents just left after almost a week long visit here in Jersey. As they were leaving my dad said he would be waiting for the ‘ice cream post’. It’s amazing how supportive parents are. They shower me with undeserved praise and put up with my ridiculous attitude that I occasionally develop out of nowhere (why are girls so complicated?)…sorry about that, by the way.

My dad is my most enthusiastic blog reader. In fact almost their entire visit was narrated by him (out loud) as a blog post. I guess for motivation. Or ideas. I wish now I could remember what he said. It would undoubtedly be better than what I can come up with right now. I did steal his idea for the title.

One of the highlights of my parents’ trip (besides of course when my dad belted out the Happy Birthday song to his sister over the phone in the echo-y train station with other people around) was being able to cook with my mom. Having her here with me is certainly easier than trying to text her questions while whisking or sauteing, which I do often. It’s funny how as soon as someone is in the kitchen with you you start second guessing everything – even stuff you basically know. “Do you think this is done?”, “Is this enough salad?”, “Should I do this part first?”. I mean, you would think I never boiled water before or something.

Anyway, one of the things we made together was ice cream in my new ice cream maker. I was extremely excited to make one particular flavor – sea salt. On a trip to Ireland with Andy back in 2010 we tried Murphy’s Ice Cream in Dingle and I was intrigued by their sea salt flavor. It was delicious. Better than delicious – I hate using that word ever since I heard Bobby Flay give contestants on Next Food Network Star a hard time for using it…

It was the flavor of an overcast day somewhere on the coast. If that could be an ice cream flavor. When we returned to Ireland for a short business trip (Andy’s, not mine), I made sure we went back to the Dublin store to have the sea salt ice cream again. Andy may have had a different flavor (I’m sure all the flavors are good), but in my memory it was really just all about me and that sea salt ice cream.

I was so happy to discover that their actual recipe was posted online. I am very willing to travel to Ireland for another taste, but in the inbetween I can make it here at home.

You would think being that my mother and I are relatively ‘experienced’ cooks we could get it together to make some ice cream. Well, you thought wrong. It was our own little Comedy of Errors as we mismeasured the milk (220ml x 4 = 480ml, doesn’t it??) and then Mama scrambled the eggs in 1/2 of the custard (we were also making strawberry ice cream with part of the base). Not to mention the kitchen floor suffered little splats of egg whites (which will never be made into meringues, by the way, despite our going through the trouble of storing them in a convenient and very cute tupperware container). I think we were distracted by Papa’s constant blog narration.

In the end, though, the ice cream turned out great. Even the strawberry-scrambled-egg flavor. With Mama to the rescue, we put the custard in a food processor and then strained it through a fine mesh sieve. That helped a little. The sea salt, after we fixed the milk problem, was lovely and almost exactly how I remember the one in Ireland. It tastes fabulous with some caramel sauce on top (what doesn’t?). It will now taste like a happy visit with my parents. Mama by my side mixing and Papa sitting in the kitchen dictating my next post.