Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

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”

…AND…

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?!?!?!

…AND…

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

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, ambrosiabaking.com.

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 1, 2012

Making an Exception for Cool Whip

I’m thinking the attitude and comments in most of my posts would indicate that I wouldn’t normally prepare anything with something like Cool Whip. Which is true. Except I have recently decided that every June 28th Cool Whip will be permitted.

On June 28th, 2011 my amazing grandmother Elena, lovingly called Baba Lyalya, passed away. I can’t believe that it has already been a year. When I was in Boston for school I spent many weekends at her apartment and she fed me a lot. And many times dessert was jello with Cool Whip. Yes, you read correctly, jello with Cool Whip. How someone who serves jello with Cool Whip produced a family that includes some self proclaimed food snobs, I don’t know, but I have to say that I loved it. I was always happy after dinner when she would pull out this yellow bowl out of the fridge. Always the same yellow bowl. Followed by the Cool Whip from the freezer.

We just flew home to New Jersey from Moscow on the 28th. I was too tired to deal with Shop Rite, so I was hoping that CVS (where I had to run an errand anyway) would have the two ingredients for this very special dessert for my 1st Annual Cool Whip is OK Today Day. They ended up only having jello, which I think is weird. So I thought, OK, I’ll go to Whole Foods to say hello (it’s been 3 months!!!) and then run into the KMart next door. Surely they will have Cool Whip. I actually went to KMart first and they DID NOT have Cool Whip. So strange. Whole Foods had something call TruWhip which looked like it basically had the same ingredients (also very weird), but it wasn’t totally lenten so I didn’t buy it. Plus I felt like I needed to be true to the tradition and my grandmother’s dish. So off to Shop Rite I went. Which was awful, but I’ll spare the details. It was probably mostly due to the jetlag. But I would like to blame the woman with 27 items in the 5 item check out line. I was shocked, though, to discover that Cool Whip is not lenten. There is a tiny percentage of milk solids in it. I swear I used to eat it during lent because it was 100% lenten. So I’m not sure what happened there. I guess it makes me feel a little better though because that means it isn’t 100% chemicals. The Shop Rite brand had beta carotene for color. That made no sense since it’s unnaturally and blindingly white.

In a reflective and bittersweet moment I ate my strawberry jello with Cool Whip and thought about my Baba Lyalya.

I know I shouldn’t be sad that she died because she lived such a full life. She saw each of 5 grandchildren get married (60% of whom married someone named Andrei) and from those 5 grandchildren she saw 8 great grandchildren. My grandmother lost her husband too early, but she remained so strong about it. She happily shared stories with me about their love and their life. Despite difficulties that she faced and great losses that she suffered she told me once that given the opportunity to live her life again she wouldn’t change anything. Except not to have been so worried during my grandfather’s illness. But she knew that her life played out the way God intended it to. And she accepted that. And I look up to her for that. Because that is something brave. That takes a lot of strength and trust.

I know in the end her mind was just starting to go a little and she was scared and she wondered why God was letting her feel this way. But that wasn’t really her. Before those things started happening, my grandmother had known she was at an age where she could meet her end soon. And she was ok with it and talked about it freely and confidently. She would ask God that if she could, could she just see her next grandchild get married or have a baby. She was blessed to see us all get married. And I know that when I have kids I will wish so much that she could have seen them and held them.

I told her at my graduation from Boston University, and I repeated it at her funeral, that she gave me the best example of how to have faith, how to live and how to love. Now that we are at the one year mark, I can feel more and more how much I miss chatting with her in her Boston apartment. I miss how she would explain movies to me as we watched them – movies that were in English that I probably understood better than she did. I miss laughing together or plotting my next conversation with the most elligible bachelor at that time in church.  Or how she told me if I died my hair it would fall out. I love the way she would retell the story of how my brother broke his chair during a game of Cranium or how she would give me all the sardines that she kept buying even though she doesn’t like fish. I will never forget how much she helped me through a real gut wrenching heart break that seemed, at the time, to last forever. Or how she helped me through homesickness. I still laugh thinking about the time she tried to force me to take one of her ‘house coat’ pajama things because she was so nervous that I would wear my very short sleeping shorts to Andrei’s parents house one of the first times I was staying over at their house and would scare them and irreversably ruin my chances of winning them over. And I’ll never forget how Andrei so easily became another grandchild to her.

I have so much to tell her, and although I know that she knows it all, I can’t help wondering what she would tell me. I have so many questions and she is the one that I want to ask. I wish I could know her answers. I wish that I spent more time with her in the end, and didn’t shy away because she was losing it a little and wasn’t completely herself. I’m glad though that during one of her last visits to New York, I was able to have jello and Cool Whip with her again. And now I will remember her with jello and Cool Whip for years to come.

Memory Eternal, my darling Baba Lyalya.

 

June 7, 2012

How to Pass as 100% Muscovite or How to Survive Living in Moscow – a checklist

Wherever you go carry a plastic bag of items irrelevant to your activities (for example: old newspapers, a washcloth and tomato seeds to a church service). Just in case.

Never smile when asking a question. Ever.

If your to-do list has 7 items on it, be realistic and cross off the 6 least important (leave them for the rest of the week)

When walking on pedestrian sidewalks be mindful of the cars

Even a trip to McDonalds is no occasion for less than 4″ heels

Always assume the person you’re standing in line behind is saving a spot for 37 more people (in other words, there is never a short line)

If you are a woman – do not attempt to lift anything over 25lbs. You are too weak. Find the nearest man.

If you are a man – deodorant and showering is optional for you. Only ride the metro if you have NOT put on deodorant or a fresh shirt. Also you should carry a man purse.

Be prepared to fill something out a minimum of 4 times. You will do it wrong at least 3 times before it is right. Guaranteed.

Have extra cash on hand for church donation plates and bribes.

Always factor in 40 minutes of aimlessly walking around the wrong metro exit when caculating travel time anywhere.

Never smile when answering a question. Ever.

Do not pay with a 1000 ruble bill for something that is 898 rubles. You must have 98 rubles in your wallet if you want to avoid complete humiliation.

Assume anyone you are speaking to is a complete idiot. Especially if they are American…and smiling.

Write down addresses – they come in several parts: street name, building number, concourse number, entrance number, buzzer number, number of minutes the doorman will hold you hostage before allowing you to proceed to the elevator, floor number, apartment number

Know exactly where you are going if entering a large office building so you can tell the guards at each of 3 checkpoints on your way in

In the spring and summer snowsuits are acceptable outfits for children if there is the slightest hint of a breeze

Feel free to consider any open space anywhere on the street or sidewalk a parking spot (if you run into any trouble, just tap into the reserved bribe money)

My personal goals (less than a month left, oops, until we are home for the summer):

To use Russian filler words when I am speaking (instead of confusing people with ‘anyway’, ‘whatever’, and ‘so’)

Start thinking in Russian (I have already dreamt in Russian #boo-ya!)

Naturally give my telephone number the Russian way – without saying each individual number like 9-6-8, but saying ninehundred sixty eight (in Russian, duh)

Automatically start counting in Russian

To remember what wagon I should be in on the metro to be closest to the correct exit

Update (9 June): To be able to open the cardboard juice boxes that just have outlines (no spout and no opening like a usual milk box that we are used to)

Disclaimer: no offence to anyone who is actually a Muscovite!

February 21, 2012

Simply Put

I love finding beauty in simple things. A perfectly seasoned hard boiled egg…that’s still warm, with the yolk just a touch runny. A church’s cross-topped onion dome peeking out behind an ugly concrete building. Finding that ridiculously comfortable spot next to your husband 5 minutes before the alarm goes off. A child’s sparkly eyes when looking at a Christmas tree.  Brunch eaten outside.

One time I bought a birthday cake for my aunt. It was gorgeous. I am still infatuated with this cake. It was small and adorned with flowers in an almost vintage-white frosting. I couldn’t resist pairing this cake with gold candles. It was just beautiful for so many reasons. For its simplicity. For its elegance. The fact that it was for my aunt and that the place in NYC where I bought it had ‘red hen’ in the name. We were surprising my aunt with a small get together at my cousin’s place and I thought it was beautiful that my husband and his parents were coming too. That we all love each other. All this from a white birthday cake??

Yes.

But there is more! The cake inspired my design for a bread I was making for a friend’s wedding. Traditionally both sets of parents of the bride and groom greet the couple with bread and salt at the wedding reception. My mother was supposed to bake it, but my parents couldn’t attend the wedding due to last minute complications. I offered in my mother’s stead.

The bread design itself also came out rather simple, but I think beautiful. And that is not to say that more elaborate breads aren’t beautiful as well. Because they are – especially for what they represent. To me this stands for so many things. A couple for whom I could not be happier – two people that truly are fabulous togther. It also reminds me of how much I love cooking with my mom (especially for a party) How much I wish we lived in the same place so I could cook with her all the time (not via text) and learn from her amazing-ness. I love when people tell me I am following in her culinary footsteps.

Baking this bread made me so grateful for the fact that my parents didn’t let me lose my roots (just maybe some Russian grammar 🙂 ).

So it’s funny that I was recently thinking of all this when my husband and I visited a photo exhibit at St. Tatiana’s church in Moscow. The photos were all taken by Father Igor Palkin (who serves at the church) on his iPhone and printed  on silver bromide paper to create an almost faded effect. The exhibit was called ‘Happiness in Simple Things’. Although Father Igor insisted there was no deep meaning to his material, I think he captured this title perfectly. At the event, he asked that no one really talk about any hidden theme behind each photo, but he didn’t say anything about not blogging about some of them later 🙂 …

Bербное Bоскресенье/Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday. Basically anyone who celebrates Palm Sunday can relate to this photo. To me this reflects looking forward to the coming of Easter. Envigoration after long hours of church. Excitement for a coffee or piece of bread after not eating breakfast. I can taste that delightful piece of toast and cup of tea just looking at this picture. It makes me think of pussywillow pieces on the bottom of the car or branches of them left by a window for a year. And my dad’s green church vestments and the way he smells like incense all the time.

Hоводевичий Mонастырь/Novodevichy Convent

 Novodevichy Convent. I think the simple beauty that I admire here is how the church is just barely shown behind the trees. A classic photo and gorgeous. Andrei and I went here for services and the snapshot makes me remember the all-women choir. I also think of the young women that waited in line to speak with one of the old nuns. She seemed so wise and other-worldly. This convent stands so prominently amidst a busy city and parks, just like the other monasteries, convents and churches. Although the building is faded, to me it shows strength…its faintness somehow representing the past and the future at one time.
The moon looking shape was a reflection from my phone when I took a picture of the picture. I thought it added an interesting element to the entire scene.

Маша и Арбуз/ Masha and Watermelon

Masha and Watermelon. This photo was my absolute favorite. My heart felt like it jumped into my throat when I came up to it. In a good way. I don’t know if it’s because I would love so much to someday have a daughter, but this little moment speaks a million words to me in all of its simple happiness. I adore Masha’s smile and the carefree way in which she is sitting on the couch. The watermelon makes me think of summer days and children’s sticky hands and happy faces. I imagine somewhere there is a glass of juice and the sun is shining through it across the room. If I were Masha’s mother, and of course I can’t speak for her or mothers in general, but I think that amidst all the worries of raising a child, and the frustrations, this tiny snapshot, this small memory, would wash it all away, even just for a brief, beautiful moment.

And someday, I pray, Masha’s children will look at this photo and think how at one time their mother was just as small as them. And for long after they will think of her every time they bite into a juicy piece of watermelon.

more about the exhibit from the St. Tatiana website (in Russian): http://www.st-tatiana.ru/text/1453046.html

November 6, 2011

1200 lbs. of Cast Iron

Wow! It was such a busy summer/fall… I can’t believe it is already November. I have been wanting to post some photos of the new Chandler and Price Press for quite some time, so I am happy to finally get around to it. This press was built in 1904 and weighs about 1200 lbs. Max had it specially restored and I couldn’t be more excited about how great and smooth it runs.

We started our adventures in letterpress on the a Kelsey 5×8 Model P table top press and although it printed great… it does not compare to the quality of printing that comes out of the new C&P. Lines are crisper, impressions are more even and overall quality is through the roof. We spent the summer getting to know it while printing all kinds of different invitations. We have brand new Namesday cards coming out and we can’t wait to get the Christmas cards finished up. Stay tuned!

March 17, 2011

Packaging Designer…

Ok, so it looks like this is going to be my first post, which feels weird. I am starting right in the middle of my life. I am feeling like it should all start at the very beginning. Like I should talk about how I got here. My history, what school I went to, how event planning turned into invitation design, that turned into greeting cards and blah blah blah. But that would be boring and I guess you have to start somewhere. These greeting card bands just happen to be the project I am working on today/this week. If I had figured out how to use this blog last week, I might have had more exciting event planning stuff going on, but oh well.

Hmmm… Maybe I will start with the things I would like to be when I “grow up”.

This is a list I put together and it is in no particular order…

event planner
florist
travel writer
author
photographer
owner of a bakery or restaurant, or baker
bar owner
textile designer
Martha Stewart
mom
newspaper columnist
lounge singer
American Idol host
pilates instructor
graphic designer
letterpress printer
packaging designer

I think I’d have to live at least 10-15 lives to really do all the things I would love to do. But I guess I am happy dabbling in some of these things as much as I can. I am an event planner and that really lets me do a lot of the other things on my list.

Also, I have been designing Russian and/or Orthodox greeting cards for the past couple of years. I just recently turned to printing on a letterpress printer. (That is material for a whole slew of posts at a different time) Mainly I have been printing Easter and Christmas cards. I could never find a Russian Easter/Christmas or Namesday card that reflected a more updated style, so I figured I should just start making them. It’s been an organic process, evolving as each season comes around. Although, one thing that keeps changing, that shouldn’t, is how I package my cards. Each season is different, but I really want to get it consistent and recognizable.

One of the problems is that as much as I like to design invitations and greeting cards, I like to design how these things are packaged. (I happen to believe that good packaging sells the item) So much so, that I am afraid I sometimes lose my focus. Am I designing greeting cards or packaging? I noticed a similar thing when I started my event planning company. I would get lost in the “creating a business” part. Creating a logo, creating a website and creating an over all identity. I sometimes wondered if I enjoyed that process more than the actual business itself. Not so… but I guess it is part of the passion for design. There are so many avenues to get creative, it’s easy to get sidetracked.

ANYWAY, today I get to be a PACKAGING DESIGNER

I have been working on packaging ideas for my cards for quite some time. It seems to change every season, but, like I said, I have been trying to find something consistent. I am really excited about these bands… although I can’t decide between the bolder flower border or the smaller/softer border.  Also,  I am still debating whether to use boxes or clear bags in which to keep them. I have ordered samples of both and hopefully they will be coming in the mail today or tomorrow.

I am sure it will evolve as time goes on, but I am really trying to pick something and stick with it. I have done ribbons and wrapped the cards with tracing paper. (I love(d) the look of tracing paper for some reason) I was also trying to do something with glassine paper, but that just wasn’t working.

So let’s hope that these new bands stick!