Saturday, May 31, 2014


Everyday Russian fare, J/K!
Only on occasion...
So I used up my blogging time this evening trying to type out a complicated recipe for my food blog. I love collecting and reviewing recipes, but I'm not very good when it comes to exact measurements and things like that!

I've restored almost all the content to this blog from my old blog design. Hard to believe it's been less than 2 weeks as I'm already used to the new look!

However, I'm still getting used to having 2 panels instead of 3. I like having everything right there, and I hate deciding what should be at the top! I feel like I'm having separation anxiety with my blog lists way down there at the bottom. I looked at some other blogs and it seems like they're the same way, but it feels like it takes forever to scroll down to those links!

One thing I haven't restored is the touristy/bureaucratic links I used to have. I wonder if I need them? If people have questions they can always email me.

A new thing is that I added a "button" (image/logo type thing) related to Diastasis recti (just realized that I don't have a label for those posts, but they come up if you put it in the search panel). It clicks through to my fitness site that I use, and serves as a colorful reminder for me to work on healing my body each day!

As usual I'm posting at 1 am, time to hit the hay!

Update on the update: I just realized that I'm still missing my FRIENDS link list, including Ruth and Ruth, so I will be sure to get that up again soon!

Friday, May 30, 2014


At our small group these days we've been studying Psalms, and then Proverbs. The past two weeks have been all about Wisdom.

It was interesting how many references I picked up on in daily life during Week 1!

The first one was an episode of the Cosby Show, believe it or not. We found some episodes online and have found that it covers so many aspects of American life, particularly growing up with siblings! Oh, that Dr. Huxtable....he seems to have a sixth sense for what his children are up to. The episode that day featured one of the children scheming about something, and struggling through the decision-making process. I think it may have been Theo wanting to take flying lessons? And then figuring out what it would cost, etc.

Then we were watching..."Cars." Yes, that's right, the Pixar animation. In fact, it wasn't even the real version, it was either a YouTube clip or a Russian compilation. There was this song..."You didn't follow my advice, you wanted to go your own way..." We had talked about that too in the context of Proverbs chapter 1.

28“Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
    they will look for me but will not find me,
29 since they hated knowledge
    and did not choose to fear the Lord.
30 Since they would not accept my advice
    and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
    and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.

Then a new post came up on one of my favorite community websites, Kindred Grace (formerly Young Ladies Christian Fellowship). The article was called "How to Wisely React to Criticism" and I clicked on over. I guess I was still thinking along the lines of Proverbs and the need to seek and listen to advice. How do I respond when I receive constructive criticism? However, the article was more to do with responding to uncalled for comments, along the lines of Job's "friends," perhaps? A thought-provoking post, if you feel inclined to have a read.

Anyway, that was last week's follow-up "inspiration." This week we covered Proverbs 3, so we'll see what fruit develops.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Earlier this year I became persuaded to order one of those e-book "bundles." I don't know what came over me. Though there were certain factors that influenced me, it went against my initial instincts and general skeptic attitude toward such offers.

I'm not going to name the "bundle" because I don't want to defame anyone. Let's just say I've learned my lesson about falling for the advertising campaigns, which makes me sad, because...

...a lot of women in the Christian online community raved about this deal. About how it was the best thing ever and such a great value and too good to miss and full of tons of good reading and useful information. It's hard to explain why that bothers me, but I'll explore that more down below.

Then there are the "savings." The offers often promise "$100 worth of books for $30," for example. Let's say you pay 30 % or as little as 20 % of the list price. The problem is that it's like one of those sushi assortments where only a few of the items included are actually palatable; the rest is low quality or not something you would choose for yourself and spend money on. Or a DVD 10-pack where only 1 or 2 of the films is worth watching. After paying, I realized that at least half of the books in the "bundle" just aren't something that would be useful to me. To be fair, they're pretty American-culture oriented, and it's not their fault that I'm living overseas. But I still feel a little bit duped, and I'll explain some other reasons why.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


"King" David sends his greetings!

I may or may not be wearing a BK crown in this photo...

Friday, May 23, 2014

What does YOUR medicine chest look like?

So today while David was napping I reorganized the spice shelf and the medicine shelves. Mainly I just took everything out and then put it back in a more orderly fancy Pinterest crafts here. I did use some smaller boxes to create tiers so that you can see everything at once.

This is the AFTER, in case you couldn't tell :)

The throat (and cough) remedy category (along the back wall) wins for being the most populated! I wonder if that is indicative of the climate/environment here. Lots and lots of people with chronic throat ailments.

Anyway....for now the medicines occupy 1.5 shelves of the wardrobe in the front hallway. Since the shelves are deeper than your typical bathroom medicine cabinet, it's hard to make it so that everything is easy to find. The way we have it right now pretty much works, though it isn't very pretty. When David gets a little older I think I will want something more closed, not a shelf that is completely exposed when the doors slide away.

I can't figure out what the optimal variation would be, though. I guess something with rather shallow shelves so that you can see all the labels at once? But then it would need to be really tall to fit everything! It was handy when we had them in the bedside table because we could open the drawer and look down and read the labels. But that wasn't child-proof. And drawers high up are rather silly; can't see into them.

Maybe one of those hanging things (shoe organizer?) with the clear pockets? But again, the medicines must be easy to find for US but out of sight to a child.

I haven't really found anything good you have any ideas?


So I found out earlier in the year that I would have to send in my forms for yearly inspection via the post office. I was a bit skeptical because sometimes there are rumors of the post office performing certain functions, but then it turns out they never put the idea into practice or it was short-lived, etc. But even after showing up at the FMS with all my documents, they sent me to the post office so I could mail it in.

After that it took several months to get myself together and go to the post office...which is a 3-minute walk from our building. Go ahead, you can laugh!

Alas, nothing is that simple...

Part 1

I wish this wasn't a step in the process, but it was: determining the working hours of the post office (which we pass at least once a week on our way to the grocery store).

A lot of establishments in St. Petersburg take a lunch break in the afternoon. The trick is knowing when it will take place: from 1-2 pm OR from 2-3 pm (and there will always be a strange variation to throw you off, like alternating hours, or a 2-hr lunch break).

We set off for the post office at 1 pm hoping the lunch was at 2 pm. We wanted to get home as soon as possible to put D. down for a nap. I wandered over to scout while Andrei and David continued getting ready. The hours were 9-8 or 10-8 or something...NO BREAKS, it said. I should have known not to trust the signage.

I went through the first set of doors into an unlit foyer. There were 3 doors leading off from it and they were all locked. I peered through the door that had a window in it, and there was a postal clerk sitting at the desk, but apparently on break judging by the locked door. A man walked in and said "Lunch? I thought they had it from 2-3 pm." I mumbled something about there being no sign indicating anything about lunch. I went out the door and walked around the building looking for other entrances. The other entrance was marked "Deliveries," so that didn't have anything to do with me. I went back into the dark foyer and a woman who had been gabbing on her phone was standing by one of the other doors. "LUNCH FROM 1-2!" she barked. Okay...I headed out and asked a few more people. "Lunch is from 1-2, like ALWAYS!" they emphasized. Obviously I was the ignorant one. However, during this time a handful of other people had gone up and down the stairs, asking if it was the lunch hour and then leaving.

Meanwhile, the boys made their way over. We got in the "live" line (asked around to find out who was last and declared ourselves to be next after them)...actually two different lines because no one was sure if it was one general line or two different ones. And the place was actually infiltrated at this time by pensioners hoping to receive some benefits...they were in a certain line, too. Then it was determined that neither Andrei nor I had any cash, so he went to the ATM and David and I played on the playground across the street; David exclaiming over ants on the sidewalk, grass tickling his ankles, and sand in his shoes (my poor city boy!).

When we got inside and reached the counter, I started to say that I needed to send something to the FMS by registered mail. She gave me the envelope and I got as far as addressing it, but then she said that she didn't handle those types of mailings. She told us to go to "Window Number One," but hers was the only one in the room. It turned out that one of the other doors off the foyer led into another room with a few different counters. "Not today, though, the person is out sick," she said. "Tomorrow evening is the next time slot." Pressing for more information, I asked, "From what time in the evening?" Apparently that was a stupid question as she barked "2 pm." I guess "evening" is after lunch in this context? I started to leave without paying for the envelope, but she reminded me and I scraped together the change, my hands shaking...even though it isn't nearly as scary as the Immigration Office!

We peeked into the Other Room on our way out. It was actually the main room, quite big and with different lines. I insisted on marching over to "Window Number One" to check the times: M-W-F in the morning (before lunch); T-TH after lunch. Of course they couldn't post that on the doors outside, so if the building is locked you can't get in to read the schedule...

We'd have to try again the next day "after lunch" or the day after that in the morning.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Notice anything?

It's okay if you didn't. :)

I've just taken the plunge and switched over to a current generation Blogger template. The design probably doesn't look very different yet as I'm focused on transferring all the content over.

Why did I do it? I was using an old, highly customized template. I liked my template. I'd gone in and tweaked the code before the template had all of those options in the menu. But the code was such a jumble that I couldn't mess with it anymore. And the latest Blogger functions wouldn't work, which was frustrating. I could no longer find workarounds, but I couldn't use the ready-made versions either.

The funny thing is that I had created a 3-column blog before that was an option in Blogger. Now that they do offer it, I've gone back to 2 columns. :)

How I made the switch: I set up a dummy blog so I could work on the design before losing the old one. I also started to recreate everything in the sidebars, but got impatient and just copied/pasted some of it into Word to wait until I feel like entering the link lists item by item (it doesn't save correctly otherwise, which is annoying). Then I just cut and pasted the new template into my old blog. No back-ups or anything.

I did lose a few elements...

-my "Key Posts" list. Does anyone remember what should be on there? I'm trying to reconstruct it as best I can, but I know I'm missing something.
-my label cloud. I wish I had copied that code! The Blogger one isn't what I wanted and it's hard to find a hack with the code I need.
-how the blog looked in detail. I could have taken a screenshot or something. It's okay, though. My new blog is going to look a little different, I just liked the old one, too.

Anything else I might have forgotten to transfer?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bilingual tidbits and names for people

In an effort to become a part of the bigger bilingual world as a whole, I signed up to be on a mailing list for a blogging "carnival" where there is an assigned topic and everyone sends their submissions in to be on the master list.

Well, I sat down to tackle the May topic, only to find out that the deadline was May 18th. D'OH! Oh well, the topic was to do with technology, which is a little bit of a stretch for us at this point (aside from David screaming CARS at the top of his lungs daily until we put on an animated car video for him to watch).

Maybe next time the topic will be more relevant.

As I think I mentioned before, there are some links to bilingual blogs in my sidebar, and they in turn have links to more blogs. There is a lot of good content in there; book reviews, etc.

Here's one topic we've been discussing at home lately:

What do you teach your child to call strangers on the street? Walking by, in a store, or even casual acquaintances?

Whenever a Russian child points at a person walking by, his accompanying adult gives that person a title: "Dyadya/Tyotya (Uncle/Auntie) is most often used to differentiate men and women. If the person is obviously elderly, then maybe a Babushka/Dedushka (Grandmother/Grandfather) will do. And of course little babies are called little babies...well, you get the idea. Makes sense, right? Then with friends and acquaintances the child learns the person's name: Tyotya Olya, for example.

People keep asking me the English/American counterpart, and...I've got nothing! Honestly, I feel awkward shouting out Man/Woman/Girl/Boy whenever David points at someone. I'm not even sure I'm comfortable having him point at people. But at the same time it's such a natural process for the child to point and the parent to teach vocabulary. I don't know, I must just not have enough parenting experience. Either that or I've been abroad for too long. ;)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Typical" Wednesday

I feel like it takes me all of Monday and Tuesday to make up for the craziness that is Sunday (going to church and coming home and feeling a zombie and getting totally behind on everything, while knowing it's worth it).

And then Wednesday comes along and is guaranteed to be a full evening because of hosting small group, but it gives me something to look forward to and a reason to get dressed/do some cleaning (not that I don't strive for the same result on other days, but with varying degrees of success).

However, no two Wednesdays are the same, and often something fun/interesting happens. Here's how today went:

Late morning: David falls asleep in my arms on the couch, 2-3 hours before naptime. Ummm...that wasn't on my schedule. I took him into the bedroom with me and got under the covers, because the rest of the apartment was freezing. Down in the 40s outside and it seems that our heat has been switched off for the "summer."

I probably got about an hour of sleep and David slept for 2 hours.

Early afternoon: Andrei is back from errands. Now that he's mostly done with academic obligations, we can do some of those things we've been putting off for a long time. Today he brought my computer back from the repair shop. It had been broken since December. I guess they had to reformat it or whatever the term is, and now it works.

Lunch and housework...

5 pm Nina arrives, with lots of parcels for us and a sore back. :/ As usual we agreed to a few apples and a carton of eggs, only to have her show up with a gallon of (homemade) soup, meat for sandwiches, baked chicken, special foods for David, etc. etc. etc.

David attaches himself to Nina for the next 4 hours...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Recycling failure

I don't know how I've lived here all these years without coming up with a solution, but for the past 2 years I've had a growing pile of items that need to be RECYCLED. Maybe a lot of it is baby-related...lots of glass packaging and some cardboard.

I just couldn't figure out how to dispose of it properly, and that made me want to HOARD it even more. If it pricks my conscience to put it all in a landfill-bound heap, then I can just find a way to REUSE it. My suitcase is a lot lighter now that I'm not bringing craft supplies from the U.S.! And we have Pinterest now! Look how many ideas there are!

But enough is enough, and in the hopes of certain home improvement and decluttering projects becoming possible, I decided to find a way to finally get rid of some of these piles. But it turned out to not be so simple. I kept catching hints of recycling programs, only to learn that they were a bust; a temporary grant that people hadn't responded to actively, and therefore discontinued. It seemed to be one of those questions that goes unanswered in the forums, along with where to buy molasses and in what year the city will become handicapped-accessible...

A few times I stumbled upon a list of addresses published by environmental agencies. But as I ran those addresses through to double-check, most were defunct.

The glass seemed to be the hardest. We weren't even looking to redeem them for money. We just wanted to find a place that would take these dozens and dozens of glass jars and USE them for something. But I didn't find any reliable information.

So I gave up. Andrei took six bags of glass jars out to the dumpster yesterday. My only hope was that with them being all together, anyone looking for that kind of thing would find them before they got hauled away with the rest of the trash.

Apparently there ARE receptacles for paper. I have a HUGE garbage bag full of paper/cardboard remnants. I can think of so many ways I could use them: for Christmas cards/ornaments, decorations, Sunday school crafts, toilet paper towers, etc. But I just can't deal with the clutter. I'm not doing enough art to make up for it taking up so much space.

My comfort here is that we will build up another supply pretty fast. :)

Farewell, potential craft projects!

The paper garbage is going to be disposed of in the next few days and then I guess I will have to decide on a policy for future sorting.

I wish I could say I expect improvement in this city in the future, but I guess people just don't really have an incentive right now to sort their trash. I don't really like the idea of fining or otherwise punishing people for NOT doing it, but I do wish there were more options. We'll see.

Friday, May 9, 2014


So today is Victory Day, but it's actually more of a family holiday for us. I even found myself wondering what time Vladimir got off work, forgetting that he wouldn't be working at all today on account of the holiday. 

I wonder what it's like for Russians today, remembering the past while in the midst of a modern conflict. Not even sure if I can fit my mind around it right now.

American-style, David is 22 months today. But most Russians I know say "a year and 10 months." Is it sort of like the difference between army time and not-army time (whatever the term is)? Whenever I say how many months old he is, I can see people converting into years in their head. 

We are still seeing many changes each month. I really should be doing weekly journal entries or something, but I manage to record some of it via photos, emails, etc. 

The biggest development lately has been the start of "make-believe" play. It started with David constantly putting out two objects, one for himself and one for us to sit on. Those were our "chairs." And then "hats." And now we're in full-blown "tea party" mode, where each attendant has his/her own dishes and even food...macaroni soup is the usual daily special. A lot of times I'll walk into the room to a new configuration and it will turn out that David planned out the whole thing and executed it himself. New seatings around the table, new dishes, etc. The other day he brought coasters in (from our bedside tables) to use as plates, and then went into the kitchen and took some little magnets off the refrigerator...they were placed onto the coasters and became "food." I'm so glad we recently acquired a child-sized table and chairs to help with these scenarios.

David feeding (l-r) "Mama,""Papa," and "Boy"

As far as speech, David still has more English active vocabulary than Russian. We were at a church retreat recently and everyone commented on how social he's become and on how his English is the cutest thing ever...they kept asking him to say "ba-na-na" in his unique way. He also refers to himself as "Boy" whenever he is telling what happened or asking for something. But then they wondered...where's the RUSSIAN? Patience, my friends. :) We just need to get Babushka and Dedushka over here a little more often and he will catch right up. 

Speaking of Babushka and Dedushka, they will be here in a little while with all the fixins' plus some gifts for the "birthday" boy, and I'm still in pajamas...oops. That's all for this little update. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Detective Work

Oh, the things I witness from my kitchen window! We have a pretty good view up here on the 7th floor.

First and foremost, the kitchen window is where we wave from whenever someone is coming or going. This is the tradition in Andrei's family, and it is strictly adhered to! A popular variation is to wave some sort of dishtowel, like a flag...even David has picked up on that one.


In winter, I sometimes look out and see people slipping and falling. On a few occasions, everyone is falling in the same spot. I wish I could shout a warning to them somehow!

Then there are more noteworthy occasions, like the time I looked out to see the former director of Nastia and Masha's orphanage. And you can review some other adventures under the "kitchen window" tag.

Yesterday, I was in the kitchen and heard an odd sort of THUD. I guess it sounded like a car door slamming, but something told me it was something a little different. Even weirder was that when I looked out the window, I saw people looking UP. But I didn't see anything. Maybe it was just coincidence that a few people were looking up at the same time? But no, they were definitely looking in the same direction, intentionally.

The scene of the caper

I looked and looked for clues. Do you see anything out of the ordinary? Eventually I did notice that a certain car had some puddles around it, while others didn't. That could be an oil spill, right? But the pattern was unusual. I kept thinking about college and a certain boys' mens' male floor from which super-soakers were being fired at will. Was a water gun shooter the culprit here?

Another few people walked by the car, and they looked right up at that building. WHY? Was something on the roof?

Just then, Andrei came in and asked if I had seen the altercations outside. Apparently someone was mad at someone else. Maybe the person on the top floor was mad at the owner of the car? Parking spot trouble?

A passersby walked up to the car, picked up a water bottle from the ground nearby, and walked on. So apparently a water bottle had been thrown, and hit the car, and leaked water. I'm still not sure what the motive was!

Today, though, there are no such clues. It is raining. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Bye bye, blog posts

Sometimes I wish I typed on a typewriter, so I could pick up those failed compositions and physically tear them up before tossing into the trashcan recycle bin.

Writing is something I need to do to feel calm. But it takes time. I remember lots of all-nighters, beginning in high school. I would write and write and then edit until it was perfect. Soooo satisfying! And I love doing it on my blog, too. Even informal writing can be tweaked and tweaked until it's exactly what you were going for.

But it's midnight...sigh. I hate when I can't finish the posts. I do try to get all the main thoughts down as quickly as I can, so I can finish it later. But I can't help but feel that my heart is more likely to be engaged in that initial attempt. When I finish it later, it's already a different first thoughts are lost. And sometimes I feel a real sort of grief, because I've lost my first reactions to something I witnessed that day; a funny story; a memory; an epiphany. It's gone and it hurts. Andrei told me that if it's something God really wanted me to hold onto, that He would remind me.

As far as organization, I like some of Callie's strategies that she describes here, and those work for me too, sometimes. But other times I am going through those archives of ideas I've saved for later, and they just don't resonate the way I thought they would. I think partly I feel more vulnerable these days about sharing my personal thoughts.

Meanwhile, I have to pack for the weekend! I already made an initial clothing pile, but it's suddenly winter again...time to add a few more layers back to the wardrobe! Not sure the laundry is even going to be dry in time...oops!

Have a nice weekend, everybody!

5 years later

 After my latest  weird dream sequence , I found my mind wandering to an alternate scenario where our church never split up . I did the math...