Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Just Another Day

While my family was sending unlawful amounts of Christmas deliciousness through their digestive systems, I was sitting at my desk at work wondering what the weather is like outside on this Christmas day.
It is not uncommon for people to work on holidays, but, for some reason, it felt like I was the one with the lump of coal in my stocking, far removed from any pumpkin pie access.
I wish I could say that my work was very important, that I was saving lives, maintaining world peace, or navigating Santa's sleigh through the stormy sky. In reality, my work is mind-numbingly boring, one of those where changing your name to "Hey" doesn't seem like that bad of an idea after a while.
I was not able to pinpoint exactly what upset me about missing that day with my family. The rational part of my brain kept telling me that this had been agreed upon long ago, that we'd still celebrate Christmas except on a different day, that I didn't have to do any cooking or cleaning up, and would enjoy my leftover plate when I got home. I kept telling myself that it was just another day, labeled extraordinary by big corporations with big advertising budgets.
I grew up in a Russian Orthodox family, therefore Christmas was always celebrated by the old calendar, on January 7th. Not only that, it didn't have a whole lot of similarities with Christmas that I celebrate now with my mostly Catholic family. While there of course was midnight (well, actually all-night) mass, and plenty of family around, Christmas was mostly about quiet family time and reflections on the year that had gone by.

Joseph making Christmas cookies with a friend

Presents were opened for New Year's as a symbol of good luck and prosperity in the coming year, and so by Christmas they were long forgotten and everyone had a chance settle back into their regular, much lower in sugar content, routine. It was traditional to visit your godparents, and take some food over, and sing carols.
Christmas on this side of the planet seems to be more about ham and tinsel, and yet somehow I found myself longing to share this day with my husband and son.
When I came home that night, my Christmas plate was patiently awaiting under celebratory Christmas foil, as was a pile of presents, and greetings from everyone I had missed that day. Joseph was sound asleep, dreaming presumably of sugar plums, as all children should on Christmas.
Just another day passed. I had believed it meant little to me, yet in the end it left me hopeful that next year, come December 25th, I will be there indulging in sugar, tearing apart wrapping paper, and watching my son build castles out of packaging.

Hope you had wonderful Christmas. And Happy Coming New Year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

This story was supposed to be about something different, but then look what happened.

Everything else can wait now, there is snow in the world, after all!
It is not surprising that Christmas is celebrated this time of year. There are few things on this planet as awe-inspiring weather-wise as snow, and therefore, it's perfect for Christmas. Every season is, of course, beautiful, but the change is always gradual, from bare, to green, to yellow; it takes weeks or even months for change to mature and manifest itself.
When it comes to snow, however, it's different. Of course, one can usually feel it coming, and not just because the weather service told you so. There is calmness all around, as if the world is bracing to prepare, both up in the sky, and down below, for the grand show. The air is translucent and crisp, the night sky is starry-less and covered in white, as if a big bag of snow is stretched over our heads, dangerously full, about to tear, and spill its heavy load of weightless snowflakes.

My fondest childhood memories are of snowy days and everything they entailed. The snowball fights, the sleigh rides, making snow angels until your clothes are so wet, you have to change your underwear, too. The favorite part? Hands down trying to catch the snowflakes with your mouth... and watching others do so.

What's yours?

Friday, December 10, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Inspired by SouleMama

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Perfect Pair

It isn't the size of the gift that matters,
but the size of the heart that gives it.

When I was little, I had a lot of things that were hand made by my family members. My grandmother was an excellent seamstress, and growing up, I had a closet full of clothes made by her for my sister and me. My mother didn't inherit her mother's outstanding sewing talent, but she still sewed things for us once in a while. She is also very good at knitting. I vividly remember this one year when extra money was scarce in our home she knitted a pair of gloves for my birthday. The fingers were all of different colors, and they had flowers on the back of the hands, and I wore them until unsightly wholes appeared on the tips of the fingers.
This year, when we went to visit grandma, my mom, with Joseph, she presented him with a pair of socks. A special pair of socks, made just for him by her. They may not be the prettiest socks around, but they were made of sturdy wool to keep his little feetsies warm on cold winter days.

She knitted the left sock anticipating our visit, missing him, wishing October got there faster, longing to hold him, kiss him, and spoil him rotten. She knitted the right sock, just to make sure she guessed the size correctly, while we were there, in between her attempts to fit a year's worth of hugs and kisses into the month of our stay. Every thread in this pair is laced with her love, her thoughts and dreams, her hopes for him.

Joseph and his grandma

Joseph doesn't yet care about what he wears. I could put a pair of ziplock bags on his feet, and he probably wouldn't even notice. I do hope, however, that through the years, as more and more homemade gifts fall into his little hands, he will learn that the best and most precious gifts rarely come in a shiny box accompanied with a gift receipt, they are wrapped in love and tied with thoughtfulness.

Are you making any special gifts this year?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


3 grueling layovers, 4 flights that seemed they'd never end, 1 toddler. It was no easy trip home. Well, home for me, and a visit to baba and deda for Joseph.

Home. It is such a strange, bottomless word. It holds within an endless number of all the places where you've lived, loved, cried, and an endless number of all other meanings we may attribute to it. I left my home at 6 am on a Sunday, I got home at 8 pm on Monday. Two different locations, same place in my heart.
Going back to see the place where you grew up is a bitter-sweet kind of journey. It is as if you are coming to meet yourself 10, 15, X-teen years ago, to see if you have lived up to that person's expectations.
When we travel to other parts of the world, we learn as much about ourselves as we do about other places and people. When we come back home after a few years of being away, we are rediscovering the true selves under layers of what we have become.
We are still a little jet lagged, a little shaken by the change of routine. My toddler is hanging on to my hip 24 hours a day, screaming MAMA every time I step more that 5 feet away.
In the midst of this, we are getting to know new family members, devouring everything home cooked we can lay our stomachs on, and trying to slow down time that flies by way too fast.

More to come... from home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Inspired by SouleMama

Monday, October 11, 2010

Project Of The Week: Raspberry Jamming

I remember the time shortly after Joseph was born when he was curled up on my chest, snoozing away, and I dreamt of the time when he will be old enough to take part in things we do. To be fair, his ability to actually DO things is still quite questionable (unlike his cunning talent for producing chaos), yet he is a part of everything I do most days.
I am willing to let him try doing stuff, even if it ends up taking forever, even if to me pouring water from one cup into another doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun. He wants to HELP and I believe that this desire should be encouraged.
This is one of many reasons I am starting these series. Project Of The Week is here to present something outstanding we do every week, something beyond doing dishes or watering back yard (although that could be a subject for a whole different series of posts). It is also a means of remembering all the fun things we are doing together, no matter how mundane they might seem to someone else, no matter how seemingly insignificant my toddler's help is at times.
We begin with a sweet project that is especially dear to my heart. Raspberry Jam. Not just any raspberry jam, but THE raspberry jam, the one I remember from my childhood, the one I hoped one day I would be making for my own family.
When I was little, we lived in a house with a garden, and we had a raspberry patch in the back. It wasn't terribly big, neither did it produce a significant amount, but many a summer afternoon was spent elbowing my way through the overgrown raspberry stalks, scratching the hell out of my arms and legs for a bowlful of the delicious berry.
Most years, the crop was supplemented with extra raspberries we purchased from the local market so that we could make JAM.
This may not be the jam in the strict sense of this word. it does not involve a specific brand of pectin or "12 easy steps", but its simplicity and wonderful taste always win me over.
It was also said that this delicious concoction had many medicinal benefits, the most significant of them being cold relief. I am not sure if there is any scientific back up to this theory, but it sure made me feel a lot better when I came down with sore throat. Hot tea with a lemon wedge and a few spoonfuls (read - a jar) of raspberry jam, and the cold didn't seem to be that bad after all.
Raspberries for this project were picked at The Salmon Ranch which made for a great day trip / project of its own (for which I would have had pictures to show had somebody not forgotten to put memory card back into the camera, ahem).
I would like to note that we didn't wash our berries. In fact, the ranch's brochure advises against it. Raspberries are so fragile, washing them will bruise them unnecessarily, unless you are confident they were treated with some sort of pesticide in which case they should be washed very gently.
Raspberry Jam
Equal parts of raspberries and cane sugar (for example, 1 lbs of raspberries and 1 lbs of sugar).
In a pot, layer sugar and raspberries making sure raspberries are well coated.

Cover the pot and put it in the fridge for at least 8 hrs or overnight so that berries could start excreting juice.
8 hours later, or the following day, pour as much of the raspberry / sugar juice from the pot into a different pot and bring to boil. Add the rest of the raspberries and cook on high (the rumor has it that if you cook it on low, raspberries will lose their distinct red color). You will know when the berries are ready, because the mixture starts behaving sort of like boiling milk: it doesn't necessarily bubble, it just starts rising (so make sure you are watching your pot). Turn the heat off. Let the jam cool. Divide among jars, or simply enjoy!
This jam is more liquid-y and still has whole berries in it, and will make for a wonderful topping for ice-creams, and other desserts in need of a companion.

note the sugar-dabbed face

And yes, my faithful toddler stood next to me in his learning tower the entire time (at a safe distance from the open flames, may I note). His role included helping me layer raspberries and sugar, which he did remarkably well. So what, if an occasional berry escaped the pot straight into his mouth. Let's count it as a pay for having a pair of (absolutely adorable) helping hands around here.

Keep your eye open for the following projects:
- plant your own herb garden;
- toddler yoga;
- DIY laundry supplies.
Have a great week everyone!

Friday, October 8, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Inspired by SouleMama

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What September?

There is no hiding it now. For a while there, the signs were subtle. A cool breeze here and there, an urge to start cooking up soups, stews and drink tea, smell of freshly sharpened pencils in the air... Now, there is a certain yellow tint to leaves joined by the increased sweater population in my neighborhood. The Fall has graced us with its presence.
And yet, there are still days like this one that seem to say "What September?"

I heart the Voulcan ears

Enjoy your beautiful Fall, everyone!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Inspired by SouleMama

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Good Night, Moon

As the night falls into my house through the windows and skylights, the darkness flows in resembling gooey sticky mass that engulfs everything and everyone, slows us down until we surrender. As the moon rolls in and sets up camp behind our window, a wail thunders through the house, and I know that it's time. Time for a bath, a pajama wrestle followed by a cuddle and a tummy full of mama's milk.

(note my two men sleeping in the exact same pose)

For a while, I listen to his tiny breaths grow steady and deep, I watch his face become lost in the farthest reaches of his dreams, then, I quietly sneak out from under the covers trying my best not to disturb the harmony that is night.
I have always been a night person, and even more so ever since I have embarked on this breath-taking journey of raising a child. Of course, there are nights when I cuddle my toddler, and next thing I know, the alarm is going berserk on the night stand. Most nights, however, I cherish the moments spent alone, just me and the night.

Some nights, I clean up, herd stray socks and clothing items, pull out such highly hazardous, and therefore hidden from the light of day items like iron, scissors, or nail clippers. Other nights, I simply enjoy the poise and tenderness of this hour when the day is stripped of everything that is excessive and superficial, and only true and necessary remains.
There are of course still naps that occur usually once a day and let me conquer some of child-rearing unrelated tasks. Naps, however, tend to end unexpectedly and in the middle of my burning something on the stove, shampooing my hair, or worse yet, right as I dive into the pillows on the couch with a sandwich and a book, hoping for a few minutes away from this world.
Nights, on the other hand, stretch into eternity. At night, the entire world is yours because everyone else is sleeping.

I will probably wish for just five more minutes when the sun starts trickling into the bedroom, and I hear his ever-demanding MAMA. I know I will wish children had a snooze button, I will open my eyes reluctantly and see Joseph sitting up, ready to meet day's adventures head-on.
Sometimes I think that nights like that are more rejuvenating than full 8 hours of shut-eye time. As I am writing this, the night has covered the world around me with a thick blanket of dreams. Even moon turned in for the night, and I just might grab a corner of this starry quilt and tuck myself in. Good night, moon. Sleep tight.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Rain, Raspberries, and Other Remarkable Happenings

There are few things as exciting in high desert weather-wise as rain. Surprisingly, we have been getting more than our usual share of precipitation this summer, and that alone is making my life much more pleasant. Sitting outside on the bench, enjoying the lightning show, or venturing outdoors into mud-luscious and puddle-ful world, and letting rain plant kisses on your head, then, falling asleep to the tranquil pitter-patter of the rain's lullaby, those are the things I look forward to most come summer.
Plus, they are such a rarity and guilty indulgence on our side of the world, it is almost impossible not to enjoy it. And the whole getting wet thing? Well, that's why they invented rain jackets.

In the midst of this wonderful wetness, we took a break for the mountains. It came down the grapevine that the wild raspberries are here, and we didn't want to miss it.

Although smaller than their "domesticated" counterparts, they reward you with extraordinary flavor, sour and tangy. Every red morsel explodes in your mouth into a celebration of sunshine, rain, and all things summer.
And if you can pluck up enough patience to gather a handful, and then throw it in, mmmm... that's like a whole crazy fiesta with flavors dancing and singing, and just being loud, staying up long after the show ended.

Even more exciting than spotting a raspberry bush heavy with the burden of summer is seeing your little one look for them,

then spot a big one, and with a glee and "yummy" sounds enjoy the treat.

Of course, some of us got into some cow poop that was lying around. Some of us fell into puddles, and got just plain unreasonably dirty. We won't point fingers, though; the trip was quite remarkable, and I've got a set of scraped legs to show for it (why WOULD you wear long pants on a raspberry gathering adventure?).

The clouds have since retreated, and we are again hiding from all-consuming summer heat, patiently awaiting another downpour. The rain jackets are dry for a change. We, however, just might take another trip to the wild. Those gooseberries looked like they are about ready, and I hear they are quite a treat as well.

This Moment

Inspired by SouleMama
{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Wishing everyone a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lavender Lemonade

Lavender lemonade is one of those things you don't necessarily think about when you think of a delicious refreshing drink. In my mind, it sounded almost like "pickle juice" when I first heard it. And yet it was quite remarkable.
So were lavender cookies,

and lavender bread,

and even lavender chicken rub. No, I am not talking about a cooking challenge gone crazy, this was all a part of the Lavender Fair at El Rancho de Las Golondrinas: more intimate, less crowded then some of the other summer events, but nonetheless marvelous two days of everything Lavender related.

And I didn't even know I would enjoy it so much. Wonderful chances for pictures, of course, too.

Is he yawning? Or singing? Or Screaming? Venture a guess.

Oh, and this. Just couldn't resist. Got me one of those lavender kitties.

All in all, great weekend with a shade of purple. A few lavender projects in mind, a few bunches drying in my kitchen, making it look like there should be a wood stove there with a cauldron bubbling away on top of it, making it look cozy and peaceful. Or perhaps it's just stress relieving lavender qualities (er, did I mention there was a lecture on lavender medicinal uses?).
Hope you are having a great week, everyone!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This Moment

Inspired by SouleMama

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Morning Medley

As I rush through my house early in the morning getting ready for work, I have to suffer through absence of me in this picture.

Now, can you blame me from sneaking back almost every morning for "just 5 more minutes"? True, most days I don't get to eat breakfast at home, or make lunch, and my face has long forgotten what makeup is, but these are the moments I drink up and savor knowing how short-lived they are, knowing that just around the corner is the time when babies outgrow and "outneed" the cozy family bed.

(Joseph at 1 month)

As the dawn tiptoes across the house, I pause and marvel. Mornings are such a magical time of day, they are an unconquered land full of possibilities. The worries and concerns of the previous day have receded into the morning mist over the mountains, the day ahead holds endless possibilities.
Every day is a wonder, and even though most important milestones in a baby's life happen only once in a while, there are plenty of little ones that will make your heart melt away just as much as seeing them crawl, walk, and smear cereal across the dinner table. The little smiles, the chuckles, the first time they reach that top drawer that you didn't babyproof because 'oh well he is so small, it will be ages before he reaches it'; all those make my heart skip a bit about a thousand times a day. As I pause and snap a mental picture of this morning serenity, I wonder what the day ahead holds for us... I can't wait for the magic.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Saturday To Savor

Having worked every weekend for the past ... year (!), I forgot what it is people do on weekends. Not days off, mind you, WEEKENDS. Those days when you can zip through the city and get all green lights, when the neighborhood actually comes alive with the sound of bikes, children laughing, neighbors haggling over vintage lamp shades and dog-eared books at garage sales; when you friends and family can actually be together at the same time in the same place. Agh, the wonder of a WEEKEND.
We started off ours with a trip to the Farmers' Market.

We wandered through the aisles of vendors sampling cheeses, and jams, and all sorts of veg and fruit, picking out the sweetest peas (for daddy), loading up on some goat milk yogurt, munching on some freshly baked pastries and sipping ice-cold apple cider, and just generally enjoying this early morning Saturday bliss.

I came to realize long time ago that every season brings its peculiar flavor as it steps into our lives: early fall smells of burned leaves, middle of winter smells of Christmas trees and clementines, and on Saturday, I discovered that early summer is flavored with a hint of young garlic.
No, not the kind of garlic fragrance that finds its way up your nasal passages the morning after someone in your immediate environment overdosed on garlic bread or garlic mashed potatoes. The young garlic is pleasantly earthy and edgy, in a way even refreshing after the stale smell of prolonged winter.

Of course, heaps over heaps of it were piled up on the farmers' stands at the market, and we just couldn't help but buy some. It is still resting on my kitchen counter for now, but I can tell it is itching to make its way into a delicious dish of some sort or another this coming week.

After the market was over and done with, we (zipping through the city and getting all green lights, of course) headed for El Rancho Las Golondrinas, a living history museum, just South of Santa Fe to enjoy their new event Dances With Wools (no that's not a typo) - a new and exciting event that included fiber arts exhibitions, demonstrations and vendors.

Joseph did his best to blend in with the period attire traditionally worn by volunteers and employees of the museum, and dressed up in his brand new peasant outfit lovingly made by HotLavaClothing just for him.
It sure made for some very wonderful pictures.