Category: Food

Let’s Talk Food: Savory Ukrainian Recipes

Hey, hey, hey! Let’s talk about food. Yeah? I love talking about food. 🤷‍♀️ I love cooking, baking, trying out new recipes, and feeding other people. It’s a good thing I enjoy it because approximately 79% of my waking hours are spent in search of food, thinking about food, or cooking food. My kitchen is my office and my happy place. 😆 My favorite time is Sunday afternoon when it’s raining outside, and I’m cozy in my kitchen baking up a tasty treat. Add a podcast to the background and its perfection.

Ukrainian food is super basic and requires very few specialty ingredients. You could probably make most basic Ukrainian recipes with what you have in your fridge and pantry today. But it’s pretty yummy and the ultimate comfort food. Ukrainian cooking is ruled by the seasons. You cook what is available in the season and there are certain dishes for certain times of year. Fall/winter cooking in Ukraine is heavy on potatoes, beets, carrots, onions, and grains. When we first moved here and I wanted to bake with pumpkin in the fall everyone looked at me like I had three eyes. “Pumpkins are for farm animals!” But, western influence has changed a lot over the years and now you can find smaller pumpkins for baking on the market. I’m happy people have come to their senses about pumpkins because fall baking requires it! 😊

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite (In English) Ukrainian recipes with you. Obviously, the most authentic recipes are the ones passed down from friends and neighbors, but the recipes I’ll share here are also great. Plus, most of them have been a bit westernized so the ingredients will be easy for you to find. There are so so many recipes that could be shared, but I decided to not overwhelm and offer up just a few yummy options for you to try. These recipes have all been tested and approved by my fam, our team, and our boys and are staples in our home. Try them out and let me know what you think! I decided to share only savory foods with you today, and next time we’ll cover sweets and baking.

Soup. Soup is a mainstay of the Ukrainian diet. Most Ukrainians are happy to eat soup every day and even for breakfast! Our kids eat soup in their school lunches every single day and parents would definitely be outraged if it was removed from the menu. Ukrainians gotta have their soup! I’m a massive soup-lover myself, so I can definitely get behind the Ukrainian soup obsession. Most Ukrainian soups are served topped with a spoonful of sour cream. Don’t omit the sour cream! It really does make a difference.

  1. Borscht. Duh. Now, my kids would correct me and say that Borscht is not soup- it’s just Borscht. But, it’s soup-like, so it will go first. Borscht is the National Dish of Ukraine, and there are as many variations of it as there are families. Every person will tell you that their grandma makes the best borscht. Some cook it with beans, some without (I’m in the “without” camp). You can use any kind of meat you like, or go meatless. I don’t really use a recipe anymore when I make borscht, but this recipe was my starting point back in the day. Do give it a go and see what all the fuss is about! Borscht Recipe
  2. Green Borscht. My kids like green borscht better than the traditional red. Green borscht is called “green” because it lacks the red beets but instead is packed with sorrel, a sour green that gives it amazing flavor. It’s also topped with boiled eggs which I was leery of at first, but quickly grew to love. So so yummy! Green Borscht Recipe
  3. Solyanka. This is my all-time most fave soup ever! There’s this little restaurant on the road from our village to Lviv in Western Ukraine that has the best solyanka you’ll ever eat in your life. I was happy to see on our way home from Germany that that little restaurant was still alive and kicking. Solyanka has dill pickles in it, but don’t let that scare you. It’s amazeballs. TRY IT. I highly modify this recipe, but it’s a good starting point. It calls for a lot of different meat, but we use just chicken and salami. Also- don’t skip the olives, lemons, and sour cream at the end. (Any kind of olives will do. You don’t need the special ones called for in the recipe) Here ya go: Solyanka Recipe, Solyanka Recipe in Ukrainian (This recipe is closer to how I make it- but with potatoes. If you can Google translate it, then go for it!)

Non-Soup Savory Dishes

  1. Banosh. My kids literally jump for joy when I make banosh. And it’s so easy!! Banosh is a famous Ukrainian dish from the Hutsul people of the Carpathian Mountains. When we all go to the mountains together with our team and the boys we definitely make it a priority to have lots of banosh. It’s a dish that holds a lot of special memories for all of us. Now, the recipe I’m attaching is a good base of banosh with bryndza (salty sheep cheese), but banosh is just meh if you don’t add other toppings. We like to add carmelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, bacon crumbles, and a fried egg to the top of our banosh, along with the bryndza. If you can’t find bryndza you can replace it with feta cheese for a similar salty taste. Banosh Recipe
  2. Olivye. This Ukrainian version of a potato salad is straight-up party food. Every holiday, birthday party, and special event is bound to have a big bowl of Olivye and I am there for it. There’s just something super yummy and satisfying about it. You must give it a go. It’s super important to chop everything small and into similar-sized pieces. The uniformity of all the little chunks with the mayo makes this salad something special. No big chunks allowed! So what if today’s not a holiday? Any day is a good day for Olivye. Olivye Recipe
  3. Grechka. If you’re planning to visit Ukraine anytime soon (you’re probably not, but…😂) then you’re going to have to learn to like buckwheat (“grechka”). I’ve noticed that it’s an acquired taste for most Westerners, but I can testify that you really can learn to like it. When we first moved here I was not a fan, but over the years grechka has become a comfort food of sorts. Our kids eat it at school for lunch at least twice a week and all of our boys love it. Enjoy this basic recipe for grechka with mushrooms. The recipe calls for dried mushrooms, but I usually use fresh, as that’s what I have on hand. PS: Despite having “wheat” in its name, buckwheat is actually a gluten-free food. Grechka Recipe

English Recipe Resources. These sites were my go-to websites when we first moved to Ukraine and I realized trying to cook “American” wouldn’t cut it here, but I couldn’t read nor understand recipes in Ukrainian. I learned the basics of Ukrainian cooking from these sites before I had friends to tell me what was up. They all have categories for “Russian and Ukrainian food”. Ukraine and Russia have many, many differences (as Russia is currently showing the world) but when it comes to cooking they share many of the same recipes and flavors. I hope you will try some recipes for yourself!

  1. Natasha’s Kitchen
  2. Olga’s Flavor Factory
  3. Valentina’s Corner
  4. Momsdish

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Five Things That Are Bringing Me Joy

Yesterday we had our first snow 👏👏. A lot of it melted off, but still, tis the season! I love the first snow. It’s always so pretty and magical. Come February I’m more than ready to never see snow again as long as I live, but December snows are always welcome.

While I’m cozy here in my village house that I love so much, I thought I’d share some things that are bringing me joy this snowy December. Because, why not?

1. Yummy scented candles. I love love love a good candle. Candles bring me an obscene amount of joy, but in the past I could never find nice scented candle here in Ukraine. Until now. Yay! A local company here in Zhytomyr makes wonderful candles and they are making me so happy! I bought a few and burn them every morning and every evening. They smell like Christmas and forests and baked goods and all the best scents of the season. Hurray!

2. Freshly baked bread. A while back I was inspired to make some bread. I make dinner rolls pretty often, but have never been much for making just a basic loaf for slicing. I’m not sure why. 🤷‍♀️ Anyway, the basic bread we get at the store here is never very tasty, so I decided maybe I should just start making our own. My requirements for the recipe were basically that it would be cheap to make (ie- uses basic white flour, no milk, and no butter) and would make at least two big loaves. I found the easiest, tastiest recipe and am so happy making our own bread! It takes a while, but that’s mostly just rising time. The hands-on time is maybe like 10 minutes total. I’ve been baking it every couple of days and it’s seriously so easy! Here’s the recipe: https://prairiedogwoodcraft.com/blogs/cooking-baking/basic-everyday-bread (FYI, I use oil instead of butter because it’s cheaper…😆)

3. An electronic library. We are a family of readers. I think ever person in our family (except Evie, Bmo, and Vlad) goes to bed with a book at night. We mostly read from Kindles because we have no English library here and reading in Ukrainian is not necessarily relaxing. 😂 In the past we’ve had different subscriptions to meet our reading needs. We’ve tried Kindle Unlimited and Scribd and they were fine, but expensive and even then we couldn’t find many of the books we wanted to read. We also electronically check out books from our library back in Oregon, but the hold times are so loooooooooong. It just felt like it was always so hard to keep the kids on a steady diet of books without spending tons of money or trying to figure out how to send them with people who would come to visit (heavy!) But then, we were introduced to this amazing online library and oh the joy it is bringing to us all!!!! We just donate $5 every month and we can download tons and tons of books to our Kindles with zero hold times! It’s a serious Christmas miracle. A definite lifesaver for this book-crazy family who’s been without a library for 8 years!

4. My Teenagers. I’m telling you what: mothering teenagers is so.much.fun. Why did no one ever tell me that?? Right now we have 2 3/4 teens in the house. Addie is 17, Ezra is 16, and Hava will be 13 this month. They are just so wonderful and they bring me a huge amount of joy. They are funny and fun to be around. They each have their own quirks and opinions. They are growing into wonderful people and I just love living with them. I treasure our evenings when we the littles (and Bmo) are in bed and we can sit (with our amazing candles) and just chat or watch stupid SNL videos, or The Office together. I know our time together is growing shorter and shorter so I have this feeling of wanting to steal as much time with them as I can. They make me happy.

5. ДахаБраха (DakhaBrakha). DakhaBrakha is a Ukrainian folk band that I love. ❤️ They sing in the style of traditional Ukrainian music, but with a modern, creative twist. They are so funky and fun and we love them. This past week they did a concert in Zhytomyr and you better believe we were there! They were amazing in concert- so talented. You should give their music a try! You can see a video of them performing in Oregon here.

What’s bringing you joy these days?

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Kolobok Party 😋

Kolobok Party 😋

We had the best time making our own Колобок ❤️ Thanks to our favorite Kolobok film for the inspiration
www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GbM1mKgpFY

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My McDonalds Alter Ego

Yesterday I had McDonalds for lunch, and it was delicious. Big Mac Meal with Coke, thank you very much! Don’t mind if I do. 😋

Something interesting has happened to me over the past (almost) seven years of living in Ukraine. I have developed an alter ego when it comes to McDonalds. This change came upon me almost immediately upon moving to Ukraine, and while for some years I was embarrassed to admit it, I now fully embrace the McKrainain version of myself. No shame. No hiding. This is me- with ketchup.

Let me explain.

I feel like the US has this thing going on where everyone publicly denies their love for McDonalds, and yet McDonalds thrives and thrives. Last year they reported a revenue of more than 7 BILLION dollars…in the US alone! Soooo…as much as we might hate to admit it, someone’s gotta be eating all that McD’s…

I get it, I get it. It’s not necessarily the cool place to be seen at. I mean, if I was at McDonalds in the US and someone I know walked in, I’d feel like I kinda owed them an excuse. “Ummm Jed just really loves McDonalds. Of course I think it’s gross, but he’s just gotta have his McRib! I much prefer Chipotle, but you know…anywaysss…” (It’s so much easier to throw Jed under the bus, since he’s literally impossible to embarrass. Not that I take advantage of that. Ahem…) 🤷‍♀️

I have a friend who lives just up the hill from McDonalds in our home town in Oregon and I feel like I would do just about anything to make sure she never saw me in the drive-thru. Is it just me? Why all the McShaming? You gotta admit their fries are the besssssst. Come on, don’t be shy!

So yeah, when we lived in the US I was totally on the bash-McDonalds-bandwagon. But then, something about moving 6,000 miles away from everything familiar made me shift my perspective. Can’t imagine why.

In our city, McDonalds is the only American chain restaurant to be found. It’s also the only drive-thru, so there’s that. A couple hours away in Kyiv you can find KFC (but no biscuits or coleslaw, so yeah, not the same), Dominos, and maybe a small Baskin Robbins? But I think that’s it. And in our town, McDonalds is all we’ve got.

Upon our arrival in Ukraine with 4 littles and zero language skills, those Golden Arches spelled “HOME”. Once the jet-lag wore off and we kinda began to realize we were here for good, we couldn’t get there fast enough. Anytime we felt homesick or sad or helpless or stupid, a double cheeseburger and fries was what the doctor ordered. The food tasted the same. The menu was super similar. We could order basically in English and they could “mostly” understand us. In those early days, McDonalds not only filled our bellies, but it reminded us that we were not just the dumb Americans who couldn’t even grocery shop without feeling stupid. We were smart people with friends and family who loved us and a whole history of not-stupidness behind us. Seriously, Guys, nothing brings on humility stronger and faster than moving to a foreign country where English is not the official language. It’ll bring you down about 50 notches in the first 10 days. Ouch.

Evie and Daddy on a McDonalds Date

Over the years we’ve come to rely less on McDonalds to ease our pains, and it’s become more of a special treat. We take our kids there on dates. On the rare occasion when Jed and I are in town together without kids, we go there and it feels like our special secret. It tastes like home, even though we rarely ate it till we moved away from home. Oh, the irony.

Another thing to note is that McDonalds is a totally legit place to eat in Ukraine. You would never be embarrassed to find one of your friends at McDonalds in our town. McDonalds is always a good idea here. It’s something special and it’s different than any other restaurant in our city. I feel zero McShame while in Ukraine. Bring on the burgers!

But, the minute the airplane touches down in the US, all that changes. I instantly become a person who wouldn’t even consider McDonalds. I am so high above McDonalds I can’t even be bothered to watch their commercials. All that grease! Why I never!

Is it because I don’t want to waste my time eating food in the States that is readily available in Ukraine? Is it because I’m surrounded by so many much tastier restaurants in the US and McDonalds isn’t special there? Or does the high schooler in me so readily succumb to peer pressure that I slide back into my old prejudices as soon as I return to my old stomping grounds?

I could dive deeper into how all the parts of my personality shift from one continent to the other, but I’m not in the mood for introspection today. Let’s just say, that my McEgos are just one facet of the confusion that comes with living cross-culturally. What is widely acceptable to me in one place, does not always make the cut in the other. We’ve all become part chameleon over the past 7 years, I guess.

What about you? Have you ever traveled overseas? Did you have a hankering to eat at places that were familiar to you? Did the Golden Arches beckon? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on food as “home” and on McDonalds in general. Because why not? 😆

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10 Things I’m Learning

Every day is an adventure around here. You just never know what the day will hold! We are definitely in the trenches right now with our new guys, but are seeing little signs of progress along the way. There were a few weeks in there when I woke each morning with great fear of what the day would hold. I don’t feel that as often anymore. The days (and nights) are still unpredictable, but the better we know our guys and the better they know us, the more tools and relationship backbone we have when the rough moments come. Things are looking up, slowly but surely!

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Things I’m learning right now:

Routine routine routine. Nothing beats a good routine. Our guys thrive on it like nobody’s business. They seem so much more at peace when they know what’s coming next.

Routine routine routine can also turn around and bite you. In other words, a change up in the routine can really throw a wrench in their day. Yikes.

Double (or triple) every recipe, every time. 

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Keep the bedside loaded. Anton sleeps better if all his fidget spinners (even the broken ones) are at his bedside during the night. He just likes to know they’re there.

Time spent on character building is time well spent. When it comes to homeschooling, character training comes first. It is not a waste of time to spend time on character building. Good character is what it’s about! Who cares if our kids are super smart but lack character?!

A load a day keeps the mountain away. One load of laundry a day keeps things manageable. Two a day is even better, but at least one must happen or we drown.

Outsource cooking. Vladik cooks a big ol’ pot of soup every week with his teacher, we pay a neighbor lady to make lunch once a week, and I’m currently teaching Addy to cook dinner one night a week. In a world where most everything has to be made from scratch and I’m feeding 10-13 people 3 times a day, these kitchen respites are saving my life.

Spiritual Disciplines matter. We have no business walking into our day without putting Jesus in His proper place in our lives. We need him for every breath.

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Sleep is overrated. Between Anton’s middle-of-the-night roamings, Boris’ middle-of-the-night screechings, and Evie’s middle-of-the-night feedings I’m learning to hold on to sleep reeeeeeeeal loosely.

All people are precious. People will not know they are precious unless someone tells them and shows them they are precious. It’s easy to say, but harder to live. At times it seems our guys want to make themselves as unloveable as possible, but still, in those moments, we must show them that they are precious and loved. Every time they rage or yell or cry or harm themselves it is communication. In those moments they are crying out “Do you love me? Am I lovable? Do I matter to you?” Ruslan asks in words, “Do you love me, Mama?” Anton asks with his eyes, forehead touching mine, eyes searching. My prayer is that in those moments, no matter how tired I am, no matter how hard my buttons have been pushed, no matter if my feelings have been hurt- my prayer is that my answer will always be “Yes. You are precious and I love you.”

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The First Month: The Hard and the Awesome

One month ago from almost this exact moment we touched down in Ukraine. One month ago all 6 of us + 12 suitcases + 8 carry-ons + 1 guitar touched down in our new home. Has it only been one month??? It feels more like one year! Not in a bad way, but in a really strange way it feels like we’ve been here a whole heckofalot longer. I guess kids do that to you; they make you settle in real quick like. 🙂 Our new reality set in fairly fast and we’ve been on a ginormous learning curve ever since.

This is my take on the past month. Jed doesn’t do much blogging here (ahem…) so these are my thoughts. He’d give you a different perspective, and it would probably be more profound, but I’ll share mine just for the fun of it.

The Hard Things:

Language.

Duh. Yeah, at this exact moment Russian is my enemy, my worst nightmare, my insurmountable mountain. Russian is stinkin’ hard y’all.

But, we actually have picked up quite a bit, and when we remind ourselves we’ve only been here for one month we start to feel a little better about our progress.

Everything’s labeled…

Still, Russian hates me. Holy moly. My brain hurts just thinking about it.

Shopping.

Shopping is an interesting beast. The hard part isn’t finding delicious foods. Ukraine has loads of deliciousness available! The hard parts are prices (WAY TOO EXPENSIVE) and lack of car. These things aren’t impossible, just a little harder than in the US. I’m learning to cook like a Ukrainian in order to be able to afford groceries. Cooking like an American just doesn’t cut it here. The foods that would be frugal back in Oregon aren’t really frugal here, for the most part. Lucky for us we all love Ukrainian food! I just need to find out how to cook more of it so we can have a bit of variety in our lives.

The store we walk to most often

We use public transportation all the time since we don’t have a car. It’s pretty sweet that we live super close to a really busy bus stop. We can easily catch a bus whenever we want one. So, that’s no biggie, except when we want to do “big shopping”. “Big shopping” doesn’t mean Costco Big, it just means we need to buy for more than just today. Like last night for instance, we needed to buy diapers, pull-ups, and some stuff for the house, along with our normal purchases (cabbage, potatoes, beets, carrots, sour cream, milk, coffee, butter, and flour). That’s all fine and dandy…but how are we gonna get it all home??? Oh, that’s right…we’re gonna carry it! Ha! So, basically, we can only buy what we can carry, and when you factor in slippery sidewalks, kids bundled to the nines, dark at 4:30pm, a bus ride, and little hands that need to be held, you realize you really can’t buy all that much. Jed and I are shopping and debating what’s too heavy and what we can handle. “Sure, we can buy those mandarins, they aren’t too heavy. Oooooh no, we can’t get eggs…there’s no way we’re making it home with those babies still intact!”

On the bus with my sweetie after shopping last night

It’s an often hilarious, and an unexpectedly hard thing. Big time learning curve there. (And I didn’t even mention label-reading. Forget about it!)

Time Management.

Up to this point, we’ve pretty much been in survival mode. Not in a bad way, it’s just reality. Schedules and time management have been a work in progress.

Starting a non-profit from scratch is a lot like starting a new business. We have to account for expenditures, thank our givers, get the word out, stay accountable to our Board, and seek God for direction and vision, all while living in a world where every.single.thing is new.

It’s easy to get focused on just living every day and get backlogged on Wide Awake “stuff”. That’s been a hard one that we are far from mastering, but we’re plugging away at it. Again, let’s remind ourselves that we’ve only been here one month, mmmmk?? 🙂

The Awesome Things:

Walking.

I know, earlier I said not having a car is hard, but it’s really only hard when we go “Big Shopping”. Otherwise, I can honestly say that I enjoy walking everywhere. It’s so beautiful!!! We have to shop a bit almost every day (that’s the way it works here with a fam of 6), and I love our daily jaunts to the store.

On the way to the store

Usually, just Jed or I will head out in the afternoon with a kid or two and pick up the few things we need for that evening’s dinner and the next day’s breakfast. I love walking down the street in the fresh air, holding on to Addy’s hand just enjoying being with her. No radio blaring, no traffic to navigate, just me and my girl or sometimes my boy, walking down the street to our corner market. It’s precious. We’re learning labels together, learning what stores we like for what items, stretching our legs, breathing in fresh air, and feeling the sun (wishful thinking) on our faces. I like it a lot.

New Friends.

Duh. This one is HUGE. We have some wonderful friends here in Zhitomir. Thank you Jesus!!! Our friends Oleg and Tanya have been so good to us. They’ve ordered water for us for home delivery, helped me buy boots for my frozen Oregonian feet, taken us for coffee, celebrated a birthday and Thanksgiving with us, calmed my nerves when I heard unexpected fireworks and Jed was gone for the weekend (I was a wee bit nervous…), told us which brands of food are better, translated for us with our landlady, translated for us with our neighbors when we got the unfortunate “don’t flush the toilet paper” news hehe, helped us figure out our address, called taxis…and on and on and on. They’ve pretty much saved our bacon way too many times already. They probably feel like it’s been a heckofalot longer than one month too!! 😉

(Insert cute pic of friends…apparently we’re too busy drinking coffee and such for pics. Will remedy soon!!)

Mission to Ukraine friends have been AMAZING too. From the moment we walked in their doors on November 14th we’ve felt so incredibly welcome. They are excited to have us and we are so excited to have them!!! The MTU staff puts up with our blundering Russian with such grace. Bless their hearts!! They invite us to church, find lawyers to help us with our visas, feed our kids cake, hug us and kiss our cheeks, and on and on. One special family from MTU (mom and daughter both work there) has especially taken us under their wing. I feel like they are God’s special precious gift to us. Sigh, God is just too good. And that’s just the Zhitomir friends! Don’t even get me started on the treasures He’s given us in Kiev…

 

Romaniv.

Oh, my precious Romaniv! I was there again today and I am in love. Last week Jed and Nina, the AMAZING volunteer from Zhitomir that comes each week to the isolation room, discussed implementing more structure for the time we spend in the isolation room. Today Nina and I followed the plan the best we could and the boys responded immediately. Our time was so much more peaceful than the last time I was there! At one point we were feeding the boys bananas and Nina and I looked at each other in disbelief. It was SILENT in the room. The boys, for that moment, were content and quiet. It was such a moment of hope. God gave us all a bit of wisdom and then He blessed it. The boys responded fabulously and I can’t wait to see how they do after the structure is implemented week after week. Yay!!!!

On the road to Romaniv

Those boys have our hearts, big time.

Nina helping wash hands 🙂

Today I got to hold Andrei, one of the most active boys, on my lap for a bit. I figured out if I tied a long piece of cloth to a plastic slinky it would catch his attention and he would sit still for a moment. He let me hold him, rub his head, and hum into his ear for almost 10 minutes while he bounced the slinky up and down, up and down. Wow. That may not seem like much, but for a boy who never ever stops- always stimming, always shrieking, always running- this was big. For a moment he was at peace. For a moment his brain was developing a little further up the brainstem. For a moment prayers were whispered in his ear. Magical.

There’s so much more I could share. So many memories made, so many funny and embarrassing stories…it’s rather humiliating to live here, FYI. We make fools of ourselves all the time, everywhere. 🙂

Off to go make some embarrassing Russian blunders!

Just know that life is good, very good. It’s not all sunshine and roses and some days we struggle, but we have not one speck of doubt that we are exactly where God wants us to be. Things are quite crazy in Ukraine right now. We have no idea how it will all play out with the current government and the wishes of the people. Ukraine is at a very critical point in its history and we are here for such a time as this. It’s no surprise to God that we arrived right at the birth of a revolution. Who knows why…only God. But we do know that there is purpose in it and we don’t plan on missing out on that purpose.

Would you pray with us for Ukraine? This place and these people have grabbed our hearts. We’ve only made Ukraine our home for a short month, but we are all in. These are our people. Please pray that God has His way in Ukraine and that His Kingdom will come here and now. Pray that many, many hearts are turned toward Him during this unstable time.

 

Thank you, friends! Thank you for your love and encouragement this first month. It has been awesome to journey with you!

 

 

 

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Lately in Pics

All you all fed up with Turkey? (hehe..get it?)

I won’t bore you with a big, long Thanksgiving after-the-fact post, but instead will just sum up the last few days with pictures. Some of which, are Thanksgiving pics!

Our turkey was butchered days before we ate it. Cool, right? Jed did a darn fine job cooking it, despite the lack of true oven settings. Remember this?


Still, we pressed on and managed to have a most wonderful day!

Cornbread stuffing prep!

Ukrainian potatoes are wow. SO DIRTY! Ha! I’m amazed at how clean the produce is in the US. It’s a hilarious difference I never notice before.

Jed and his turkey…

Tanya, Addy, and I ventured out to the big meat market in search of salo, pig fat, to baste the turkey. Awww yeah!

The makings of Pumpkin Pie Vareniki: the discovery of the century.

YUM.

On Thanksgiving Day we went to the big market to buy thick tights for the kids. All the kids here where them under their pants. Cozy!

Pre-feasting visiting

And…the best part of our day! We had some very special guests join us for Thanksgiving. Vitaliy, Yulia, Eugene, Oleg, and Tanya were the best guests. We are so thankful for our friends!

Today we took the kids out for a special lunch after church 🙂

Pizza was pretty tiring. Seth fell asleep on the bus on the way home!

There you have it! Sorry I don’t have a lot to say, life is full and good. 🙂

Please pray for Ukraine. There are huge protests happening in Kiev right now, and others around Ukraine. The President was supposed to sign an agreement with the EU this past week that would have aligned Ukraine more closely with the EU. At the last moment, he did not sign and decided to align more closely with Russia instead. Many Ukrainians are very disappointed, to say the least. They felt that this agreement with the EU was a step toward progress for this country. People are disheartened and disappointed in their government. There is unrest. Please pray for God’s kingdom to come here and now. Pray that more and more hearts turn toward the Father. Pray that God’s will be done in Ukraine and among its people.

Downtown Kiev tonight

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Birthday Cooking in Ukraine 101

Saturday was Ezra’s birthday!

This was the first birthday celebrated away from family, so I think Jed and I were both feeling the need to make Ezra’s birthday extra special. As in, Ez was convinced Hannah came to visit JUST for his birthday. We let him believe that. After all, it’s not every day you turn 8!

We asked Ezra what he wanted to eat for his birthday and he said he wanted pizza. Woohoo! I can make pizza! No big deal. He also said that instead of birthday cake, he wanted cherry vareniki. Really??? Okay, buddy, anything for you on your birthday.

So, Friday night, right after her arrival, I roped Hannah into helping me make some vareniki. It’s a time intensive job, but much more fun when you have company. 🙂 Vareniki are little dumplings made from butter, flour, salt, and egg. They can be filled with potatoes, cheese, mushrooms, cabbage…or cherries. Mmmmm. That’s how we like them best! You top the cherry ones with sugar and sour cream. They really are delish. Jed and I had them the first time we came to Ukraine and I’m pretty sure I experimented cooking them the very day after we arrived home. 🙂

Vareniki/PJ party

 

We rolled out the dough, cut out little circles, then put a spoonful of sugar and a couple cherries in each circle of dough. Then we ran into problems. You have to crimp the dough around the edges to seal it so the cherries don’t leak out when the vareniki is boiled. Well, I always just set my cherries in a strainer and work fast. BUT the only cherries we could find were frozen, and as they thawed they leaked like crazy. We had some funky looking vareniki on our hands!
While we worked we listened to the Phil Collins station on Spotify. In my former life (2 weeks ago) I did all my best work (and card-playing) to Phil Collins station on Pandora. Jed, Tom, Emma, and I have worked for years (literally) to perfect our Phil Collins station. It’s seriously like a work of art. Occasionally a Coldplay song will get thrown in and one of us will rush over to thumb it down, but that’s a rarity. It’s pretty spot-on in awesomeness. It’s been faithfully tended and nurtured to perfection. Let’s just say, when it comes to Spotify radio we have our work cut out for us. No Pandora in Ukraine = starting over. Boo.
BUT, Jed had just mentioned earlier in the evening (can’t remember why) that it felt like a Top Gun music moment. And while we were in the deep throes of vareniki-making, guess what song came on???

Cool, right?? PS: not sure why the vareniki look hypercolor yellow. Hmmmm

Nothing lifts the spirits like a good 80’s mix. 😉
Saturday dawned and Ezra was up with the sun. He was so excited for his big day!!
Hannah and I got busy on the pizza dough fairly early since we had guests coming to celebrate for lunch. As we let the dough rise we walked down to the grocery store to see if, by chance, we could find some parchment paper for the pizza baking. We were doubtful we would find anything, but it was worth a shot! Imagine our surprise when we found just what we were looking for!
We hurried home, rolled out our dough, and got ready to preheat the oven. Then we actually took a good look at the oven and found this:

Ummm this is our oven control. Any idea how to decipher this?? Only three temp choices. I guess we better invest in a thermometer 🙂

We spent some time googling for a way to use the oven and eventually decided to just wing it. The dough baked perfectly! Yummmmm!!!! Praise The Lord!
I took it out, ready to slide it off the pan….and at that point realized we didn’t actually buy parchment paper. It appeared we bought some sort of paper that stuck like glue to the dough. Hahahahaha

Pizza with a side of paper

Time to clean the dough off the paper in the other pans before the other crusts suffered the same fate!
In the end, the pizza and vareniki turned out delicious and all was well. This adventure is so hilariously fun!!!

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About Stuff

So, before we made the big move to Ukraine I searched the Interwebs (as Jed likes to call it) like a mad woman for any and every blog I could find about life for Americans who had moved to Ukraine. I found some that I really enjoyed, mostly because the writers were working with orphans and I dig that. Obviously. But, what I was really looking for was details about the little things that make up life in Ukraine. I wanted to see daily life so I could *try* to be prepared. I didn’t find a whole lot of that, probably because when it’s your everyday life you have a hard time believing anyone would find it interesting. I mean, do people really care what your washer machine looks like or how small your rolls of toilet paper are? Well, I cared! 🙂 I wanted to see any and everything. So…I hope to give you glimpses to our everyday life…maybe some of you will find it interesting?? If anything I know my mom will be happy to see it all. Hehe

For what it’s worth, here are the things of note that I’ve been thinking I should tell you about. I have to take notes right when the thought comes, like this:

Dogs and Motion Detectors:
You all saw the outside of our house, right? Not so perty. You can’t always judge a book by it’s cover, and our house is proof of that.
Anyway, on that corner there is a motion-detecting light. We didn’t realize it was there till the first night we moved in. I kept waking up all night to the light going off and on because it’s literally right outside our bedroom window. The light was off and on, off and on, off and on ALL NIGHT. The entrance to our house isn’t exactly on a busy street so I started getting all concerned when night after night it was like a strobe light in my room. Welp, not to worry, I figured out the culprit. Stray dogs.
Ukraine has lots of stray dogs. They are running and sleeping all over town- and especially through our yard at night. I woke up one night and bravely looked out the window, afraid of what I’d see, only to see a group of dogs running back and forth under our light. Ha! I feel better now. 🙂
No Top Sheet:
I love Ukraine. I love Ukraine because people don’t use top sheets. If you have little kids you understand. It’s like you know your kids should use top sheets, but they are forever crumpled at the bottom of little beds. I’ll confess, that after a while, I just gave up and stopped trying. I felt a bit guilty like my kids were sleeping in filth until we moved here! In our house there are bottom sheets (only fitted on one side), and then big blankets in a top sheet material duvet cover. Genius! All the cleanliness of a top sheet, minus the crumple. My guilty mother’s heart is now at peace.

Also, the sheet sets never match. Just when I thought it couldn’t get easier, it did.

Translate to Russian, then Ukrainian:
There are two languages mostly spoken in Ukraine: Russian and Ukrainian. Even though Ukrainian is the official language and most of the signage and stuff is in Ukrainian, we’ve decided to focus on learning Russian. The reason for that is that the dreams God has given us are bigger than only Ukraine. The dream He’s given us extends to the whole former Soviet Union region. So, it seems more wise to focus on learning Russian since it’s more widely spoken worldwide.
Anywaysssss when we go to the store it gets a bit tricky. Some of the labels for the food are in Russian and some are in Ukrainian. When I see a label I don’t understand (let’s be honest, that would be 97% of them) I first google translate into Russian, and if that comes up with nothing or a totally irrelevant word I then translate it into Ukrainian. As you can imagine, grocery shopping takes a million years. I think I need to start trying to translate to Ukrainian first, it might save me some time. 🙂 Google Translate is my new BFF.

I misspelled the first ingredient on the second line…it should translate flakes. 🙂

Bagged Food:
Tons of the refrigerated food comes in bags. Who’d a thunk it? The kids think it’s great. It’s all fun and games till someone pokes a hole in the milk (ahem, Seth).

Mayonnaise, ketchup, milk, and sour cream

Mr. Clean:
I just thought this was funny.
Cake for Bfast:
This morning we started at MTU and all the staff got to meet the kids! It was super surreal to have our kids there. Sigh…happy. To welcome us they brought out cake. Way to win over my kids! Anyone who serves cake at 8:30am gains guaranteed hero status at our house.
Boxes Arrived:
Our boxes came today!!! Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to us! We shipped 6 boxes on September 10th and they arrived today. We were hoping and praying they would all make it and that we would beat them here so we could receive them and MTU wouldn’t have to store them for us. God is too, too good to us!!! Would you believe the boxes are almost completely filled with just books? Yep. We figured just about everything else we could need we could find here, but all our books in English? Irreplaceable. We got a super amazing shipping deal, and I’m so happy we did it. Books and some school supplies are really all we shipped. Addy, my little book lover, is going to be so happy to be reunited with her friends. 🙂
Ez Pez Bday:
Our little Ezra turns 8 years old on Saturday! My cousin Hannah has been in Western Ukraine since September doing an internship through her university and will be in Ukraine till the middle of December. We are SO EXCITED that she is taking the train to come and visit us this weekend! Ez is convinced Hannah is coming all this way just for his birthday. We won’t correct him. Turning 8 is kind of a big deal.
Welp, I think that just about covers it. My brain is officially mush. We started Russian lessons today and I’m surprised our heads didn’t explode. Jed went to bed long ago and now I better go too before I turn into a pumpkin. 🙂
Happy Wednesday Everyone!

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