Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Russian Death Traps AKA Roads

Yesterday, Sophia and I went with Anton on a business trip outside the city.  It was fun to get out and see some of Smolensk Oblast (like a state).  We went to two little towns - very different from each other.  One much more a “Russian” town and the other, absolutely “Soviet.”  
But, more about that another time.
What struck me,
                 more than anything, 
                                                    was Smolensk, 
when we got back to the city late in the afternoon.
Everywhere we went in the Oblast, there were decent roads.  
As soon as we got back to Smolensk, this is what we encountered:

Pothole after pothole . . . 

Watch out!  There’s another one!
One major suspension buster after another . . . 

We’re not talking little jolts in your ride . . . 

Some are big enough for your ride 
to fall into . . . 
                                                                    and disappear . . .             

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chicken Pox FREE! and Some Russian Fast Food

Today was Sophia’s first official day “Chicken Pox Free!”  
What I mean by that is  - this is the day the doctor told us she wouldn’t be contagious anymore.  
When I told Sophia that this morning, she stretched her arms up as far as they would go, fists clinched in victory and yelled, “YEA!!!!  I DID IT!”  
Then, she asked me, “Does that mean I can be around people again?”
Poor thing . . . she is just like me in this . . . we start to wilt without the water of our friends.
God gave us a beautiful sunny day today.  So, in celebration of “The End of Chicken Pox” and, as Sophi added, “The End of Winter,”  we decided to make a trip to the city center and eat in a cafe!  
I took lots of pics  . . . so, you could join us!

First stop, the tram stop!  And, oh that Russian MUD!  It is everywhere, in everything.  I can only imagine what it must have been like before paved roads.  They say that some places were impassable in Spring and Fall because of the mud . . . I believe it!

Sophi waiting for the tram. 

This water and mud for her spelled
                 F U N!

Riding on the tram with just a hint of blue dots left . . . 

At one point in our day, we were crossing a busy main street.  
Sitting at the pedestrian walkway, there was a man without legs, in a wheel chair, begging for money.  He looked up at Sophia, gave her a gentle toothless grin, and said in a quiet voice, “You’ve had chicken pox, haven’t you?”  
He felt her pain.

Our tram journey ended at the main square in Smolensk.  It used to be called “Smirnov Square,” after a famous Revolutionary, but was recently re-named, “Victory Square,” in honor of the Russian victory against the Germans in WWII.  
This guy and I are listening to the relaxing music playing on the Square.   It’s coming from speakers on the top of these poles.
Smirnov, I mean Victory, Square (that happens ALL the time, now) is a major transportation cross-roads.  Trams, buses, and “marshrutkas” (vans) all have stops here.  Marshrutkas are the fastest way to get around- but the drivers are wild!  and sometimes you have to sit backwards and they are almost always crowded.  I never ride with Sophia on one and try to avoid them, if I can, for myself.  I much prefer the slow but steady tram!  

I asked Sophia which cafe she would like to try today and she chose Domino. 

Domino was the first pizza place in Smolensk.  It’s first location was in a park near the Central Park.  I remember going there and waiting in long lines for cardboard-like crust, a little bit of something red (sauce?), some sauage and a little cheese.  Nothing like any pizza I had ever had . . . but it was so good to be eating something called pizza!  

Now, Domino has 4 locations in Smolensk and a much wider selection of Russian fast food.  
But, the pizza is still terrible . .

I love how they decorated in the resturant in Russian village style.  
Sophi is always amazed at the tree inside!

I took lots of pics  . . . 

  would like to use some of these ideas in our new house . . . 

Love the colors!
Sophi, of course, was more interested in the food.

Here it is, real Russian fast food.

You probably recognize the country-style potatoes (that come with a horseradish sauce that will knock your socks off!) and the ice-cream sundae.  

Here are a couple of items you may not know:

Blini, Russian crepes, filled with a cheese and garlic mixture.  Sophi’s favorite!
We get a side of sour cream for dipping! 
Oliviye Salad - with pickles, eggs, potatoes, green peas, carrots, ham, and mayo.  I usually love this salad . . . but this one had just too much mayo.
Sophi wanted to sit in the window so we could watch the people walking by.
After lunch, we decided to go for a little walk  . . . 

over rivers . . . 
thru lakes . . . 
it was a treacherous journey . . . 
but we finally made it to the fabric store! 
Sophi was a little shaken!
Although, by the time we reached the cross-stitch store, she was looking more herself.
We hopped back on the tram and headed home.  
Sophi got lots of calls on her orange sippy cup-top cell phone.  I think every friend she has and all her grandparents called to see what she had been doing that day.

I, on the other hand, was busy wondering if the emergency door opener would really work on this old tram . . . you know, in case one of those crazy marshrutkas rammed into us . . . 

We’re the last tram stop on this line.
Crossed one more lake.  
Sophi said,  “Look Mom!  It’s the Baltic Sea!”
And, made it HOME!

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Pillowcase Dress and Some Sewing and Craft Sites

I just finished a new sewing project:
I made Sophi a “pillowcase dress.”  This was a Russian pillowcase - the kind with an envelope fold instead of an open end.  I followed the tutorial on the blog Freshly Picked.  I did change a couple of things:   encased the elastic for the shoulder straps instead of using ties, and added a “wrap-around” hem (what is the real term for this?) at the bottom to try to make the front and back match a little better (there are alternating stripes).  Oh, and I did take in the sides a little to cut down on the “billowing-ness.”
Sophi tried it on for me at least 10 times  . . . pretty patient 4 yr old!  

Look how the blue pox dots match the blue flowers in her dress!  
She’s my fashion girl!
After I finished the dress and looked at it . . . it just needed something . . . and  I immediately had the mental image in my head . . . a fabric flower!
I found this site on-line where they had several fabric flower tutorials.  I chose the one found on Sew Ritzy Titzy because I liked the shape and the layered look.
I couldn’t find a button that I liked for the center so I just folded a small piece of bias tape and attached it.   
Really like the flower on the dress - just the touch I was thinking of!  I want to make another one as a hair bow for Sophi next.  (somebody STOP me! )
A big, big THANK YOU to all the women and men who give tutorials on their blogs and websites!  

For those of us on limited budgets . . . 

for those of us who live far away from 
English printed material . . . 

for those of us who are beginners and need a little helping hand . . .

            your free resources free us to be creative!  
                        from the bottom of my heart!
Here are some sites I have come to love:


This site is full of tutorials, great fabric, giveaways, contests . . . 

Craft Gossip is the next site that I frequent.   Basically, they list all the cool craft tutorials posted that day on multitudes of crafting blogs.  You can subscribe to receive them all or just the ones in your areas of interest.  Warning:  can be overwhelming to see all the cute, cute projects.  
Your “lists” may never recover!   
Russian Quilter is a great blog for seeing what is going on in the Russian craft world.  It is mostly in Russian, but there are some places where where she translates into English.  Take a look thru her archives at some amazing quilts!
Another Russian site (but mostly in English) that is a treasure of free cross stitch designs.  She also has a site for just finishing tutorials.  Really pretty things!

Make It and Love It is a cute blog with great ideas.   
Take a look at this one about making interchangeable decorations for your summer flip flops!  
These are just a few of the many wonderful freebie sites out there.  
Thank you to you all!  
What are some good sites that your have found?  
Please pass them on!

The Big Picture - Hobby Lobby, Smolensk

I have a dream . . . 
        well, actually, I have several dreams . . . 
I’m one of those “Big Picture/Idea” people.  
I can dream and come up with super ideas . . . and I really believe in these ideas, I just know that they will work . . . 
The problem, for me, comes because I’m not always as sure about how to make these dreams a reality.
I often run to my husband, so excited to tell him about one of my new ideas and he, being the detail person that he is, always tells me to 
write it down, 
work out those details 
and get started.
So, I have decided to “blog-down” my ideas and share them with the world  
        (ok, ok, maybe just the handful of readers I may have!).
Most Recent Great Idea
        (if I do say so myself)
Creative Craft Center - Smolensk
Now, tell me, doesn’t just the idea get you excited?
It does me  - let me tell you why:
  1. Now that I have started to sew and get into crafting here in Russia, I have learned that most of my friends here also enjoy crafting.  Sewing, needlework, painting, woodworking, scrap booking . . . all of these are of interest to many women and possibly men, in Smolensk.
  2. There is a not one good craft store in Smolensk - city of more than 300,000 and the capital of the Oblast (state.)  There is not one good fabric store in this city.  Everyone dreams of going to Moscow (4 hrs by car, 6 hrs by train) to go shopping.
        What do I mean by “not good?”  - quality is terrible, prices are high,
            selection is very limited, customer service is horrible.
What would the Creative Craft Center look like?

Something like a small, “mom and pop’s” Holly Lobby in the States.   
  • large store area 
  • different sections for different crafts/supplies (flowers, needlework, art, fabric, etc)
  • large, good quality selection
  • room for craft classes (I have hundreds of ideas for classes.  All taught as an outreach of Love to the people of this city.)
  • great customer service
  • quarterly craft “fair” for our customers to share ideas and sell their work to the community.
  • great music playing in the store to inspire creativity
What would be our goals?
  1. Provide good quality supplies for our customer’s creative projects.
  2. Provide craft training/classes.
  3. Have the best customer service in Smolensk and provide our clients with a fun shopping experience!
  4. Create fun and creative atmosphere/ culture where Love is shared.
I admit, I have absolutely no idea how to start a craft store.  Don’t know where to find the right suppliers . . . but I do believe in the idea!
How wonderful,and I believe, ultimately profitable, it would be to have a Creative Craft Center in Smolensk!  With a good location, good size, good selection, and good quality customer service, we could be a profitable and helpful business.
SO, there it is . . . run with it . . . 
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