Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Crimea - Our First Family Vacation

Our view of the Black Sea from the apartment we rented just outside Yalta.
This spring we went South!
Well, first we went North, then we headed South . . .
It was quite trip . . .

We had some business to take care of in Smolensk so we 
flew from Houston to Moscow, 
drove to Smolesnk, 
then, a few days later 
we drove 24 hours to
The Crimea - on the Black Sea in Ukraine!

Masha and Sophia enjoy ice-cream in Yalta

We met up with some mountain biking buddies just outside of Yalta. 
 And, stayed in a hostel that caters to those who love downhill riding.
Every morning, the guys went up and down the mountains a few times 
while the women and children took in the area attractions.
Can only imagine what these Babushki are talking about . . . and what they have lived thru . . .
 Yalta is a quaint sea-side town.
It feels very Old World.

- a mix of Europe, Russia, Asia - 
- of Islam and Christianity-
- of The Empire and The Soviets - 

Anton Chekov "The Lady With the Dog (and 3 crazy kid)" statue in Yalta
The history alone is complicated 
with groups coming and going,
wars raging,
dreams of a New Constantinople,
of a pure people and a true faith . . . 
nothing new under the sun, it seems.

Yalta - I love how the mountains fall into the Sea and bump right up to my dear husband, keeping all in line.

The topography is amazing.

For some reason I always imagined the Black Sea to be murky, grey . . .
and, it can be, just before a rain.
But usually it is a brilliant blue.
Not bright, like the Mediterranean,
but brilliant, almost royal.

And the mountains . . .
great slides for a giant's water park,
 just roll into the sea.
This, my friends, is a great invention!
 Masha and Sophia spent hours catching fish while the parents rested!
Experiencing a new part of the world with my husband - LOVED IT!  (Can you guess my love language?)
 We had so much fun strolling along the boardwalk,
eating ice-cream, fishing for magnet sea creatures, and people watching . . .
old Ukrainian,
New Russian . . . 
"The Swallow's Nest" - a small castle built by a Baltic German oil magnate for his ballerina mistress.

Sophia and Masha in awe as we ride up the mountain.

We climbed the mountains . . .
Going up! 
In large gondolas - 
 moving rooms with a view,
barely missing the jagged cliffs 
just inches from our fingertips.

What a view!
 Mountains over-looking the sea.
 Look at the colors in the sky and water . . .
 No wonder artists flocked to live here 
and the nobles summered every year here.

Dressed in Crimean Tartar hats on top of the mountain.
 At the top of Ai Petri (Greek for Saint Peter)
we met a community of Crimean Tartars.

These people were deported from their native land 
during WWII.
Stalin wasn't sure of their loyalty, 
so to get the problem out of the way,
he had them all sent to Central Asia.

In a matter of hours, 
they lost their homes and most of their possessions.
Just recently, the Ukrainian government has invited the Crimean Tartars to return home.
Many are now living on their family's land again.
There is still tension, 
still some mistrust. 

Anton getting ready to ride - and what a view!
While some of us took the "sissy way" up the mountain,
others braved the serpentine twists of road 
so they could fly down and off the sides.

Here he comes!

Mt Bike Heaven!

Biker in Black! - I think I see a smile of anticipation!
The bottom of the trail . . . 
This is a whole new culture 
invading The Crimea.

It has its own language, armor,
costume, code of ethics, and rules of engagement.

My cool biker dude!
But still, it is young men,
looking for adventure 
and adrenaline rush.
Pushing themselves to the limit 
physically and mentally.
Conquering their fears 
and the mountain.

 Yep, nothing much new under the sun . . . 

Secret mount lake known only to those who ride the trails!

"The Littlest Mermaid" - Sophia and the Black Sea
 The Sea!

Every morning, after a common breakfast,
 the men went off to battle the mountains
and the women and children inched carefully 
down the steep slopes to 
The Sea!

"OOOooo!  It's COLD!"
The sun was warm
 the Black Sea is cold in May!

We sat on a rocky beach.
The children ventured into the water to 
catch jellyfish that didn't sting.

They built rock castles
and buried each other up to the neck in hot rocks.

Some people pay big bucks for a hot rock treatment!

Volodya - riding on the back of a beautiful Beluga whale.

One day we visited an aquarium.
The white whales allowed Volodya to swim with them.
They took him for a ride in exchange for fish and approval.
I wish I could have captured his beaming smile
and saved it to share on difficult days.
BFF! - "Best Friends Forever" 
 Smiles and ice-cream.

ICF! - " Ice-Cream Forever!"

 Sun and Sea.

A Room With the Most Incredible View!
 Mountains and Sea
and Sky.

The Yastrebov's Family Vacation
The Crimea.
 A wonderful first vacation.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Texas Spring

Sophia in the middle of Mrs Lee's daffodil garden.

This is my first Texas Spring in many years . . . and it is Anton and Sophia's first . . .  ever.

Texas Springtime is full of SUN!  
Bright, harsh, full-blast SUN!

"Do daffodils smell, Mom?"

There is no "Big Thaw" here.
No standing water.
No piles of trash and dog poop that suddenly appear after the cover of snow is gone.
There are no slip-sliding days.
No need for galoshes at all.
There is no mud.

In Texas, we slip 
quietly, warmly
 into Spring.

Just a few weeks of beautiful weather.
Blooming everywhere - full of bright green and technicolor
Before the heat begins.

Holding hands in the garden.

In Texas, the daffodils show their heads in March.
They are the first heralds of Spring!

Then come the dogwoods.
Their delicate white sprinkling hope in the dark, still-barren woods.
A signal for the blooming and budding to begin.

Delivering St Patrick's Day goodies!

The flowers come out  - and so do neighbors!

Little princesses, in their tiaras and best bright green
Sharing goodies in celebration of Spring!

And, women in hats 
Gather for a Southern salad luncheon
On the lake where azaleas bloom.

Seven and eight feet tall
Bushes awash in soft vibrant flowers.

Mom won in the "Makes Me Smile" category in the hat competition.

Even prize-winning Springtime hats 
Pale in comparison.

Thank you, God, for a Texas Spring!
Thank you for each budding, growing thing!
Thank you for friends with whom to share
Your great Beauty 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Still Crazy For Coconuts - A 6 Week Review

Mother and Sophia at Mrs Lee's Daffodil Garden

About 6 weeks have passed since we began using coconut oil and I last posted.

Before I get into the results we've seen, let me review what we have been doing.

Our Coco-nutty Life:
         - Every meal, Mother adds about a tablespoon of coconut oil in with her warm food.
            (the food needs to be warm for the oil to melt - it becomes solid at room temp)

         - Every so often we use about a tablespoon of the liquid  MCT oil in smoothies/shakes/or cold

         - Often, in preparing our meals, I will substitute the fat I would have normally used (butter, mayo
             olive oil) for coconut oil.  I have found no taste difference but the coconut oil does tend to
             smoke at high temps.

So, daily, Mother has been getting about 3-4 tablespoons of the coconut oil and/or MCT oil in her diet.

I did a verbal survey of the people in our family, living in the house with Mama, and here is what we had to say:

Mother - "I think more clearly.  I have more energy.  Sleep better."
Daddy -  "She is much more alert.  She argues more, has stronger opinions. She gets up better by
Sophia -  "She doesn't sleep so much and she plays more with me."
Me -        "She gets herself up in the morning and gets breakfast.  She initiates activities by herself, like
                  cleaning the kitchen, helping with meals, and picking up around the house.  She is ready
                  and eager to go walking/exercising.  She seems to remember a little better things that
                  earlier, I wouldn't have expected her to remember."

Others Going Coco-Nuts:
In the last 6 weeks we have had at least 6 people tell us that they have starting using coconut oil with their loved ones.  One gentleman called and told me that his wife had all but stopped talking and after using the oil, she has started talking again!

Weight gain!  I have noticed that Mother's clothes are fitting a little tighter.  She will weigh at the doctor's office next week and we'll be able to confirm any weight gain.

Our Conclusion:
We have seen significant improvement in quality of life for Mama.  She sees and feels this herself.
We are going to keep using the oil!

Yes, we're still going COCO-NUTS!

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a medical doctor (neither do I play one on TV) and cannot make any scientific/medical claims about the effects of coconut oil on any illness.  Please consult your doctor!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

We're Crazy For Coconuts!

Alzheimer's Disease and Coconut Oil

                                               ANDREW SCRIVANI / NYT

 What does coconut oil have to do with Alzheimer's disease?  

My mother was diagnosed a year ago with the beginning stages of Alzheimer's.  
It is a horrible disease, taking away a little of your brain at a time.  
Alzheimer's has been called, "The Long Good-bye."

My parents at their 50th Wedding Anniversary this past year.

My mother has been doing quite well, really.
It is obvious that her memory is getting worse.  
Her balance is off. 
She forgets things that have happened recently.  
She is having a more difficult time reading.  
She can't find things that are in her daily routine - make-up, toothbrush and paste - just can't put her hands on them.
She is much quieter.  She listens more.  Talks less.

Last week, in our Bible study group, she told all of us that she needed prayer.
"I have been content in Faith to know that God will take me through this illness.  I never asked God to take the Alzheimer's away, just to give me everything I need to get through it.  But, it is getting harder to do the normal things I've always done and, lately, I've been asking God to take this illness away.  
I don't know if I can do this.  I need your prayer."

I sit here in tears as I write this.  
She is my Precious Mother . . . 

Yesterday, a church friend of Mom's sent her an email with a link to a video.  

I watched it and called Mother in to watch it with me.  

We downloaded a Kindle version of Dr Newport's book, 

Mom started reading it immediately.  

I began reading everything I could on the internet.

More of this series of interviews can be found here on Youtube.

We read and watched enough to convince us to give coconut oil a try.  

I sent Mom and Dad to our local health store for some pure, non-hydrogenated coconut oil.  
It took them a while, but they came home with the right stuff!

We have decided to be "crazy for coconuts."  

We are going to have our own little test.  
Mom is willing!

Yesterday, she had about 2 tablespoons of the oil with her food.  
Today, she has already had another 2 tablespoons.  

At lunch, I asked Mom, "Do you notice any difference in yourself?"
She replied, "What kind of differences do you think there could be?"
"I don't know.  Just whatever you notice about your mood, memory, abilities . . ."
"I'll let you know."   

We'll be reporting back the results we find, as we find them!  

Meanwhile, here is an interesting article from the New York Times about coconut oil, research, and even some recipes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Coming Soon . . . Design Your Own TERVIS!

Have you discovered these cups?  
If not, believe me, you simply must be introduced!

"Dear Person Reading My Blog (btw, thank you so much for dropping by,)  please meet my favorite new drinking device - The Tervis Tumbler."

These cups are amazing!  
  • They come with a life-time guarantee!
  • They keep cold drinks cold for HOURS - even in sub-tropical Texas heat!
  • They keep hot drinks warm.  My experience is that warm doesn't keep for quite as long as cold - but, still, for at least a couple of hours you'll have a nice warm cup'o.
  • They are virtually indestructible.  We are a clumsy lot and have dropped them many times - not even a scratch!
  • They don't "sweat" and never leave a wet ring.
  • They are dish-washer safe.  Very important here - no matter how many times we say we are each going to use ONE glass all day.    
  • They come with 500 designs from which to choose - for young and old alike! 
  • They can be personalized with your own names or words. 
And, now . . . their website says that soon, we will be able to design our very own
How fun! 
We'll be able to upload our own photos to put on the cup and add text!  

I sure hope they get this up and running soon because I see all my Christmas list being filled with TERVIS this year!

Sophi has been sick this week with a runny nose and cough.  Drinking her hot tea out of the Princess Tervis her sweet auntie gave her for Christmas has helped her feel much better!
It really is so pretty - this photo doesn't do it justice.

And, it comes with a "big girl lid!" 

There are plenty of "look a likes" out there, but don't be fooled!  I tried a couple in an attempt to save money and had to throw the cheap'o's out - they just don't work.  

Believe me, if you want to have ice in your cup all afternoon, get a Tervis!  

Full Disclosure:  I'm drinking my Diet DP out of a "watermelon" Tervis tumbler right now!

Disclaimer:  I have not been reimbursed or subsidized by TERVIS in any way for this post.  I just really, really like these cups and wanted to share!  Enjoy!  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Row'ing "Another Celebrated Dancing Bear"

For the next two weeks we'll be reading and doing activities to go along with this wonderful book!  

Have you heard of "Five in a Row?"  I hadn't until we started looking into homeschooling Sophia a couple of years ago.  

FIAR is a "curriculum" for children based on amazing books.  The idea is simple, you read one book for five days in a row and then, throughout the days, you do activities that naturally come out of the reading.  The outcome is amazing and so much fun!  Sophia and I have loved every book!

Here is the main website for FIAR.  You can order the books and other materials at Rainbow Resources (they have lots of other great books and teaching aids, too).  We have ordered our FIAR books for the last couple of years, but this year, while we are in the USA we will be able to get most of what we need from our local library.  

There are many places to find ideas for "Row'ing a book":  
My favorite is Homeschool Share -a website with almost everything you need to help get started - great ideas, printables, and example lapbooks.
A FIAR forum with advice from real live Mom's!  
And, if you just Google "Five In a Row" blog or "Rowing" blog - you'll get a list of many blogging mom's using FIAR.  Their posts are filled with ideas, schedules, resources and photos of all they have done with the different books.

So, last week and this week we are reading "Another Celebrated Dancing Bear" by Gladys Scheffrin-Falk with beautiful etching illustrations by Barbara Garrison.

The book takes place in Russia, where we are from!  

Here is some of what we have done:

Served tea from our samovar and practiced our hospitality with family and friends.

Listened to Russian composers and watched some of their ballets.  Sophia received this book for Christmas and she loves it.  Today we read about the ballet Romeo and Juliet and watched some of the Dance of the Knights.

This music give me chills . .. 

In keeping with our culture study, we also looked at Russian artists last week.

Using this book, we learned a little about one of the first Impressionists, Kandinsky.

We looked at samples of his work in another art book I bought years ago.

We learned that Kandinsky had been a musician before he became a painter.  Music played a great role in his art - he said that a small painting is like a melody and a large one, like a symphony.

Sophia listened to some classical music from our local station and then, painted what she thought would "fit" the music.

The artist at work.

"Mom, I'm busy!"

Here is the finished painting!

She explained, "It is a tram, riding along on the tracks."

Russian book.
Russian artist.
Russian music.
Russian tram . . . 

This week we will:
  • Learn some about the Russian artist, Marc Chagall, and design our own ballet set! 
  • Experiment with water and the freezing and boiling points.
  • Talk about occupations.
  • Practice our hospitality skills and invite some friends over for tea and bear claws!  

 Should be great fun!

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