Archive for the ‘culture’ Category


I think sometimes pretty deeply about the ramifications of being pro-life. I mean, so many people are really, really worried about population control, the earth’s resources, inequality ….

These people think a lot about these issues. All the ink and cyberspace committed to these problematic issues.  The mega-money. The government policies. Birth control. Abortion. Oh. My. Word.

People are so worried about this. And the issues are real. …. But the proposed answers?

I began to think about this as we visited churches that support us. We drove by miles and miles and miles (and miles, and miles) of unused, beautiful earth. Why does no one talk about this? Why does no one envision life?

And I think: How does God think about this? Did He really create such an inadequate earth? It would be so easy for Him to stop creating souls, stop allowing children to be born. But He doesn’t stop!  … What amazing inventions have been hidden from us, undiscovered, because we approach this issue with a crisis, impoverished mentality?

Could we not … dare to imagine a world where we are all committed to welcoming new life? What would we invent? What would we create? What relationships would be forged? How would we be changed and challenged as nations if we committed ourselves to creating policies, committed ourselves to finding solutions for everyone, committed ourselves to stewarding and sharing the resources of this amazing earth?

So I’m just putting this out there, especially for the young. Maybe God wants you to dream, to invent, to create— to reveal to the world His welcoming and providing heart that accepts all the new lives He creates in and through us.


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Maybe they’re not herbalists in the American sense of the word, but it’s one thing I love about living here. The pharmacies (which are every few meters) are full of herbs– teas, tinctures, etc.

And doctors know and prescribe herbs often.

They have drug medicines, too, of course, and they are probably taking over the medical system, but …

Using herbs and plants for sicknesses is pretty common here among the general population. I remember getting a cold years ago– my first year here. And my Ukrainian roommate advised me to grate up some onion and put it up my nose.

There are a lot of such tricks. And I love them for it and do many of them myself  now!

So, there you go 🙂

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Since I did a more American-ish meal yesterday, I decided to do Ukrainian today: borshch. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail–I’ll mostly just share what Vitaliy’s mom taught me to put in at the end.

My borshch ingredients:

Boil for 20 minutes: shredded cabbage, beans (optional, soaked), and meat (usually pig, nice if it has a bone, but not essential, sometimes I braise it a bit in the pan, sometimes not. Sometimes I cut it up at the end when it’s already soft and cooked, sometimes at the beginning). Salt to taste.

Add: cubed potatoes and keep boiling another 20 minutes (sometimes I salt at this stage, rather than the first).

Cut up and fry in oil: onion, carrot (I use the small size of the grater and about carrots generally…. add a bit more, they have a good taste), and beet (I use the big size on the grater (the small size tastes funny).

When the pot has boiled now for 40 mintues, I put in the fried ingredients. You can turn the burner off at any point now. Then, I add what V’s mom showed me–all of this is measured by your tastebuds:

Tomato paste: an idea of how much: in my 5 liter pot, I add 3-4 big spoonfuls.

A medium-sized spoon of honey or sugar.

A lot of lemon juice or a small bit of citric acid (лимонная кислота). The acid is a great twist, I’ve found, that kicks off with the sour cream then added to the individual bowl to counter it.

A dried bay leaf or two.



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One difference between American and Ukrainian culture is the quality of public bathrooms. Here, McDonalds probably has the nicest, cleanest public restrooms pretty much anywhere. Shucks, they are cleaned every 15 minutes (schedule is posted and signed off by cleaning employees).

I will take this moment to note that McDonalds here is a pretty high-class establishment. They are clean, fast, and always crammed with people.

On the other hand, I was recently in a government-run hospital (and most are, there are very few private hospitals here), and… I will just show you– and how happy for you, that I can’t pass on a bit of the smell to go along with the photos:



That’s the norm for hospitals here, at least on the public floors. When I actually stayed in the hospital, the bathroom was relatively cleaner. When I was in the birth houses during births, one was dispicable, like this above. The other place was nicer,  with individual toilets in each room.

I’m mostly chalking this one up to capitalism. The clean bathrooms here are where the money is, I guess.

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The indigenous toilet paper here is like a thin, pliable version of construction paper. It’s cheap, too. I actually prefer it. The only time I buy otherwise is for the immediate post partum.

To each his own.


And this is what our current TP holder looks like:




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I don’t remember ever making blini (crepes) before marrying Vitaliy. Blini are a pretty regular thing here. After 12 years and stacks upon stacks of blini, I’ve learned a few pointers.

First, getting a blini-making pan is awesome–they are lightweight, which is so helpful because of all the necessary pan manipulations. I also don’t need to grease the pan before pouring batter (they’re non-stick), and the low sides allow for a neat trick—I learned this trick from taking cooking lessons on smartkitchen.com.

Pour the batter onto the pan (I use a smaller-sized measuring cup), swirl it around, then (the trick) pour off the extra batter back into the bowl of batter.


I’ve also learned that to make the batter not stick to the pan, the small amount of melted butter (or vegetable oil, either is fine) that in the batter is essential. Again, it helps the batter not stick.


I just use a “basic crepe recipe” (google that) and double or quadruple it. It’s always worked great. Sometimes I add a spoon or two of sugar.


Another trick I learned from a Ukrainian gal here– she went through cooking school here. And they taught them to only cook one side of the blini, not to flip it over and do both sides (which is what I’d always done). This cuts on prep time and one side is then a pretty, clean cream color with no cook lines, and they are great tasting.

Another thing about Ukrainian culture that it took me a long time to get into: 20151219_161234

Sweetened condensed milk.

It’s one of the most popular food items here. Ever.

The average Ukrainian has probably consumed gallons (liters) of it. We use it to replace maple syrup on pancakes, sometimes in coffee, and on our blini.

My kids are big fans. …. I love it, too.


Other toppings for blini (and there are perhaps endless variations): peanut butter, strawberry syrup.


Again, there’s tons of stuff to eat with blini. For dinner, I had cooked chicken breast, lettuce, cheese, and dressing in my blini. Blini are very versatile.


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Standard sugar crystals here are larger than the standard sugar crystals I grew up with.

To compare, but I’m not sure how noticeable it is. Left: Ukrainian sugar; Right, some perhaps-German sugar.


How does this affect my life?

  1. Stirring time. I remember years ago watching Vitaliy put sugar in his tea and stir. And he just kept stirring and stirring. And I watched the sugar crystals spinning around his cup, and it really did take them a long time to dissolve. And I noted this. …. Then about a year ago, we went to Czech to visit some friends, and their sugar pieces are finer. And I noticed that I put sugar in my tea, and stirred and stirred, and I realized I was stirring no-longer-existent crystals.
  2. The size affects the taste of some frosting or no-bake cookie, or something like that. I remember noting this a few years back. The larger crystals were kind of crunchy.
  3. My kids don’t like the taste of the finer sugar now. A friend gave me some foreign, fine sugar, and I thought, oh, what a treat!!! And I tried serving it on a special occasion and my kids made sour faces and went back to bigger-sized crystals.

Ukrainian sugar:


Foreign sugar:


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