Archive for the ‘Life in Ukraine’ Category

Last Sunday we had a Ukrainian single guy missionary give his testimony in church about his mission trips to various places. We gave him an offering, and I gave him some money personally. But as we drove home, I felt kind of bad that no one had offered to have lunch with him. I remembered times in village life in Ukraine– they pretty much always had lunch for visitors.

So … I’m studying Homemaking and Hospitality this year.

This Sunday, we’re having a pretty well-known Ukrainian man singer come and sing. It’s good for inviting unsaved friends, as he sings great and shares his rather interesting testimony of how he came to the Lord.

And lunch?  What can I do? …. So Monday, I called our elder pastor’s wife, and I asked her if I could do lunch for the visitors and her and her husband. She asked if it’s something at our home, or just there in the building after the service? So I asked her what would be better? She said she’d talk to her husband and get back with me. … She calls me back Wednesday, says her husband recommends doing it at the church building after the service. I said, OK, I can bring plov (a rice dish with meat chunks, sweet peppers, fried carrot/onion– it’s good for a group). And all the disposable cups and plates, etc. She wanted to bring the drink (kompot) and desert.

I need to get my ducks in a row today, Thursday, because all day tomorrow and Saturday, Vitaliy and I are attending a missions conference in Belaya Tserkov (a town 30-45 minutes away).

The hospitality book I’m reading suggests writing out a prayer for the event. So I will do that. And just pray as I work now thinking and planning.

So, approximately 10 people, and my list of needs:

Rice, meat, plov spice packet, peppers. (I already have plenty of carrots and onions)

Paper big plates, small plates, napkins, forks, cups, small spoons for sugar stirring in tea/coffee.

Just in case: tea bags and instant coffee packets and sugar. (Our church has tea after every service, so they might have these things already. There’s also a small tea/coffee machine in the entry of the building we rent, so we could just use that if needed.)

My plan is to make the plov in the pressure cooker– put it in Sat before bed, and just take it to church and plug it in on the warming function. Or, it just occurred to me, that I could put everything in Sunday morning, plug it in at church and let it cook during the service.

I also realized I need to make a salad and I want to take bread and mayonnaise (those are to staples for the “Ukrainian table.”) I need to add this to my shopping list. The salad I can ask Vitaliy’s mother to make while she’s babysitting our kids Saturday. And it needs to be a kind of salad that doesn’t get ruined by sitting overnight– Vitaliy wants the salad named olivye (it’s well-loved here generally).

Shew, I’m glad I’m writing all this out! I helps me think through all the details. And to see now, can I add something extra? A small gift to send with them maybe? I need to pray and think about that, too. I’ll ask Vitaliy if he has any thoughts.

And just to think about how to help them feel welcome.

Another thing I realized as I thought about this. Years ago, when I visited Ukraine, it used to bother me that the man would sit at the table to talk to me/othervisitors, and the wife would bustle around the kitchen getting stuff for us. In the American tradition, everything is set out and the husband and wife both sit to converse. But I’m starting to get, even myself, that the way I express hospitality (my love of having them with me) here in Ukraine is by moving things, keeping plates and drinks filled, letting people talk while I bustle around….. It’s the style here. Maybe because there is so little room on and around the tables in the first place, that it’s necessary to keep moving/removing…. ?

This is such an intriguing process!

Edited to add: Here is a photo of the couple and our lunch. I ended up hosting it right in the church hall with the elder pastor and his wife and another church member or two.



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I’ve started preparing the Lord’s supper supplies for our church lately, as we’ve had a bit of a gap in this ministry. It revolved to Vitaliy, and he was gone, so I was making sure it got done.

I actually like doing it. We take Lord’s supper the first Sunday of each month, during the morning service. Our church only has a morning service all together (for the whole week), since we rent the hall in the House of Culture for meetings.

The supplies are kept locked in the somewhat-large safe that in the storage closet the House of Culture supplies our church (for all the AWANA supplies, nursery, etc.)

Anyway, in Ukraine, a cross-stitched cloth is spread out under the bread and juice display. We have two cross-stitched cloths, and I noticed that one was very dirty, a bit stained, and not ironed. So I brought it home.

In my homemaking skills studies this year, I’m doing more with laundry stain remover. (Not all my experimenting has been successful, I will note.)


So I soaked the cloth overnight in cool water with the whites stain remover. I scrubbed the spot with the deep stain. And it all got really clean! and none of the thread colors ran out! So I ironed it, folded it, and stored it in a clean, large, sealable baggy. I think I will keep them both in this baggy, as they were just open in the safe laying there. … Trying to get this ministry’s supplies well organized so that it can be easily passed on soon.

(We also wash and re-use the little communion cups, as we have to order them from the States.)

The cross-stitched words say “do this in remembrance of Me.”



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So much of homemaking is cleaning off and straightening. I’m not good about this, so things get cluttered and junked up pretty fast.

I had a moment of revelation about this when I was visiting a friend’s house here– she has a lovely place and pays great attention to detail. And this is what I saw: I was sitting in the living room as our kids were playing together, and she sat in front of the toy box to do something quickly, and I saw that she noticed something disorganized or messy in their toybox. And right. then. she took 30-60 seconds and straightened/organized it. Then she got up and went on with her tasks.

I was like: Wow. (I note something junky and it takes me weeks to get around to it. The dread, emotional energy required to work up to this, etc.)

Let this be a lesson to me….And it was.

I didn’t start doing this, but I realized that organized people are just people who do small organizing things as a way of life.

So, maybe I can stop being so analytical and intimidated by organizing and simply work it into my day. Here are a few things I’ve done the last 3-4 days:

I kept our medicines on the top shelf of this closet outside the bathroom, but over the last 4 months of child sickness, our meds exploded. I contained them into three boxes, tried to arrange by body system (an idea from another friend), and stacked them neatly back on to the top shelf.


Andre and Una’s clothes and diapers are in these two plastic containers on the floor of Vitaliy and I’s closet. They were too junked up with extra clothes, and it was hard to find the socks and tights, which we need a lot right now. So, I went through and sorted clothes to store for later or to give away, stacked the diapers neatly in the back, and put the socks/tights in a small bag  so they’re easy to find. (Storing/giving away/throwing away is another activity I have to do constantly in order to stay on top of things. Maybe that’s another post.)



This is the bottom of my pantry– it’s in the small hallway to the kitchen and where the toilet/bath doors are. I was stacking my towels here because there’s no where in the bath to do it, and Una leaves them alone–it’s all at her height. So this box I had put in the kitchen, Una started climbing and standing on it, gak, so I had the brilliant idea of storing it here with my bath towels:


I cleared off this bedside stand in our room– Q-tips and stuff to put on a Una rash are still there in use.


And I cleared off the top of our dryer! That is a wow. And I put my two birthday orchids there. I am thinking to start houseplants now that I’m studying homemaking. My houseplants have always died before. But I got two orchids and  poinsettia for my birthday. … The poinsettia is morte. I’m still trying my hand with the orchids….


Progress! (not perfection. As Charlotte Siems says.)








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In Home Comforts, the author recommends having a kitchen office. …. I like this idea a lot. I love having the kitchen comforts when I do my reading and writing. (Of course, there is potentially grime too.)

So, I starting playing around with the idea of trying to wedge a small desk into our kitchen.



Nope, not going to work that way.

I realized (with Vitaliy’s help), that I already had a rudimentary beginning of a kitchen office, in the small cabinet next to the frig. So, I shifted and cleaned a bit, and here’s the office I have going currently, and I just use the one end of the kitchen table. So it’s a temporary, mobile kitchen office, and it works for me.

Here’s my space– books and pens/pencils on the bottom (this is what I use most), some recipes in the index-card box on the second shelf, and various sized index cards stored on the top.


Then, on the left of this is the little platform thing attached to the wall. It’s for a TV, but we always ask the owners to take the TV out (we don’t watch it and the kids will just break it). So I have my beloved block calendar there, and since there’s a plug underneath, I often have my little computer on the top of that, and it’s a safe place to lay my phone, too.


On the right side of the cabinet is my magnetic-backed pad of paper. Actually, the original paper has run out, so I paperclipped another pad to is because I love having it on the frig–eye-level, easy to quickly grab my pencil (also conveniently laying nearby–I have to be a bit dogged about KEEPING it there), and easy to tear off and take the list with me. (I sometimes do lists on my phone, but I still find paper more convenient at this point, when I’m shopping.)


I also like to put inspirational quotes, prayers, or missionary cards on the front door of my cabinet.

In the corner, I stored this box thing, its’ still empty– not sure what I want to put in there yet. But it’s available.


Here is actually the part of the table where I sit. I love that little section of window sill next to me, and I try to keep it clean and with little knicknacks that I love, candles, etc. And I love that it’s near the window with the view I love.


So that’s where I sit, ideally in the early mornings, with my cup of coffee. I do Bible reading or, if that’s already done (on my phone, while breastfeeding Una back to sleep in the early am), I get out a study book to keep going through.

Now, about spices.

In Ukraine, they sell spices in little bags. They have small jar ones too, but they’re pricey.

So, I’ve been unsure for years how to store spices. Lately, I’ve just had all the packets in a bag. Or in the village house, I have them in this bowl.


I don’t know…. I’ve not been excited about these options. (I’ve had a little carousel thing too, but ….)

So, I’m doing an experiment with another method of spice storage. I got this idea from a doula client couple, and after a few years, I’m ready to morph it into something that might work for me.

A basket of these metal jars. You can either remove the lid or you can twist the top and sprinkle or pour out. The backs of these jars are magnetic, but I don’t have a magnetic surface near the oven to keep them on, and I need to keep them away from cooking-heat exposure anyway….

I just felt that I wanted something more tactile with my spices for a while. They are on the lowest shelf in the cabinet next to the stove. (I also three away some expired packets, and it felt really good to get rid of that cluttered feeling with these pouches.)

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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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