Where God Guides…

Here is someone I want you to meet. And no it’s not another Etsy maven, or a fashionista from down the street, they are my friends Christiana and Phil Brande, and their Baby B (who is yet to B born 🙂 get it? )

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They are 9 short days away from departing the US and heading over to Prague, to teach at the Christian School there. See, they are raising money for their trip, and believe that God will provide, because they are following his calling!

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They are beautiful people who spent over 10 years living and spreading God’s word and love in Russia (my home country), that’s where Christiana and I met, when I was 14 or 15. I was a part of the group from the Wesleyan church that went to a camp for orphans organized by a team from the States. And she has an absolutely calming peaceful presence, but radiates happiness at the same time! And after talking to them today, I felt so inspired and encouraged, and once again amazed by how Great our God is! And how big our small world is!

I don’t know when I am going to see them again, but I will definitely be following their blog and you should to! And if God puts it on your heart to donate to their ministry then bless your heart!

Xx,

Z

$$$ It’s all about the money, or is it? $$$

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Today’s post is probably not going to be something you usually see on my blog! I am sure by now some of you have the impression that I am a girl who spends all of her paychecks thrifting! And I can see where this can come from! I’ve been posting a lot of hauls and outfits lately! Let’s be honest, I do sometimes get carried away at a thrift store, and I need to watch my budget, but most of the time it really is not that much compared to a grand scheme of things, or let’s say a recent study by InStyle magazine that says – An average woman spends about $15,000 on makeup during her lifetime, and that’s not including skincare!

Before Sam and I got married, I lived on the East Coast nannying for some families. I wasn’t making a lot of money, in fact I was barely making anything (I never thought of myself or my family as rich or poor, I knew I had enough, and I think that attitude helped me a lot in life) through the Cultural Care Au Pair program, but I had my ways! When I moved to New York, I learned about Freecycle.org, and almost all of my clothes, books and health care products came from there! I also went to monthly swap meet ups organized by GrowNYC, where I would bring all the stuff I didn’t want, and go home with something I liked. Sam had a hard time believing I had all that clothes, without spending as much as a couple bucks on the subway ride, but I had my savings account to speak for me!

I was an Au Pair for 2 years, making under $200 a week, this is the time when Sam and I were in a long distant relationship. So even though I didn’t get to see him that often, I spent a lot of money flying to Minnesota almost every other month! But by the time we got engaged I had saved up over $12,000. Then I went to Russia for 10 months, where I was able to work from home and add on to the savings.

Now that we are looking into buying our first house, having saved enough for a downpayment, I reflect on where I came from and can’t express how thankful I am for everything I’ve been given!

I was born in a small town 3 hours east of Moscow. My mother was a civil engineer, my dad was a college drop out. My grandfather was a retired military man, a former KGB agent as I discovered later in life, my grandmother was a pediatrician, and if you ask me, the biggest workaholic I’ve ever known! We never had much! When I was in 6th or 7th grade I wore the same pair of jeans, the same turtleneck and the same sweater my mother knitted for me to school every day! And I couldn’t care less, until one of my friends, who was a year older than me came up and asked why I was wearing the same clothes everyday. To this point I am still grateful for that comment! This is when thrifting and hand-made clothing came into my life! My mom went above and beyond herself knitting and sewing outfits for me! Going to fabric stores was exciting! Going to thrift stores was an adventure!

By the time I was in 9th grade I was getting constant compliments on my outfits from peers and even teachers, even though I had the same pair of jeans as one of the guys in class! But that’s when unisex was in, so I didn’t care! I also never said no to hand-me-downs, and even though I didn’t have older siblings, I had plenty of friends and knew enough Missionaries who always left clothes behind!

College came around, and I made sure I got good grades to get a monthly stipend through the University. Yes, I got paid to go to school! This is probably going to fall into the “Only in Russia…” category. This was also the time when more and more thrift stores popped up all over our town, and they often had great sales, that I couldn’t resist!

Thrifting is what helped me continually save up money for my trips to Europe and the States, and now that I live here, it’s becoming my meal ticket! Finding a great thrift store takes time, so today I am going to share some of my favorite locations here in the Twin Cities, and the best times to shop there!

Salvation Army in the Warehouse district900 N 4th St, Minneapolis, MN  – every day is a 50% off a certain color, so stop by often! Plus they offer 50% off clothing during most major holidays! I am not even going to mention the Target overstock located in the basement – you have to see it for yourselves!

Steeple People on Lyndale and Franklin – 2004 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN – I blogged about it before, and I will do it again – they have great vintage selection, beautiful artwork and prints, great household section, etc., etc. The only downside is – they only take cash or check!

Goodwill in Hopkins1025 Hill St, Hopkins, MN – This was my go-to Goodwill when I used to babysit for a family in St.Louis Park! And I always referred to it as the Hopkins Goodwill, or Goodwill on Excelsior Blvd. Now why this particular Goodwill? – It’s cheaper, it has more vintage and authentic items, it’s been good to me! Generous if you want to put it this way! I can always find something that I like there! Now why am I not mentioning the Goodwill in Minnetonka, or Goodwill in Roseville, you may ask? The Minnetonka Goodwill will always be famous in my book for the Xanax pills I found in a pocket of one of the sweaters bought there! And Goodwill in Roseville is too good for me to be sharing it with you, but now I did, and now you know!

Savers – I am yet to find a Savers that I don’t like! Seriously, they need a Savers in every state and county! They never overprice vintage items, and the only pieces of clothing that can be pricey are the brand new ones, with original tags still attached. And don’t forget to sign up for a Super Savers Club Card, they will send you emails with special promotions and coupons!

So here you have it, the story of my life that revolves around thrifting! And I couldn’t be happier! After all, it’s not all about the money!

Happy Thursday everyone! And don’t forget to stop by tomorrow for a DIY friday fashion and style project and an important BeingZhenya announcement!

XO,

Z

PS. Please keep in mind that my husband and I don’t have any student loans to pay off, our monthly expenses are limited down to rent, groceries, gas and car payments, plus the occasional going out and thrifting shopping sprees!

In the next post on money related subject, we’ll talk about freebies and the best websites where you can get them!

 

Through the Eyes of a Commoner…

An exhibition about Princess Diana is currently being hosted at the largest mall in the US – the Mall of America. Luckily for me, I live about 30 minutes away from there and have friends who agreed to go there with me.

Diana herself is a fascinating figure, I remember watching a movie about her last summer while I was still in Russia. It was extremely touching, though I never really cried. I didn’t cry when she died either, back in 1997 I was only 11 year old.

The whole exhibition is divided into several parts, and it’s so difficult to choose items that stood out to me the most, so I am not even going to try. All I am going to say is – you need to go see it for yourself – and make sure when you are there to look for the prayer book given to Diana by Mother Teresa, that item alone radiates so much energy, that it’ll give you chills!

    

Cheers,

Z

LIVESTRONG Zhenya – Day 6

Day 6 of my LIVESTRONG Zhenya project went well, I think I got the whole healthy eating under. I did, however, have 2 chocolates, which I know wasn’t the best decision.

My bathroom floor finally got installed, and after the workers left I spent about an hour cleaning everything up, then I went grocery shopping, and also did some ABS exercises before I went to bed.

I also made a milkshake (frozen strawberries, a banana, yogurt, milk, water and sugar sub). Love it, lasts forever too:)

I also witnessed the most touching moment in several months, I witnessed my Grandpa crying over my Grandma, which made me cry as well. It was both sad and amazing at the same time, this was also the very first time I saw my Grandfather cry. (He is a former KGB agent, they don’t cry often, do they?)

I also learned about a new facial soap to try, it contains seaweed (I used to work with a girl who said SEEDweed), mud, and green tea. Supposingly, it clears up your skin better than the birch bark soap I’ve been using, but smells better! So now I am on my quest to find it! Will keep you posted!

Last night I made my first video for YouTube, it’s about my Love and Lace Flowers project, I will be adding a new video approximately once a week. And will definitely keep you posted!

Live Strong,

Xoxo

Decision Hills

I wanted to dedicate this post to a special place, that holds my heart. It’s a place most of us have been to when we were kids – a summer camp. And when some of us grow up, we decide to work there, part-time, full-time, seasonal, doesn’t matter. We just want to be a part of the experience.

When I was little I went to summer camps. I really loved the church day camps. I have a lot of great memories from there. When I was in elementary school I went to a summer camp that was run by the city administration. We now joke that it was a spy camp, I am Russian after all. In Russia we used to say it was a concentration camp. Haha, not so funny, I know!

Then my church started organizing annual summer camps, they called them Youth Bible Festivals. Those were fun, until Russians took over.

But it’s not those camps I want to talk about. I want to talk about Decision Hills. A place that I will never forget. I met my husband there after all! I worked there for 2 summers in a row, met so many amazing people, made friends for life. That place pushed me, I did things I’ve never done before, I learned new things, overcame stereotypes, had fun, made important decisions (it’s Decision Hills, after all!)

I have these two pictures on my wall, that remind me of the experience every day! I wanted to share them with you.

The camp went through a lot over the past years. The Methodist Conference was going to close it, and the summer of ’11 was going to be it’s last. But thanks to Kurt Johnson and many others, who care about the future of DHC, there is hope. Please check out the FB page for Decision Hills, and help in any way you can.

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This song is something that God has put on my heart when I was at the camp on the Meditation Hill. And maybe I am not as religious as I used to be, maybe it’s the lack of faith, maybe it’s the life that’s been shoving me around, but the place is there, the memories are there, the blessings are there! Remember, God gives and takes away, whoever your God may be!