Strangers No More

Out of all Oscar nominated movies, one stood out to me the most. One about Strangers, that were no more. In Israel, there is a school, called Bialik-Rogozin, where students come from no more, nor less, but 48 different countries. It’s a place that welcomes the oppressed, the poor, victims of genocide and political persecution. The only requirement – you need to come with an OPEN HEART! This is the school where “No child left behind” comes to life, because “No child is a stranger”! This school is for Jews, Christians, Muslims, it’s for everyone, as long as you are willing, as long as you are ready, and as long as you want to learn and make an effort.

During my years as a nanny in NYC, I have once put a child on the wrong school bus. Nothing happened, the kid is still alive and kicking, and driving some other nanny insane. And think of it “For most children getting to school is as simple as going around the block” or getting on a school bus, or in a car, and being driven there. “But for others it’s a dangerous journey across hostile borders”.

The documentary “Strangers No More” produced and directed by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon tells a story of the only school in Israel that opens its’ doors to students like that, but more than that, it tells the stories of 3 students, form different places, who wanted to learn in spite of the fact that they had no prior education. As we watch them speak we notice colorful handprints in the background. Those colorful hands are going to create their lives from now on, and when they grow up and look back at what they had to go through, those hands and the people they belonged to is what they will remember.

The three students that opened up their hearts, allowed to share the story, made actual friends with the producers are Mohammed, a teenager from Darfur. This young man never went to school, but here in Bialik-Rogozin School, he was able to finish 4 years of school in just 1! Of course he had difficulties with homework and self-discipline at first, but look at him now! He has a great future ahead of him!

Then there is Johannes from Eritrea. Turned out Johannes was practically blind on one eye, but with the new glasses his teachers got him, he is now able to actively participate in the school process.

The saddest story is the story of Esther, a 9 year old, whose mother was murdered. “Your mom is like your best friend” imagine what happens when she is taken away from you. My relationship with my mom has never been a walk in the park, but as we all know difficulties bring people closer together, so we’ve been working on our relationship over the past couple of weeks. So what do you do when you see your mom killed in front of your eyes and it’s no movie? I have no answer to that. But Esther’s teachers do. They got her to open up, and she is able to receive help now. I always thought South Africa was more peaceful than that.

The beginning of the journey is different for everyone (shyness, being lost, feeling different), but the outcome is somewhat similar – it’s education, it’s acceptance, it’s the realization that there should be no boundaries, no stereotypes, no violence.

Watch the 87 minutes of this documentary, hear the children speak in their native language and in English, meet the teachers! It’s worth it.

PS. My personal interest in this film is the following – I lived with a Jewish family for a year, celebrated Shabbat, Sukkoth, Rosh Hashanah, Pesach, cooked meals the kosher way, ate the kosher way, went to a Brisk! And I am proud of it, I am thankful for the experience I was able to have, to feel included into the culture, into the tradition. Not everyone gets this opportunity! And not everyone understands the importance of it. I hope you will after watching the documentary!

What to Do When You are Having a Shitty Day?

1. Yell at someone or something (preferably something)!

2. Put on some make-up and nice clothes, go out, look like a million bucks – In Your Face, suckers!

3. Listen to some music, preferably on loud, now the neighbors won’t turn on their TV at 7 am!

4. Throw something away! Always works for me! Especially when that something belonged to my grandfather (He is the reason why I am having a shitty day! He can go stick his KGB past way up his ass!)

5. Watch Season 5 of Sex and the City, the least heartbreaking and emotional of all!

6. Eat some chocolate! Chocolate is a good mood enhancer. Maybe it will even make you hyper enough to do #4!

7. Know your worth! If you are having a shitty day because you screwed up yourself, sorry, no can do, can’t help you. But if you are blameless, and it’s not your fault, remember, that what you did is for the good of humanity, or your personal good (you are a human too!). Always stand up for yourself! And act classy! Remember there is always Cyanide! Cyanide and Happiness, I mean : )

http://explosm.net/comics/2345/

DIY White Gap T-shirt Makeover

You know what is the best thing to do when you are bored? Nothing! But I felt like being more productive. So I gave my white Gap T a makeover!

The before

The materials/tools

The after

Happy Birthday Mikhail Gorbachev!

He turned 80 yesterday. When I was little and didn’t know any better, I thought he was the worst man alive. And then I saw this, and I fell in love… No not in love with Gorbachev, but with the idea behind it all. Thank you Wim Wenders for this amazing shot, and great movies!

Something Old

I thought I’d share some old fam pictures with you today. They are nothing special, just a few black and white shots I threw together. Hope you enjoy them!

1. Camping, Soviet Style!

2. Glamour, Soviet Style. The bottom picture was taken in Red Square!

3. My mom and uncle when they were little. Check out my grandma’s outfits!

4. My grandparents when they were young. I wish I could say they were my favorite people in the world. Alas!

5. Wedding, Soviet Style. Now these are not my parents, but I thought it would be fun to post some pics of a married couple somewhere out in the field!

6. These are some pics of my mom when she was younger. Please keep the comments that I look like her to yourself. I hate being told that! Thank you!

7. Fun, Soviet Style. Murder, She Wrote. Collective Farming. Mexican Style New Years Party. The pic on the bottom left is one of my mom and our cat. We had him for over 15 years. I think I was in 2nd grade when he died. The pic on the bottom left is of my mom’s friend from High School. This is what the Soviet Uniform looked like! A lot of girls still wear it for their High School graduation. I didn’t wear it, it’s the ugliest thing in my opinion!

8. This pic was taken Jan.1 1984, about 2,5 years before I was born. I love my mom’s hat and mittens!

10 Things I’m Grateful For

“The more grateful you are, the more good comes!”

GiulianaRancic

1. My wonderful fiance, I don’t know what I would be doing without him. I have a purpose in life and a goal because of him! Thank you for being who you are, and being a part of my life, Sam! I love you! You are one in a million and I am the luckiest girl in the world to have you!

2. Family, especially my future family, really excited for all the fun times to come, all the holiday celebrations, all the book and art discussions, all the tank models and pictures!

3. My friends, esp. my best friend Kat, who is also going to be my maid of honor. You are my encouragement, my inspiration, my reality check. I trust you, I love you, thank you for being there for me! “I just want to leave already and go to Target!”

4. My job, and the opportunities it gives me – the flexible schedule, the ability to work from home, and to chose who I work with.

5. Grateful for faith, being raised at a church, and then going through some personal transformations, re-evaluating my life and what I want to put my faith in, I am grateful for what I can believe in, and that I know what I put my faith into.

6. I am grateful for the daily inspirations and affirmations that come from everywhere. I am grateful for The Daily Love devotional email. (You can all subscribe to receive a daily email too at www.thedailylove.com) . I am also grateful for the websites that have all the funnies and comics. XKCD (www.xkcd.com) being one of them, also bringing out my nerdy side. It’s all about becoming a new person after all anyways!

7. I am grateful for where I live. My room, everything I have surrounded myself with, the little things here and there, the designs, the DIY projects. It’s comfortable, it’s my sanctuary. I am grateful for the sunlight that comes through the windows. It’s beautiful, it’s inspiring.

8. I am grateful for health, for my physical condition, for everything I can do, for everything I am able to do. It’s so important to be healthy these days, everyone is talking about it! I am grateful I have the will power to limit myself, and to push myself.

9. I am grateful for my education, I want to thank all of my professors, who have invested into me, engaged me, and were patient with me. I am especially grateful for Natalya Belym, who was my English Teacher. I am where I am right now thanks to you.

10. I am grateful for the websites that let me keep up with all my shows! Thank you http://www.free-tv-video-online.me and http://www.fastpasstv.eu/. Keep up the good work. Now if only one of you would post Extreme Couponing! That would make me ecstatic!

PS. The pictures are of the paintings I have done in the past. I thought I’d add them to this post, because I am also grateful for my talents and the talents of all the people in the world, who are not afraid to share their art with us!

Pancake Week/Maslenitsa

The story of Maslenitsa goes back to Ancient Russia, it’s a sacrificial ritual when a scarecrow representing Winter gets burned down in front of people, and symbolizes the arrival of spring. It is celebrated everywhere in Russia,

and is one of the favorite holidays of many. There is a Maslenitsa celebration in a city about 15 miles away from my hometown in Russia called Suzdal. Unfortunately my last experience there wasn’t as pleasant as I hoped, but it was an experience which helped me make a decision never to attend public Maslenitsa celebrations anywhere in Russia.

Another Maslenitsa tradition is similar to a catholic one on Ash Wednesday. After the scarecrow is burned down, it’s ashes are distributed among people and some chose to put those ashes on their faces, not just the forehead, but the nose, the cheeks, and the chin as well. It is supposed to bring you good luck and prosperity.

But my favorite part of Maslenitsa are the pancakes, though you can only eat so many. And, as Sam said, when he was in Russia – You guys have pancakes on every corner.

Today I want to share my favorite pancake recipes with you.

1. Dutch babies, also known as Seattle Dutch babies, are the baked pancakes, that are probably my favorite pancakes of all times.

There are many recipes for Dutch babies on line, so I will let you find the one you like. I have tried many of them, and they all turn out very well. There is also a great variety of toppings you can decorate yours with. So good luck.

2. Healthified pancakes with yogurt, oatmeal and banana.

I have learned to make these while living  on the UWS in NYC. And again, there are many recipes for these out on the Internet, and when I make those I seriously wing it. But here is my approximate recipe:

2 eggs, 1 cup milk, mashed banana, 1 cup oats, 2 cups whole wheat flour, cinnamon, some Splenda or Agave, one yogurt (any flavor). First you make the oats, I usually stick mine in the microwave for about 2 min with some water. Meanwhile mash up the banana. Once the oats are done mix them in. Mix eggs, milk, and sugar separately, then combine with oats and banana, add yogurt and flour. Make sure it’s all mixed well, once you are done start pouring the mix on the pan. These pancakes turn out thick, and filling, so two are usually enough for me. And you can always freeze them too!

3. And the last one is the Crepe recipe, that is used in Russia and the rest of the Eastern Europe. Crepes are what people call pancakes there! So make sure you are aware of that fact! I also have to admit that I have no idea how to make those, in spite of my Russian background, but here is my aunts recipe for you (sorry it’s in metric)

300 grams flour
3 eggs
3 cups of milk (or dilute milk with water)
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
add vegetable or sunflower oil to the batter.
I heard a lot of people say that making crepes depends on the pan, make sure you chose a good one! I don’t know what my excuse is, maybe it’s the pan, maybe it’s the fact that I like the thicker kind of pancakes.
Toppings wise, use your imagination, but remember pancakes with caviar are a kitsch.
I added a cartoon about Maslenitsa, my fav. Smeshariki, couldn’t resist! Enjoy!
http://rutube.ru/tracks/388914.html?v=093ce213c9688533ef8a1b7c4bc3b5b0

God of Love from NYU

His name is Luke Matheny, he won the Oscar on Sunday for the best Live Action Short Film (It’s listed as Short Film (Live Action) on the Oscars website. And if you still don’t know who I am talking about, he is the guy with the ‘fro who said he should’ve gotten a haircut before the ceremony!

He has this silliness and awkwardness about himself that makes him very appealing to  other people, at least to me, I would’ve totally wanted to be friends with Luke! And he definitely doesn’t look 34.

Now about the movie. The love triangle story told the new way. He loves her, she loves someone else. Thank God, that someone else is not a woman, but then they would be lesbians and we all know how well it would’ve fit with the Oscars this year. Even Ann Hathaway said so. But we didn’t need any drama here, and luckily for me and other viewers there was no Annette Bening asking Julianne Moore if she was straight now, or what?

Before I go any further, let me just tell you – I love that movie, it’s definitely something that I can handle, if it wasn’t a short film, I would’ve probably had an emotional breakdown after the first 5 minutes. And it’s about NYC. Everything about NYC is great, except for the rats, the water bugs, and Renata Kadoe who lives on the Upper West Side.

But back to the movie. The main character, Luke Matheny aka Ray, is looking for a solution to his love triangle. And gets a hold of a box of Love Darts 3000. To all you Harry Potter fans, I think those darts would kill Nimbus’ 2000 ass, because those Love Darts could surely make Lord Voldemort love Harry as his own child for the rest of his life.

So as the character walks along Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg with two ladies hanging off of each arm after using the darts on them, proving the narrator wrong about not being able to control who you fall in love with and who falls in love with you, the Dr.Phil in me starts waking up. And look, the next scene of the trailer – Ray surrounded with 9 women, one wearing a burka, one being a marathon runner (Run for your life from that guy, honey!), one being asian, one flipping through the pages of some fashion magazine, and one combing through Ray’s hair (a task that I wouldn’t advice anyone to do), which makes you think of some perverted fantasy of his of an orgy (well done on taking care of the diversity issue though!), but he is pouring his heart out to those women, saying how much he loves Kelly. And did I tell you the love triangle was among all the band members? And Fozzie will never return Kelly’s affection because he is a loyal friend to Ray? Of course there is destiny, and talks about love, and a romantic scene with the Statue of Liberty in the background! This is when we all say: “Yay!” and start hysterically clapping our hands! Please, oh please!

But the movie is more about being able to control who you love, though think of it, if you could put love under control, would it still be love?

Sochi Symbol Crossbreed

In spite of the fact that Russians have selected 3 symbols for the 2014 Olympics, some were unhappy with the voting results, so they decided to combine them! So here is what you get when you mix a Snow Leopard, a Bunny, and a Polar Bear!

Top 5 Russian Cartoons with English Subtitles Worth Watching

Having Lived in NYC, I have often come across bilingual families. I have worked for two out of many, and came to a conclusion, that it is extremely hard for the Russian speaking parent or parents to teach their child to speak Russian (or any other language it may be). One of my friends who is in such a situation (she is Russian, her husband is American) has recently shared this story:

I went to a Russian grocery store in Soap Lake today (That’s in Washington by the way). When we came out of the store Annika (her 5 year old) sighed with relief and said, “Now that we are outta here I can speak English again?” And when someone asked: “Doesn’t she like speaking Russian?” My friend replied: “Unfortunately, she speaks it less and less. I continue speaking in Russian and they (she has another child – a younger boy, probably around 3) understand everything, but they choose to answer in English. Now I am not saying that these cartoons will help your child speak fluent Russian, and make him/her WANT to speak it. But they are a fun pass time (even though there are a lot of parents out there who don’t let their children watch TV, I grew up watching Spokoinyi Nochi, Malyshi/Good Night, Kids every night, and a cartoon in the AM before I left for pre-school and grew up normal! Also get your husband or wife involved too, especially if they aren’t native Russian-speakers. It will definitely help the child see that both parents are into spending time with him/her, even if one of them doesn’t fully understand what exactly is going on.

I also think that this Top 5 will be helpful for Russian Language Learners, because cartoon language is simpler, the characters often speak slower. There was a blog post that I have recently come across that explains one of the cartoons I have chosen to be in my Top 5, which explains Rusism (Russian language peculiarities) that you can check out, the post is called “I Want to Live in Prostokvashino”

http://www.transparent.com/russian/i-want-to-live-in-prostokvashino/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=languageblog&utm_content=russian

Top 5 Russian Cartoons to Watch (on YouTube with English Subtitles)

1. Three from Prostokvashino (Troe is Prostokvashino).

A funny cartoon about a boy named Dyadya Fyodor, who meets a talking cat Matroskin, with a very philosophical view on life, and later moves to a village house where they also meet a talking dog Sharik. The population of the village moved into a new apartment building across the lake, so there were a lot of empty houses. The boy and his new friends have quickly chosen one to occupy, and so the adventures begin. There is a sequel to this cartoon, called Zima v Prostokvashino/Winter in Prostokvashino (unfortunately this one doesn’t have the subtitles, or maybe I didn’t look hard enough! And the third part of the “Saga” is called Vacation in Prostokvashino/Kanikyly v Prostokvashino (I will be posting a link to that! These cartoons are based on a book by Eduard Uspenskii, called “Uncle Fyodor, the Dog, and the Cat”

2. Vinny Puh/Winnie-the-Pooh. Now to all of you used to a yellow Winnie-the-Pooh, please! Bears are brown! Take your child to the Zoo, show them the bear, and then the cartoon. Then show them the American cartoon. Your child will tell you that Bears can’t be yellow! The Russian Winnie-the-Pooh has 3 episodes, and he speaks with a voice of a famous Soviet actor – Evgenii Leonov

Now when you watch this video, make sure you open the description, because there are no subtitles on the screen, which got me a little confused at first. But as the narrator and characters speak, the phrases are automatically shown in bold! Pretty neat, don’t you think?

This next video is called Winnie-the-Pooh goes visiting, I personally would’ve called it something like “Winnie-the-Pooh Pigs Out” taking into consideration that his best friend is a Pig, that’s a fun wordplay right there!

The last cartoon about Winnie (that’s what he goes by here in Russia) is called “Winnie-the-Pooh’s Busy Day”

3. My next pick is a cartoon about Karlson. It’s based on the book by Astrid Lindgren (a Swedish author, whose books are extremely popular in Russia). Karlson is a funny looking little man, who has a propeller attached to his back, with a button to turn it on in the front. He must have been a victim of some evil experiment, and got combined with a fan, but we’ll never know for sure. He has a little house on the roof, and has an EXTREMELY sweet tooth! This is where his resemblance with Winnie-the-Pooh comes in! The first cartoon is called Junior and Karlson (again the translation I wouldn’t go with, why not call it Karlson and Kid, then you can have the K&K going on, but oh well) and here is the video

There is another episode called “Karlson Returns” (Just like the Terminator said – I will be back, so will Karlson!) But unfortunately the video with the english subtitles is up no more, sorry my dear readers 🙁

4. The Bremen Musicians/Bremenskie Mysikanty. My personal childhood favorite. I used to have a record with the story (we call it Audio-Books now and they come on CDs) and loved listening to it. I think if I hear it again once, I will be able to tell it to you by heart! Oh the wonders of the human memory. This story is based on a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm. The video again doesn’t have subtitles, so you will have to click on the transcript underneath!

5. My last choice goes to a cartoon based on the Ukrainian Folk Tale called “There Once was a Dog”/Jil-Byl Pyos.

Make sure to also check out Smeshariki, my new favorite. I used to watch episode after episode, and could never get enough! There is an English version of Smeshariki, called Gogoriki, but I believe the creators wanted to make a separate English version, which I think wasn’t that successful. There are no English subtitles, that’s why it didn’t make the cut!

And of course there are the Russian fairytales! This link is for Alenkyi Tsvetochek/Red Flower – the analog of Beauty and the Beast. Again no English subtitles, but the animation is so unique and painting like, it will capture your attention! I strongly believe that Disney has nothing as good as this! A great “picture book” of Russian Medieval Life!