Category Archives: Russia

Russian Dinner without the Caviar

Sunday night we said Do svidaniya to Russia, a wonderful dinner that even included some actual Russian friends….three sweet girls who came to this country just over a year ago through God’s gift of adoption.  We adore these sweet friends and their mommy and daddy and it was very special to celebrate our final evening with them.

Upon their arrival, we took the opportunity to use the little Russian we do know “privyet” and welcomed them excitedly to our family’s first (hopefully of many) Russian dinners.

Russian Dinner Menu

This “beet” soup (with leeks, carrots, celery, cabbage, garlic and onions) was absolutely delicious, although our native Russians weren’t convinced it was Borscht and kept saying, “It should be red”. (Guess that’s what happens when you use golden beets instead of red.)  Honestly though, we have leftovers and ate this again last night and probably again tonight and will make it often as it is quite healthy and full of flavor.




I have to admit, I did a TERRIBLE job on the dough for these, but the filling was amazing!  I’ll have to attempt it again and mess around with the dough.

(Both the borscht and pirozhki recipes were from here.)

Borscht and pirozhki typically are served together in Russia and from what we learned, quite common.

Russian Hot Chocolate

For dessert, we paired this hot chocolate (more like a pudding, topped with orange flavored sour cream), with

Blinis with Sour Cream

The blinis were a big hit and, since we aren’t big caviar fans, opted for the sweet version instead of the savory.

All in all, it was a wonderful dinner, but what really made the night was sharing it with our special friends.

And now I’m finding myself once again, wishing we could have stayed in Russia a bit longer.  Often as we get to the end of our week, we have become so acquainted with the culture and immersed ourselves so completely that it can be hard to pick up and move on.  Fortunately, I feel, this creates a desire to really go and visit the places we’re learning about and hopefully we can keep these connections alive.

Thank you Russia!  We will continue to dance to the balalaika and remember you as we point our toes in ballet.


Do svidaniya

Onion Tops

When learning about Russia, you can’t avoid learning about onions, lots and lots of churches topped with onions, beautiful, colorful, striped, diamond-patterned, exquisite onions.

So, of course, we had to make our own, a craft I came up with on my own (for maybe the third time in this journey) and excitedly attempted with my kids.  Inspired by a styrofoam-style-painted onion steeple, I decided to try this one using things we already had…..toilet paper rolls, kleenex, toothpicks, tape….covered with some beautiful handmade papers I had bought years ago at an art store closing sale, some brightly painted beads, and a bit of wire shaped into a cross.

Here’s how we did it:

1. Cover toilet paper roll in various paper

2. Form kleenex into an onion shape and tape all around to hold its form

3. Cover onion with another paper shade

4. Stick toothpick into top of onion and add two different colored beads

5. Form wire into cross shape and place into top bead

Church will begin promptly at 9. Hope to see you there.

On a side note, I’m sorry about the random black spot on the pictures for today. It seems my youngest has once again gotten ahold of the camera and done some damage. Hopefully we can remedy this quickly.

Balalaikas and Matryoshka Dolls

Thanks to YouTube and some Russian music generously offered from my sweet friend Kathleen, we have been enjoying the beautiful sounds of the three-stringed balalaika right in our own living room, particularly the old folk song Kalinka!

And, we have been having lots of fun with Matryoshka Doll art.  I found a wonderful directed art lesson from this amazing art teacher and the kids followed along as I showed them how to draw the dolls. (Actually I kind of learned as I went along and love how easy this was for the kids-mostly Tallinn-to do).

Tal wanted to try on the easel as well



Next Tal tried again on real canvas!

I’m getting braver with paint and decided to let Tal try with acrylics for the first time.  In the lesson, she uses markers with her students, but I thought it would be more fun to try with paint.

Addie's not quite ready for acrylics and used tempura instead.

Car also used tempura paints for his design.

Tallinn's finished matryoshka doll.

 Of course I decided to join in the fun.

My finished doll

Russian Tea Cakes…Aloha Style

For a few months now, I have saved…tucked away in hidden safety from my ever curious children, particularly the eldest, the sweetest set of matryoshka doll measuring cups you’ve ever seen. Seriously? Matryoshka doll measuring cups, how can there even be such an awesome thing?  I was elated when I saw them at my favorite store in the central coast and thought they were absolutely appropriate for our study.  And, as it so happens, measuring cups are among the things used quite regularly (and easily destroyed) in our home and so I didn’t even feel the need to try and justify my purchase.  These sweet white plastic “dolls” stack so nicely together and tuck away quite cozily into our drawer as well, making them almost easier to store than traditional measuring cups.

With these fabulous dolls, we measured out the following ingredients to make our own Russian Tea Cakes (I add macadamia nuts instead of hazelnuts because I love the taste, which makes them a bit more Hawaiian, I guess).

(adapted from Bon Appetit)

2 1/4 cups flour

pinch of salt

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for dipping

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped or blended into a paste

Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl. 

 In another bowl or mixer, cream butter until light and gradually add 1/2 cup sugar. Beat until fluffy, then add vanilla and slowly mix in dry ingredients.

 Finally, add macadamia nuts and chill for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 400*. Creating dough into 1-inch balls, space about 1-inch apart and bake until firm and slightly golden on top, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then roll in powdered sugar. Cool completely then roll again in powdered sugar.

Eat, eat, eat, especially with tea!

Some of you, like me, may have wondered why these cookies, originally from Russia, are sometimes called “Mexican Wedding Cakes”.  In my small amount of research done on the subject, I discovered that the name “Russian…” was likely changed to “Mexican…” during the Cold War.  Super fascinating!

Nonetheless, these were wonderfully enjoyed by all who partook, namely just those in our family and the kids had fun using the matryoshkas to measure their individual amounts to make this a team process.


“Hi” from Russia!  We landed today after a longer-than-expected fall break.  Fortunately on our break we got to join Brian on a wonderful business trip to Hawaii and that was much-needed for our family. A “real” flight this time, across the Pacific, and south to sunny (and a bit rainy and windy) Maui, with warm ocean waves and rainbows a-plenty, even some friendly sea turtles that approached us near the shore.  I am thankful, in this journey we’ve been on around the world, that we haven’t had to actually “fly” as often as we would have in this haphazard way that we’re circumnavigating the globe.  This gratefulness in avoiding air travel for our journey was further confirmed in our recent red-eye flight with our non-sleeping, screaming 2-year-old. Thus, we arrived back home at 4:45am exhausted, disoriented and ready to crash for a few days. 

Today we are still quite off and the kids went to bed just before 10 and even slept in this morning until about 9! (In the past I couldn’t get them to sleep in if I tried.)

And now, here we have landed “virtually” in the biggest country in the world, a country that finds itself in two continents, where the Trans-Siberian train can take you from European Russian to Asian Russia in just about a week.  Home to the deepest lake in the world (Lake Baikal), the biggest bell in the world (the Czar bell) and the most matryoshka dolls in the world (I made that up but I’m sure it’s true), Russia is a country that has so much for us to learn about and enjoy and we are excited to be here.

Today, after our geography lesson, Tallinn learned how to measure and space the lines of the flag on watercolor paper, then helped Addie and they painted the blue and red stripes on the bottom of the flag.

After the flag painting, the kids painted a variety of Russian cultural coloring pages that I found here.  I love this site as each coloring page also has a description and the kids and I learned a bit more about Russian culture through these fun pages.

This Week’s Verse:

Go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation.

Mark 16:15