Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Five Favorites - Crafting Edition

This week, my Five Favorites post (which is a day late -- I was running around yesterday like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get our last dossier document -- which, it turns out, will have to wait until Thursday, when the correct doctor will be on hand to sign it) will be about my favorite scrapbooking/crafting products.

Yes, it is another quick and easy cop out like the make-up one was.  Forgive me -- we're in that part of the process that is running speed, not waiting speed.  Hopefully next week we will be back to waiting and I will have oodles of free time again, although I'm not sure that's entirely a good thing.  Ahh, the adoption process rollercoaster. 

Number One:
The Cricut Explore

I love this thing so much.  I've always loved Cricut machines -- I must confess that this is my third machine from them, and they have all been upgrades (my first Cricut still works and is my travel Cricut, and my second one still works but lives in my garage, completely replaced by the Explore).

The main difference between this and all the other Cricuts is that it cuts SVG files instead of only being able to cut the files on Cricut cartridges.  Of course, it still cuts the proprietary files, so I can still use all my cartridges -- but I can also buy (and sometimes download for free) cut files from places like Two Peas in a Bucket, Miss Kate's Cuttables, SVG Cuts, etc -- and even make cut files myself from just about any image.  It can also cut any of the fonts on my computer.  :)

The Cricut Explore also cuts cleaner than the older models and has a great pen holder so you can write using the Cricut as well.

Number Two:
Teresa Collins eBosser by Craftwell

I will warn that this item is discountiued -- it will be replaced by the Cut and Boss in June.  However, the concept is the same -- 8.5 x 12 inch embossing, all hands free.  Dies and folders will be interchangeable between the two, but the Cut and Boss will have an updated look.  Personally, though, I prefer the less boxy look of the eBosser, especially since it sits next to my antique typewriter.

While it can also be used to die cut things, I tend to prefer the Cricut for that, as it's more cost effective and digital die cut stuff can be resized whereas physical dies can't.  What I love the eBosser for is the very large opening and large embossing folders -- my old Cuttlebug could only emboss up to 5x7.  I've kept the old folders, though, and I can still use them with my eBosser.  I also love the Teresa Collins designs on the folders, since she is my favorite scrapbooking designer.

The electronic element is great for crafters with arthritis or other physical issues (no more hand crank!) and it's also great for anyone who has a lot of embossing to do (such as making a large amount of invites or party favors).  For me, it wasn't a factor in the purchase, because the hand crank was never an issue -- but it is something to consider.  The plus is that you don't need to use a crank, but the minus is that you need to plug it in.  For me, the large format was the main selling point, and electronic vs. manual didn't matter at that point.

Number Three:
Glitter Girl Videos and Shimelle's Classes

I know it's not really a product, but the Glitter Girl series from Two Peas in a Bucket has been super helpful to me -- teaching everything from how to apply basic design principles in scrapbooking to the differences between the most popular brands/types of mist. 

Shimelle, the fantastic teacher behind the Glitter Girl videos, also does paid workshops, both at and at her own site,  I've taken her Learn Something New Everyday class for the past two Septembers, and I have also taken two years of her Journal Your Christmas class.  If you pay for one year, you get to stay in the class for free at no addition cost, which is really cool.  Also, both of these classes can be adapted for non-scrapbookers, since they are heavily journaling based.  She also teaches more craft based classes, and those are great as well.  :)

Number Four:
Making Memories Trimmer

This trimmer isn't being made anymore, because Making Memories went out of business. I dread thinking of what I'll do when this trimmer finally bites the dust.  It cuts straight, doesn't weigh a ton, measures accurately, and I've only replaced the blade once, despite having bought it back in 2009 to do our Save the Date cards.

Number Five:
Persnickety Prints

I've tried Shutterfly and Snapfish, but the print quality is nothing like Persnickety Prints -- Persnickety even does super thick Instagram prints, which I love to death.  Which reminds me -- I need to order some of those for my Journal Your Christmas book, which is still sitting photoless.

Visit for more Five Favorites links.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Easter Treats, Russian Style

Yes, I'm a bad blogger and it's taken me way too long to share these photos with you.  However, I figured it's better to share late than not at all, so here goes...
This is a special Russian Easter bread called Kulich.  My dad picked it up at Moscow Deli in Costa Mesa when he was visiting us the week before Easter.  It's very similar to our Italian panettone, but with icing on top.
This is Paskha, a sweet dish made of farmer's cheese.  It's traditionally eaten with Kulich.  I was able to get it at Moscow Deli before we left for Northern California. 

We enjoyed both the Kulich and the Paskha the day after Easter, on a picnic in St. Helena at Napa Valley Olive Oil Company.  They have a lovely Italian market, where we usually get salami and cheese.  The Kulich and Paskha made a great dessert for our picnic lunch.  Here you can see the inside -- it really does look just like panettone.

Five Favorites: What I'm Reading and Watching Right Now


This week, I'm focusing on the things that I'm reading and watching lately, specifically stuff about adoption or Kyrgyzstan. 

A special note to those of you who came here from -- yes, my blog did change names/locations.  No, you aren't insane.  Carry on.  :)

Number One:
The Luippolds -- It Takes a Village

"Two weeks ago when the hassle with USCIS started (immigration-ours), every time I tried to text "USCIS" my phone hated me and would correct it to USC or other such nonsense.  Within three days it had adapted and now if I type "U" it brings USCIS right up!



Adoption is a funny thing. After having two biological children and being in the adoption process for over a year now, I can definitely say adoption is the harder of the two-at least for us.  It's more expensive, more draining, more time, and more work.  And, it's more isolating.  But that's one of the funny things.  It may be more isolating with the people who are actually in your daily life, but it's the opposite with the people across the state, country, and even world."

Read more at:

This blog post inspires me on so many levels.  I too have felt alone in this journey at times, but every single time I have discovered that I am far from alone.  I'm not the only one who obsessively checks her email, or looks up hotels in foreign cities.  I'm not the only one who reads adoption blogs, going back through and reading entries from years ago to get an idea of what's in store for us when we travel.

Number Two:
28 Up: Born in the USSR

A spin-off of the successful British "Up Series" of documentaries.  The premise is that they interview children at age 7, and then every 7 years after that -- the original series is up to age 56.  In 1990, BBC did a spin-off in Russia.  This installment, where they are 28-years-old, is the most recent one. 

I find this totally fascinating for several reasons:
1) They show a boy from Kyrgyzstan (the first installment, at age 7, shows a Russian girl living in what is now Bishkek as well, but I'm not sure what happened to her).
2) They follow the life of a Siberian orphan.
3) The subjects were born the same year as Papa Beast.

Number Three:
Jen Hatmaker -- After the Airport

"So today, I'm writing for you who are somewhere "after the airport." The big moment is over and you are living in the aftermath when the collective grief or euphoria has passed. You lost a parent, a sibling, a friend, a child. The experience mobilized every single human being who loves you, and they rallied, gathered, carried you. And now it's three months later on a random Tuesday, and the sting has worn off for everyone else, and you are left in your sorrow.

I'm writing for those of you who had the oh-so-wanted baby after the cheers and showers and Facebook fervor, and now you're struggling with a depression so dark and deep, you are afraid to say it out loud. To you who moved across the country in obedience - you left your family, church, community, your jobs - and now the headline has passed and you are lonely and unanchored. For my friends who've brought their adopted children home and the media frenzy has died down, and you are holding a screaming toddler, a fragile kindergartener, an angry teen, trying to catch your breath and make it through the day without bawling while everyone else has gone back to their regularly scheduled programs...I'm with you today."

"Oh let us be a community who loves each other well. Because someone is always struggling through the "after the airport" phase, when the chords of human kindness become a lifeline of salvation. Let us watch for the struggling members of our tribe, faking it through sarcasm or self-deprecation or a cheerfully false report. May we refuse to let someone get swallowed up in isolation, drowning in grief or difficulties that seem too heavy to let anyone else carry. Let's live this big, beautiful Life together, rescuing each other from the brink and exposing the unending compassion of our Jesus who called us to this high level of community; past the romantic beginnings, through the messy and mundane middles, and all the way to the depths." 

Read more at:

I'm not there yet, obviously -- we aren't even "after the match," let alone "after the airport."  But it's important to prepare for that, for the long haul, even as we sit here knowing that we would do anything possible to get to that very long haul that will probably be so hard. 

This post really is (or should be) a must read for anyone with friends or family members who are in the adoption process.

Number Four:
A Tourist's Guide to Bishkek

A nice overview of the capital city.

Number Five:
Meet the Stans

I first watched the Kazakhstan portion of this video in 2013.  The Kyrgyzstan portions are pretty interesting, though the focus on the military base was a little disappointing -- I want to see how Kyrgyzstani people live, not American soldiers (no offense to the military -- I just want to learn about the culture and place where we're going, is all).  Even so, it is nice to see a little bit of the country.

Random People in Bishkek Dancing to Pharrel Williams -- Happy

This is one of the top hits on YouTube when you look up Kyrgyzstan.   The power of random compels you to watch it.

See more #FiveFavs at

Monday, May 19, 2014

Welcome to the New Blog!

So, I've made the switch -- changing the blog name and URL really was the final step in the process of switching from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan.  After all, I've spent two weeks posting about an adoption from Kyrgyzstan on a blog with Kazakhstan in the title.

I took my sweet time in doing it -- because I had so much else to do (hurray to only needing one more document for our dossier), because I didn't know how to switch it, because I didn't want to choose a name in haste, and also because I wanted to wait until the switch started to feel real, started to feel comfortable.

And, finally, it has.  I no longer start to say Kazakhstan and have to stop myself when discussing our adoption.  I've started to learn a bit about Bishkek.  I've started to use the blue and yellow (the colors of Kazakhstan's flag) scrapbooking paper I bought and stashed for other unrelated projects without feeling too sad about it -- although I do hope to use some to document our time in Almaty when we go for the embassy stuff.

It's been a long road to get here, especially considering that we started out intending to adopt from Russia before they closed their program.  Somehow, though, I'm pretty sure that the third country is the charm for us.  :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Five Favorites: Make-Up Edition

This is such a cop-out post, and I know it.  But our instructions for the dossier are supposed to come in the next few days via email, so life is about to get nuts.

So, it won't be a long entry, or a fabulous entry, but maybe it will at least be a fun one?  Or maybe you can just have a good laugh at seeing me at my most materialistic (and also at my laziest or at least my most ingenious when it comes to cheating).  Or at least get a glimpse into the inner workings of a make-up snob's mind.

And yes, I really did pick this theme by figuring out what I could do the fastest.  :P

Number One:
Virtuale Flawless Foundation by Borghese

I love this foundation.  It's creamy, it blends well, it covers redness well, it isn't the most expensive foundation I've tried (plus for that!) and because it comes in a jar instead of a bottle or squeeze tube you can see how much you have left and really use every last drop.

I've tried the Costco knock-off Borghese stuff, but it isn't the same.  I'm one of those people who can't get away with much in the way of drugstore or in expensive make-up, but the botanical/natural stuff tends to upset my skin as well (probably because I'm allergic to aloe).  Either way -- this is the best foundation I've ever found.

Number Two:
LancĂ´me Hypnose Doll Eyes Mascara

Just look at it, in all its glory -- a truly amazing mascara.  I'm a make-up snob, I'll admit it.  But I will also admit that a mascara that doesn't make my eyes water weirdly is a great find.  Not only does this mascara not make me cry, it actually makes my lashes look like they used to when I was about 12 or so, back when I actually had nice lashes without having to do anything to them.  The brush is nice, and the handle is comfortable to hold.  It's also so darn pretty.

If I remember right, I found out about this mascara from Hallie's Five Favorites a while back, so this really is full circle.  I ditched Diorshow for this wonder, and I've never regretted it.
Number Three:
Chanel Eyeshadow Quad in Winter Nights

They don't even make this amazing baby anymore (it was a Spring 2010 exclusive and I bought it to wear for my wedding).  I still savor it, and covet finding a perfect match for the one in the upper left.  All are either too dark, or the wrong color tone.  The real one is amazing -- and of course I'm rottenly picky and prefer Chanel's eyeshadow to all others.  I know some rave about Mac but they have too much pigment for my taste and don't blend well on my skin, personally.  Make-up Forever has a similar issue for me.

So please, Chanel, if you're reading this -- bring back that one shade.  Please.  I beg of you!

Number Four:
Saint and Sinner by Lipstick Queen (Various Shades)
These are my ultimate splurge lipsticks -- and even so they aren't the most expensive lip color out there.  I've used all mine up and not taken then time go dash up to Bloomies and refresh my stash -- maybe I should pick one up for our anniversary dinner on Thursday, especially with that Chanel palette making me feel all nostalgic.

Most of the Lipstick Queen colors come in both Saint and Sinner -- two different formulas with two different feels.  I generally prefer Saint, but your mileage may vary.  Saint Berry is probably my favorite lipstick on the planet.

Saint is in the gold tube -- it's a sheer, easily worn, lower pigment, creamier, glossier, more moisturizing formula.

Sinner is thicker, matte, and more highly pigmented.  It definitely makes more of a statement.

Or heck, just let the creator explain it...

Number Five:
Medieval by Lipstick Queen

Why yes, this is a cheat entry.  Two lipstick bullet points, both from the same company.  And yet -- they are amazing.

This really is the red that works for everyone -- dark skin, pale skin, red lipstick lover, timid make-up newbie.  Doesn't matter -- you can rock this shade.  And the formula feels amazing.   Honest -- it's red lipstick's gateway drug, I promise.

Anyway -- those are my five favorites.  Go check out other posters' favorites over at Moxie Wife -

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Five Favorites: Kyrgyzstan Edition

This week, for Five Favorites, I'd like to share five things that I love about Kyrgyzstan -- about the culture, the natural beauty of the land, things I'm looking forward to seeing, etc.

Number One:
Felt Rugs


Kyrgyzstan is known for BEAUTIFUL felt art, including rugs. 

Here you can see a Kyrgyz Shyrdak rug being made, as well as hear a bit of the history and significance behind them.

Number Two:
Dordoy Bazaar in Bishkek

The bazaar in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, is large and sprawling, with different sections for different kinds of goods. 
In the clothing section, they sell directly out of shipping containers.  When a shopkeeper wants to open up shop for the day, he simply opens the doors to his container.

Number Three:
The Mixture of Russian and Kyrgyz Culture

Central Asia still has a strong Russian influence, including the language.  Which is great for us, because we can use the Russian we're learning.  It's comforting to know that this switch isn't SUCH a huge switch.
Number Four:
Kyrgyzstan's Nomadic Roots

The Kyrgyz people were originally nomads, wandering the steppes of Central Asia alongside their livestock.

Although people live in cities and drive cars, the horse is still an important -- and beautiful -- part of life in Kyrgyzstan today.  The Kyrgyz people are very proud of their nomadic heritage.
Number Five:
The Beautiful Landscape
From Bishkek, you can see the beautiful Tian Shan mountains. 
Here you can see the rather shocking contrast between the Soviet-era apartment blocks and the mountains in the background.
Katie is hosting Five Favorite this week -- you can see all the other bloggers who have shared their favorites on her blog:
If you came from her blog, or Hallie's blog (Moxie Wife) welcome!  Please stay a while!  :)

Monday, May 5, 2014

This Blog Needs a New Name

We've officially switched countries -- to Kyrgyzstan.

So, obviously, this blog needs to be renamed, and soon.  And I'd love some help!

The original title was a tribute to the (wonderful) book Apples are from Kazakhstan.  I've thought about switching the blog name to Storks are from Kyrgyzstan, but I don't know if that's too far removed from the source, so to speak.

These are the ideas I have so far:

-Storks are from Kyrgyzstan

-Silk Road Storks

-A Stork Named Stan

-Some other (even better!) name that one of you will share in the comment section.

Please consider this both an informal poll and an open forum to help me rename the blog. 

Thanks in advance!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Trip to Little Russia

I'm sorry this post has taken so long -- I'm not the biggest tech genius in the world, and I had a heck of a time figuring out where Instagram saves its photos on my phone so I could upload them.  *facepalm*

While we were visiting my parents in Northern California for Easter, we decided to go into the Inner Richmond District in San Francisco, otherwise known as Little Russia. 

My mother had never been to a Russian restaurant before, but she really wanted to try it after all of our rave reviews of Moscow Deli in Costa Mesa and Marivanna in Los Angeles.  My dad kindly drove us all into the city for a lovely outing the day before Easter.

After a quick stop at Gastronom Deli and popping our heads into the Russian Orthodox Cathedral (thankfully I had a chapel veil in my purse) we went out for a lovely dinner at Katia's Tea Room. 

From the moment we walked in and saw the adorable little pieces of dill on the pats of butter, I could tell that they were big on attention to detail -- people after my own heart.

My name is Mama Stork, and I am a tea addict.  Their tea is amazing -- and was served in a beautiful Russian railway-style glass and holder.  They kept my tea well filled, thankfully -- it was a chilly day, and the warm goodness was appreciated.  :)

Our lovely Zakuski (Russian appetizer) platter with (clockwise from top) eggplant caviar (an eggplant spread that doesn't actually contain caviar), pickles made in house, marinated mushrooms, and Vinegret (a type of potato, beet, and carrot salad).  Very yummy!

Borscht.  So, so, delicious.  :)

My mom is vegetarian and had these lovely potato cutlets -- they were a lot like my husband's chicken cutlets but without meat.  Served with veggies and buckwheat kasha.

My husband's chicken cutlets with mushroom sauce.  Served with crispy potatoes and veggies.  The potatoes remind him a lot of the ones he had growing up -- apparently they're something his mom makes as well.

My dad's lamb dish with rice and veggies.

My yummy beef stroganoff with rice and veggies. 

Merengue Pavlova with fruits and kissel.

Their glorious Napoleon, also served with kissel.  Napoleon is one of my dad's favorite desserts and this is one of the best versions of it that I've had. The kissel really does add something amazing to the whole dish.  :)
Katia's Tea Room is a great spot.  The food was wonderful, and even though they were super busy (especially with people picking up large take away orders for Easter the next day) we still had good, friendly service.  Katia even took the time to stop by our table.  A wonderful experience and we will definitely be back.  :)