Sunday, May 18, 2014

I moved...

A change in country means a change in blog -- so I will now be posting at 

All my old posts (comments and all) have moved into their new home, but will remain here as well.  I hope you will follow me on this journey.  :)

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.  :)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Five Favorites Vol. 1
For a while now, I've enjoyed the Five Favorites posts at, and this week I've decided to try doing it myself.

Number One:
Vidalia Chop Wizard
This chopper is amazing -- very quick and fairly easy to clean.  It also wasn't terribly expensive.  You can buy it at Bed Bath and Beyond or here.  I used it on Friday to make the recipe below.
Number Two:
Olivye Salad
Easter is here, and we got to eat meat, blessed glorious meat, on Friday due to the Octave of Easter.  I had a church Women's Society book club meeting, and I wanted to bring something meaty and good to the meeting -- yet I needed something that would work well cold, since I was facing about an hour's drive.

What would be better than an Eastern European recipe to share a bit of our future children's culture with the book club?

It was a huge hit with the club, and the leftovers were a huge hit with my hubby later.
Natasha's lovely version of it can be found here.  I also found out about the Chop Wizard on Natasha's blog.  So maybe my favorite should have been Natasha's blog -- but I have to stretch this out to five somehow, right?  #cutthen00bsomeslack
Number Three:
We and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland
Of all the parenting books we've read for our now complete home study (yay!), none of them really addressed the issue of introducing faith based learning to our children.  This book explains it very well.  Now, there is a modified (post Vatican II and new calendar) version of this book called How to Raise Good Catholic children.  I prefer this, the original 1953 edition.  I hope to get Mrs. Newland's The Year and Our Children, which discusses recipes, activities, and crafts for each liturgical season and holiday.
Number Four:
Goong: The Royal Palace
Not adoption, family, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, or in any official way related to this blog whatsoever.  (Unless you count it as something I amuse myself with in between scouring the internet for updates on Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which is very much what it is, I must admit.) However, I am ADDICTED to this comic book series from Korea.  Usually I read Japanese Manga, so Korean Manhua is new for me.
This series is a romance in an alternate history setting -- the author explores the idea of what Korea would be like today if they had a monarchy.  Against that backdrop, she develops very interesting characters and actually makes an arranged marriage plot seem realistic in today's world.  The art is simply beautiful -- I love that it incorporates both traditional Korean clothing and modern Western clothing -- and in both cases it is so very beautifully drawn.  :)
Number Five:
Pimsleur Russian I
We love the Pimsleur approach for language learning.  It works great, and we do our Russian lessons when we're in the car together, either on the weekends or when we take SuperPup to the dog park.  It's fun to do together, and we are learning more and more Russian, which we use when we go to Russian markets, delis, and restaurants.  :)
It isn't the cheapest thing out there, so I recommend trying their free lesson to see what you think.  I will say, though, that they run frequent discounts, and that their method has worked really well for us.  :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Storks are from Kyrgyzstan?

For about a year now, we've been waiting for Kazakhstan to reopen -- and our agency has been accredited since December of 2012.  So far, there doesn't seem to be very much movement in that direction.  Every once in a while, rumors will start that things will happen soon, sometimes even with a rumored approximate date of reopening.

So far, all those rumors have amounted to not much of anything -- Kazakhstan still isn't taking dossiers from American families/agencies.

So now what?

Kyrgyzstan seems more likely than not as a possibility for us -- they should be accrediting agencies and reopening soon.  I've mentioned this before, but the tone we're getting from our agency seems to indicated that Kyrgyzstan is likely to open before Kazakhstan.

If that happens, we plan to jump on the Kyrgyzstan bandwagon pretty quickly.  I plan to continue blogging no matter which way the wind blows, but I may need to think up a new name for this blog if we do end up switching to Kyrgyzstan.

In other news for us --

We completed our home study visits last Thursday, so we really are in a holding pattern.  I'm still trying to keep busy and keep the wait from really driving me nuts.

We also went on a trip to visit my family, and while we were there we went to the Russian area of San Francisco for dinner.  I have pictures of that and also of some Russian Easter goodies we enjoyed on Monday -- so expect some fun posts in the next few days.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Just my luck that I'd get sick the week of our home study visit.


Just breathe. (At least as much as one can through a plugged up nose.)

And keep looking at adorable nursery ideas on Buzzfeed, Pinterest, etc, especially the ones that would work fantastically for older children or toddlers.

There are some great ideas here.  We have two flea market find dressers to repair, repaint, and pretty up.  We're waiting for a referral to get started on painting the two unused rooms upstairs, and I definitely want to do something fun with the dressers.

So many adorable ideas!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Any day now?

We're living our lives, going to family events, plugging away on getting the house "home study visit ready."  Still trying not to let the wait get to us, but of course it does, though we try to keep faith that everything will work out in the end.

Like other families who set out on the journey to adopt from Kazakhstan, we've started to have the "what if Kazakhstan never opens" conversations -- with each other and with our adoption agency.

There are rumors that Kazakhstan will open within the next few weeks.  But, of course, there have been rumors like this before, and nothing really came of them. No one seems to know anything, but there's hope, of course.  Even so, our agency does not want to string us along, and we have talked about what do to if there's no movement from Kazakhstan.

There are other options, of course.

There's Ukraine, but the general political instability there concerns us, even if adoptions are continuing to be processed. (At least for now -- who knows what tomorrow will bring?)  They also have a policy/process of "traveling blind" without a referral, and the children available are all age 5 and above or have moderate to severe special needs.  We have great respect for families who are called to adopt special needs children, but at this time, as first time parents, we do not feel that we are called in that direction.  Even if we were, however, traveling blind leads to very little time to review the child(ren) and their medical files.  We don't feel this is a good fit for us.

Then there's Bulgaria.  They have a good solid program, but their wait times for a referral are higher, so we'd prefer to keep this program as more of a "last resort."  They also don't seem to allow adoption of children under the age of two, which isn't a deal breaker for us exactly, but would narrow down the diversity (and potential number) of sibling groups that would work for us due to my younger age.

Latvia is another option, though a limited one due to my age and the fact that they rarely allow children under the age of nine to be adopted.  However, we are willing to explore this option if a waiting sibling group we qualify for becomes available.  If this happens, our agency will call us.  However, if we get much farther with another country, this option would no longer be viable, which is fine, because at least we would then be moving forward.

Kyrgyzstan is currently our first choice back-up country.  They are very culturally similar to Kazakhstan, and they are a Russian speaking country (many also speak Kyrgyz, but the orphanage we would adopt from is Russian speaking), which is good as we have been learning Russia. Kyrgyzstan borders Kazakhstan and is also a former Soviet republic.  There is less time in country on the first trip that Kazakhstan requires, though, and we have come to see the 30 day bonding period as a major blessing.  They are also not currently open, though they have allowed agencies in the US to apply to become accredited by the Kyrgyz government.  This country is at the "any day now" point in terms of announcing which agencies are accredited -- and our agency has applied.  The hope is that, following accreditation, Kyrgyzstan would accept dossiers fairly quickly, though this isn't guaranteed.

So where does this leave us?

Waiting, still, though waiting with more options, especially with Kyrgyzstan seemingly serious about reopening their adoption process. 

If Kyrgyzstan opens (meaning they've accepted our agency and are also accepting dossiers from US families), we will continue to wait for Kazakhstan until our anniversary in mid-May.  At that point, if Kazakhstan isn't open, we will pursue Kyrgyzstani adoption.

We appreciate prayers and support during this time of decision -- both for our own decision making and that of the countries involved.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lent and the Wait

Lately, I feel like our entire lives could be summed up in various blog posts titled ____ and the Wait.  Christmas and the Wait.  Cleaning Up the House and the Wait.  Spending Time with Friends and Trying to Forget About the Wait Even When They Ask How the Wait is Going and, well, the Wait.

I try to keep this blog about adoption and related things -- so if religion in general or the Catholic religion in particular offends you, ignore this post.  Religion is not going to be a major subtopic of this blog. 

However, I do think I would be remiss if I were to lie and say that the Wait, the ever present, unrelenting Wait, doesn't effect my spiritual life.  And the optimistic part of me that hopes that everything will be A-Okay and our children will come home soon and one day some other future adoptive mama who is reading this (the way I now read blogs of families in the "kids are home" phase of adoption) with an aching spirit wondering how in the world to survive the wait will come along and hopefully be encouraged.  That part of me knows I need to talk about the spiritual/religious end of it all, because that future mother might struggle as well with the rotten stuff.

Or maybe this blog is mostly an echo chamber for me to rant -- and no one will be either offended or encouraged.

Either way, here goes.

Waiting is hard.

Everybody knows it.

Sometimes, there's a known timeline.  Little kids know how many days 'til Christmas, 'til summer vacation, 'til the family trip to Disneyland.  And there are all those little things that families do to make it easier -- Advent calendars full of chocolate, a Mickey Mouse pen to cross off days on the calendar.

Penance is hard, too.  If it isn't hard, it isn't penance.  That's why everyone knows, deep down, that giving up your least favorite food isn't a suitable Lenten sacrifice.  However, I know I'm counting down to April 20th.  I know that all the things I gave up will be waiting for me on Easter Sunday (and, in Catholic tradition, every Sunday is a "mini Easter" and penance and fasting are actually considered inappropriate).

With our adoption, we don't have an "due date."  We simply don't know what the future has in store, and there's no promises of a reprieve on April 20th.  The less patient part of me hopes we don't have to wait that long.  :P

Also in Catholic tradition, there is the concept of offering up suffering and penance for a particular purpose -- and that's something that, despite the ranting whiney tone of this post, I find really helpful in this.  Every inconvenience, every annoyance, adoption related or not, is something I try to remember to offer up for the cause of our adoption and for all the other families who wait for Kazakhstan to reopen as well.  And that includes the Wait itself.

It can really be as simple as asking the Lord to take the negative thing and use it for the good of whatever situation concerns you -- a sick relative, a slow adoption process, or even for your own spiritual development.

I'm far from perfect at this -- and in my weaker moments I wonder if this, and my other numerous weaknesses are the reason for the Wait -- but I'm working on it.  And Lent seems like the perfect time to work on it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Thoughts on "What Not to Say."

Ah, the blogosphere -- everybody's got a soap box, and nobody's afraid to use it.  Well, it's my turn. 

And I know it's going to be controversial.

There's a "thing" in adoption blogging -- something that's even made it to internet news outlets like HuffPo and  Bloggers like to make lists -- everyone knows that.  And the type of list that adoptive parents like to make is the "What Not to Say to Adoptive Parents" list.  And I'm here to argue that those lists are an issue.

Oh, I get why people make them -- everyone who is adopting/has adopted/wants to adopt has had people say "dumb things" or ask "dumb questions" and we're all pretty sick of it.  Personally, if one more person asks why we aren't adopting from the Philippines (Papa Beast is Filipino), I might lose what's left of my sanity. 

Actually, no, that's not true.  Because I've gotten used to it, and I don't even have to think of what to say before, "The wait is long and we're not eligible anyway," comes rolling off my tongue.

And that's the thing really.  No matter what you do in life, people are going to question it.  Did you decide to be a stay at home wife and mother?  Yup, people are going to make ignorant comments and ask silly questions.  Decide not to complete your college degree?  Prepare for the floodgates to open.  Do you and your husband make the choice to attend the Latin Mass, which most people believe is a thing of the past?  You better be ready for some Grade A flack.

All that, without even getting into what happens when you marry outside your country of origin and get to endure an interview designed to discover whether or not you have entered into a "green card marriage" or a "real marriage" and then, after the interview, having your own lawyer say, "I know you're planning to adopt, but you really should try to get pregnant -- it'll help with the immigration case."

None of that is fun, but sometimes being a grown up isn't fun. 

And sometimes you have to deal with people who annoy you, get in your way, slow you down, etc.  This isn't the exclusive domain of adoptive parents, sadly.  We have all found ourselves behind the driver who decides to balance the checkbook at a red light and forgets to go when it turns green.  We've all had some assumptions made about us that turn out to be false -- like people assuming that I speak Spanish because of my last name, which I got from my Filipino husband who doesn't speak Spanish either.

You can't change the whole world to think like you, read your mind, etc, etc.  There will always be people who see our last name and expect us to be Spanish speakers.  There will always be people who hear the word "Kazakhstan" and think "Borat."  And there will always be people who ask you why you can't have "your own children."

The part we can control is how we react.

Personally, I have some people (my husband, my parents, my close friends) who I know will listen to me vent and then help me laugh it off. Because, in the end, that's all you can do.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kazakhstan in Sochi

The thing I wait four years for is finally here -- the Winter Olympics.  Oh, sure, I love the Summer Games, too, especially the gymnastics (Go Aliya Mustafina!), but figure skating is my first love.  I used to compete locally when I lived in Northern California, and I've been a life long fan of the sport ever since I first saw Gordeeva and Grinkov in 1994.

This year, though, there is a little something extra exciting about the Olympics.  Between it being in Russia -- a country and culture I have always loved -- and the excitement of the new Team Figure Skating event, there is plenty of reason for excitement.  But there's something more, too.  This year, we are rooting for Kazakhstan, wherever we can.

Denis Ten has a good shot at a medal in the Men's event.  His silver medal performance at Worlds last year was a true joy to watch -- he even won the free skate portion.  This season has been a bit more rocky for him -- but I have faith that he will peak at the right time.

Also from Kazakhstan (by birth, at least), though representing Russia, is the lovely and talented young ice dancer Elena Ilinykh.  She and her partner Nikita Katsalapov were among the winners of the Team Figure Skating event.  They will go down in history as being part of the first team to win it!  While they sometimes struggle with consistency, they have oodles of talent, and at 19 and 22 they are both young by Ice Dance standards.  They are considered a threat for the Bronze medal, but podium finish or no, they promise to be lovely to watch.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It's Russian Christmas...

It's been a long time since I posted -- National Novel Writing Month (aka November to normal people) and Christmas really took a lot of our time.

But here we are, and it's the day they celebrate Christmas in Russia, and, by extension, in Kazakhstan, at least for those Kazakhstanis who are Russian Orthodox.  And, because the region we have been assigned to is a heavily ethnic Russian area, I have a hunch that our kids, whoever, wherever, they are, are celebrating Christmas today.  At least, they will be celebrating to whatever degree the orphanage celebrates Christmas.

I saw this graphic today on the Creating a Family Facebook group, and since it isn't anyone's personal photo, I felt that I could take the liberty of sharing it here on the blog because it really sums up how I feel today -- and always, really.

I've got to be honest: I wonder about our children every single day, to some degree.  The wondering is just more so, today, because it's Christmas where they are.  I was able to avoid worrying about them too much -- hoping they were having the Christmas celebration every child deserves -- on December 25 because I knew that, to them, it wasn't actually Christmas.  They wouldn't know what they were missing.  Even so, I thought of them, and I prayed -- and still do pray -- that they will be home safe by next December 25, that we will be able to celebrate Christmas as a family and that all will be right in our small corner of the world.
Which brings me to another graphic I found on the internet today -- it seems to be the day for that around these parts.

And for those kids -- whoever, wherever they are -- we have to keep going, keep fighting.  Keep doing paperwork, keep waiting for Kazakhstan to start taking dossiers from American families.
And that's what we are now -- an American family, with two valid, current US passports to our names.  I needed a name change, and it actually came back slower than my husband's request for a new/first time passport that was sent the same day.  Something funny happened, though, when I got my old passport back -- a holy card from the war memorial (WWI) chapel at Bassano del Grappa fell out of my old passport.  It had been there since my most recent trip to Italy in 2007.  I'm going to put the card in my new passport -- a little piece of Italy, and of my great-grandfather, to take to Kazakhstan with us when we go to bring our children home.  Whenever that is.