Category Archives: Russian

My Zolovka, the Artist

little hump backed horse











My sister-in-law, a former costume designer for film and TV, is the craziest mad genius, what with the portraits she does of people’s homes using their own memorabilia, and how her talents are put to use at the Russian school and dance recitals. All the children of the Lands should be so lucky as to have a Natalya in the wings.

See more Russian kids’ costumes here, including those made by other parents, most if not all designed by my beloved золовка. Love the Sun and Moon executed by Marina Bagrova! Don’t miss Natalya’s stunning sketches of the costumes as they appeared in her noggin, before their worldly realization, at the end of this version. Quick, before that page changes!

Just With My Looks, I Could Have Won

Despite odds and favorites, endorsements and hype, in sporting events ya just never know. In the Olympic opening ceremonies, for example, the U.S. did not medal during the Parade of Nations. Sartorial dark horses Tonga, Kazakhstan, and Andorra (a “landlocked microstate in southwestern Europe”[1]) beat the literal pants off Ireland, Germany, Italy, and the US. That’s with Ralph Lauren et al. hurling unimaginable coin and muscle at it. Better luck next time, soopertailors!

All manner of factors can throw athletes off their game. Weird uniforms, weird weather, weird slogans (Hot. Cool. You.  Huh?), old injuries, new injuries, the incessant clanging of the cowbell slopeside…not to mention Olympic pressure. I for one couldn’t do a giant slalom in front of a single, napping four-year-old. Flop sweat would soak my snowsuit, which would not be a stylin’ hipster snowsuit, but an old beater poofy one (see “weird uniforms” above). Sounds like the making of a terrific nightmare. Don’t worry, the Olympic Committees have enough on their plates with the Junior Olympics, Paralympics, the Senior Games…there will be no Doughy Unfit Sloblympics. Reality TV has that covered, if inadvertently.

The Sochi games were, in a word, fabulous. The opening ceremony was as good as Athens and Vancouver and better than Beijing or London. Kudos, komrades! The $51B price tag, higher than all prior Winter Olympics combined, was naughty but, man, artfully spent. The venues were knockout, the Caucuses backdrop spectacular. If you were lucky enough to see the nighttime bird’s-eye view of the Olympic Village on a high-def TV:  Prekrasno!

Another word: incredible. The skaters’ costumes were better than ever, due in part to advances in adhesives, faceted sparklers, and stretch netting. Velikalepno! The jumps, lifts, and spins (twizzles!): umopotressauschee. The women’s biathlon, wherein women ski uphill with guns, their buff, eurochick bodies rocking gorgeously engineered outdoor wear: totally Bond! The commentators’ near-hysterical coverage during the men’s biathlon: hilariously stirring! The medals? Elegant! Mary Carillo’s cultural vignettes? Captivating! We even dug the ads, from Cadillac’s In America, We Work Hard (“N’est-ce pas?”) to the endlessly repeated Chevy Cruze one (the pained expressions of the car music-haters never grew old) to P&G’s teary series saluting athletes’ mothers. Yo, where’s the fathers’ tribute? Pony up next time, WD-40.

Exciting. Now I hates change (less cowbell? Nyet!), but I suspect that newly added sports grabbed today’s athletes and viewers more than winter’s curling (a popular drinking sport…150 years ago?) or summer’s gymnastics stick-and-ball thing (made sense in… ancient Greece?) New winter additions such as parallel slalom, ski halfpipe, snowboardcross, chick ski jump,and luge team relay engaged the nutters of many nations both on the slopes and off. Zdorovo!

Magical. It seemed nothing could ruin the Olympics for viewers: neither the barrage of pre-game negative press, nor too-warm snow conditions (ruinous to top skiers who didn’t medal), nor worrisome developments in Ukraine, nor an Olympic ring that didn’t open (“Keep going, Vladimir…four—eet’s enough—go!”), nor Johnny Weir’s distracting accoutrements, nor even dumb push notifications and moronic newspeople announcing who’d won before we got to watch it at night. Stoic Putin never devolved into the out-of-control rootin’ tootin’ Pootin I’d hoped for, but he did crack the occasional smile as fellow Russkies went bonkers around him.

Full-on crazy. The Russians did go nuts. So did everyone else. Everyone went wild. People were yelling and texting and jumping up and down around the globe, astonished by the feats of these magnificent young gods and goddesses. Whether it was a nailbiter of a hockey game, a mindbender of a halfpipe trick, a heart attacker of a downhill ski race, an eye-shutter of a skeleton run, or a jawdropper of a figure skating routine by—gasp—a tiny teenager, the fans went wild. What’s more fun than that? All the earthly peoples clapping and crying and grinning and screaming Wow! in 6,000 different languages, including Russian (Ogo! Or if you prefer: Va-ooh!). No really: what’s better than that?

Unforgettable. Who could forget the incredible wins and losses, the moments of jubilance and of crushing defeat after years and years of training? Competitors holding hands, or throwing themselves on the ice, off the podium, into the arms of loved ones…too many to list. I just hope you saw them, along with the breathtaking closing ceremonies. With some systems, you can view the Sochi games over and over. I’ll see you tube-side…knitting and weeping, admiring the determined faces and ripped bodies of the brave, beautiful YPs of all the Lands. Good bawling, and good day.

Quote That Took The Gold

Olympic halfpipe champion Iouri “iPod” Podladtchikov on if he could have beaten Shaun White without YOLO, iPod’s insane signature rotational flip: “Yes. Just with my looks, I could have won.”

Coffee Helper Helps

coffee helperFor people with precious little time, those with dexterity issues, and anyone who likes to distance himself from paper or, at the very least, coffee filters,  it’s the perfect gift.


Happy Eastern Orthodox Christmas!

Mad Genius Makes Cool Portrait of Your Home

“Santa Lucia” in California
© 2012 Natalya Aikens

My SIL, a fiber artist, makes knockout “portraits” of people’s homes using objects they send her…fabric, photos, house plans, a map. What people supply her with to represent their homes is remarkable and touching  (mittens, fur, twigs, sheet music); seeing what Natalya selects to incorporate ~ and how ~ is fascinating. The whole thing makes me like people.

You can watch three unfold below:

I also love her blog. Unlike mine, none too chatty.


If you’ve never attended an Eastern Orthodox Easter service…

EOE icons      EOE circlingEOE out frontEOE prettyEOE family pondering  EOE traditional Easter foodstuffs…here are images for you.

EOE baskets

Traditional Easter foodstuffs brought to church to be blessed.

EOE sausage

Don’t forget to get your sausage blessed!

At one point, everyone leaves the service to circle the church three times while a madman pounds on the bells in the carillon  —  crazy loud. Crazy good.

eoe tree

Tree of eggs.

XPUCTOC BOCKPECE! Looks like Zuptock Bockpeace to me, but  is of course pronounced nothing like that. And no one finds it funny. At all.

The Russians Are Strumming, The Russians Are Strumming!

And sister could pick!

While many celebrate one man’s questionable achievements, including the accidental discovery of land leading, arguably, to genocide,  on Columbus Day (one of the more shocking Sopranos episodes, btw), some turned instead this weekend to the 9th Annual Russian and Slavic Cultural Festival in Howell, NJ.

Folk dancers from Troika dance troupe

If you haven’t heard a balalaika contrabass–or eaten those savory dumplings I won’t attempt to spell–you haven’t lived. I love how  every culture seems to have its dumpling.  Meat wrapped in dough… a tidy, giftwrapped present of meat. Fabulous!

Note 1: Amid much conflicting Internet info, it seems Columbus day wasn’t made a federal holiday until 1937, under FDR.

Note 2:  Don’t get me wrong.  Some of my best friends are Italians. A vivacious and lusty people. You always know where you stand with an Italian. Happy Columbus Day.

An Unorthodox Easter

GOD BLESS THIS…PEN AND PENCIL SET? I’m not sure if someone left a pen & pencil in their basket to be blessed by mistake or by design—but I’m all for sanctified writing utensils.

I don’t know about other Eastern Orthodox Easters, but the Russian one is what you might expect. One metric ton of food. Vodka, vodka, and more vodka. Throw in your next-door neighbor pressure-washing his house as ground bees surface during the Easter egg hunt, and it’s fun for everyone. XPUCTOC BOCKPECE!

Happy Orthodox Christmas

You’ll LERV it.

This year, give yourself the gift of sinus health.

Neti potters can go that route.  Me, I’m blasting my way there with the NeilMed Sinus Rinse kit. You shoot it up one nostril and it blows out the other. What’s more fun than that?

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