Friday, March 19, 2010

My Illustrated Life

Ukrainian food

I made varenikiy a couple of weeks ago. I never actually made varenikiy in my apartment in Ukraine but here, I feel the intense need to make Ukrainian food, to bring that culture home to my friends and family. I made dough with water, flour and salt, rolled them into small circles, put mashed potato in the middle and boiled them. Ta-daa! Little potato-filled dumplings. Delicious. My family liked them topped with sour cream and a little butter. I added some hot sauce, and it was even better. That part isn't Ukrainian, the hot sauce.

At some point maybe I'll stop talking about Ukraine. At some point far in the future...

Yesterday, Dad, because he's eternally hungry, took some of them out of the freezer, put them on a plate, and microwaved them. He wondered why he ended up with rock hard little pockets. He tried to eat one, and it was solid and brown in the middle. "You have to boil them!" I said. "Boil them! Have you ever seen me microwave varenikiy? No. Because they get soft and cooked only if you boil them! Silly dad.

Continuing to bring Ukraine to Colorado

I look young here. Like 10. I became aware of a small Ukrainian population in Denver through an online "Meetup" group there. They invited me to participate in a Ukrainian concert at the Catholic Church a couple weeks ago. Taras Shevchenko's birthday was this month and we sang songs to honor him. I wore a traditional costume and even recited a poem in Ukrainian by Shevchenko. Everyone was so proud of my language skill. These people all have roots in Ukraine. Their parents or grandparents are from there. Most of them speak Ukrainian perfectly.  That was amazing and weird, because I could talk to them in this other language I had learned. And they understood me!! Also, when I started to talk in English after Ukrainian, they understood that! Even the older people! I kept expecting to be in Ukraine, where the older folk couldn't understand English.

My mom and sister came with me, and they had a hard time pulling me away after the concert because there were all these people who wanted to talk to me.

I'm such a cook

I never was much of a cook before living in Ukraine for two years. There, I felt the need to make American food, so that my friends could understand the kinds of things I eat. I made lasagna for them, cheeseburgers, chili, chips and salsa, burritos, nachos... 

Here, I've made varenikiy, olivye (a mayonnaise-based salad a little like potato salad), and French meat.

I invited a friend's daughter over last week to cook and we made burritos with tortillas from scratch. I had to do that in Ukraine because it wasn't always easy to find tortillas. We had fun. She was very proud of all the food we made. We also made rice, homemade salsa and beans to go with it.

Hard at work

I have a weekend job at Oshkosh. This means that I never have days off. Oh well, I can sleep when I'm dead. We work so hard there that when big packages come and we find ourselves with huge sheets of the biggest bubbles we've ever seen, we just HAVE to stomp the living crap out of them because those pops? They were amazing! My co-worker Rachel and I enjoyed jumping up and down on that bubble wrap. It sounded like tiny little gun shots. It was marvelous.

After a hard day's work...

Two nights ago I babysat another friend's kid. She had to work overnight (either that or she snuck off to party away St. Patrick's Day but I'll never know). Here, Ashley is lounging after a hard evening of playing with toys, refusing to eat chicken McNuggets and exploring my house. She's also balancing a book in her left hand. Don't ask why. She gently picked it up, and poised it in her hand like it was the most natural thing while watching Dora, like she was supposed to.

As soon as she got there, she took off right for the upstairs like she owned the place. When I dragged out a canvas bucket of toys, she came shuffling back down the stairs saying, "Oh thank you, thank you!"

She says the most marvelous whole sentences that I wouldn't expect to come out of her mouth like, "I just pooped in my pants!" I checked, she hadn't pooped, she'd done number 1, but close enough.

Putting her to bed was an un-fun experience. I turned off Dora the Explorer and she looked at me, looked at the computer, looked at me, opened her mouth and said "Whaaaaaaahhhhhhh!" The biggest fake crying I'd ever heard. "Oh stop," I said but she continued. "WHAAAHHH. WHAAAHHH." Until eventually it died down because she saw I wasn't having any of it. Then I pushed her into her pajamas while she wiggled all around. We laid down in bed and I turned the lights low and read three books to her. They were short. Then I carried her downstairs to change her diaper. She was relatively docile and afterwards said, "I want to wake up now, I want to change my clothes, I want to wake up now." Meaning she wanted a new day to begin, which mean she should wear day clothes.

"But it's night time," I said. "It's time for bed." She didn't like that idea. We laid down together on my bed and I turned the lights off. While I tried to doze off, she moved all around the bed. She'd wiggle around, lay down for a couple seconds, and move around some more, like a circling dog trying to find just the right spot. At 10:30 or so, we went down to have two bananas since she hadn't eaten well and I thought she might be hungry. She 'helped' to cut the banana by trying to saw at it with the flat of the knife. Afterward, we went back to try our hands at the impossible process of sleeping again. At one point I opened my eyes and she was staring at me, her little eyes pinned on my face, about two inches away. I smiled and rubbed her hair. "Go to sleep," I said and closed my eyes again. A little later I felt her tiny hands on my arm, pushing at me gently to see if I'd wake up. I kept my eyes closed and waited. Eventually she settled. I'd given her bottle to her earlier and she started drinking from it. Her nose was a little stuffed, so it was the loudest drinking I'd ever heard. Eventually I thought, that bottle has to run out sometime, right??

In the morning I woke up and she was curled into herself, her body the opposite direction from mine. She slept until I'd taken a shower, gotten dressed, put on make up. I had to wake up her up and gently force her into clothes. Not so excited now to get dressed for the day, huh Ashley?

Bye dear friend

Maybe not REALLY a goodbye because she'll be around somewhere, but my co-worker at work, a fellow newsroom assistant, had her last day yesterday. She retired. She wore her new jersey that the newsroom bought her and we had a little party. Pamela, one of the reporters, had set everything up. She even called some old co-workers who don't work there anymore. She also made this wonderful scrapbook with all these photos of Eleanor through the years. She's been at the newspaper over 20 years. It was exciting for her to see how much people loved her. And sad for me.

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