August 15, 2014


I've started to learn more about Lightroom only now. We have owned it for about five years and never really got past the basics of editing. But that is now changing. Inspired by new the techniques I've learned in Lightroom, I ran outside with Naaman and the kids to do a quick shoot. These pictures are the results and I am pleased.

July 27, 2014

We Choose Joy

Naaman and I are goal driven people. We are dreamers and we are visionaries.  We talk all the time about how different our future will be and what we aim to accomplish. We are constantly creating something out of nothing, building castles in the sky (maybe someday in France?) and trying to figure out how exactly are we going to get there. Most people would probably laugh at all of our dreams, calling us unrealistic and uncommitted to our current circumstances and maybe, just maybe, a few might find us a bit inspiring.

Come over to our home and see that we are visual people driven by images and ideas. Our walls are covered with pictures of products we want to produce or places we want to go. Books and magazines on our shelves speak of decorating gorgeous chateaus, traveling far and wide, and being successful beyond our wildest dreams. Inspirational quotes motivate us to keep pushing forward. There's nothing like looking up and seeing the words "I can & I will" to help us move to the next task. Or being reminded daily that "You create your own opportunities". We find that the only thing that satisfies is to have these dreams and move towards them.

A simple life, content with day to day tasks of the home or office will never ever be "it" for us. That is simply not who we are. However, there are a few issues with our lifestyle choice and we have found out one in particular lately, which is being stuck in Go. We get so caught up in "Let's Move Forward" and "We Have To Get Ahead" that the Now stops being enjoyable. Jude becomes frustrating and a burden, our minds get warped with thoughts of "not good enough" and we don't even have time for each other. And I mean real time for each other. Not a date out (with the kids) or "we see each other all day isn't that enough?" kind of thing. We seemed to be doing things all day long but not getting anything done. That kind of living is really tiring!

So we addressed it and it was a good, good thing. We realized that we need to choose joy, actively. Expecting to be happy all the time and having a fantastic married life, with kids, just does not happen without work. And part of that work is choosing joy. No more multitasking our kids into our work. No more multitasking period! (It really is useless, I mean I think I'm getting more things done when in reality I am taking twice as long to finish anything.) No more days of just living together. Marriage has be done on purpose otherwise it "accidentally" gets messed up. No more halfway jobs. If I am playing with Jude, I am completely there body and mind. If I am working, I am completely attentive to the task at hand. If we are focusing on our relationship, the kids are somewhere else, it's just us now. And in everything, we try to remember that regardless of what we are working toward, right now will never happen again and we need to enjoy it while it lasts.

And you know what? It's been working! Our brains are not constantly overloaded. Jude is actually a really sweet and clever kid! Teddy is the peach he has always been. Our marriage is happier. We actually flirt! It was so much easier to flirt when we were dating. After marriage it was kind of taken for granted or we stopped trying, I don't know. And we are getting more work done! Things get accomplished and our goals seem nearer and clearer. Our lives are far from perfect but at least we are enjoying it day by day. And that really is the best way to live.

July 25, 2014

Skuut: Toddler Balance Bike

The weather has been ridiculously nice lately, at least in the evenings, and Jude has had a lot of chances to practice riding on his Christmas present, a Skuut balance bike. It's a toddler size bike without pedals and a very small turning radius. The idea is that the real difficulty in learning how to ride a bicycle lies in balancing it not pedaling. So this bike is supposed to teach the kids how to balance first and balance well, before they try pedaling anything. It's wood body makes it really light and easy to maneuver for little humans. And the small turning radius keeps them from veering off too far in one direction and crashing. Like all balance bikes, this one doesn't have any brakes to confuse the rider, instead the child drags their feet to stop. 

It took Jude several tries before he was comfortable on the bike, and then several more runs on it before he was confident enough to pick up speed. Now he rides ahead of us on walks and zooms around for his exercise. It really is a great little balance bike. Cost wise it wasn't that much more than a regular bicycle. I ordered it from Amazon for $75 (not including tax). The seat is adjustable so it grows with your kid. Also you can flip the frame upside down so it is lower to the ground and more friendly to the youngest of riders. Just make sure your kid has good braking shoes and don't go on any serious hills. If you haven't started your kid on a bike yet, I totally recommend buying this one as a beginner bike. Or if you know someone who has it, ask if your kid could try it out. It definitely brings a bit of happiness to Jude.
 xo, Yana.

p.s. I now realize that I spelled Skuut wrong in the video.. :p

July 11, 2014

Spelt-flour Yorkshire Puddings

I wanted something tasty and simple to make for gouter and came across Yorkshire pudding in Mary McCartney's vegetarian cookbook Food. It doesn't look anything like what we Americans would think of as pudding. It's a light bread-like almost pastry, that is normally eaten as a savory food with meat. I wanted it for a sweet treat so I added just a bit of cinnamon and poured maple syrup on top. The effect was truly tasty, reminiscent of french toast. Watching these guys bake was fun even for me. As they grew big Jude jumped up and down and giggled at how "ginomous" they were getting.

We have started to phase out wheat flour, because more and more studies are showing that wheat in general, has a lot of negative effects on the human body. So for this recipe I used spelt flour instead of wheat. It will be an adventure to try other grains and ancient grains like amaranth, buckwheat, sorghum, tapioca, teff and almond for baking. I also used coconut oil because it does not break down and turn rancid in high heat. My first attempt with these puddings was successful and I am definitely going to make them again.

Yorkshire Puddings (adapted from Food by Mary McCartney)

muffin tin
3/4 cup spelt flour
pinch Himalayan salt
2 large, organic free-range eggs
1 1/4 cups full fat, vat-pasturized, non-homogenized, organic, jersey cow milk
unrefined organic extra-virgin coconut oil (in liquid form, it melts by itself around 76 degrees)
........if desired 1/2 teaspoon organic cinnamon power

Sift the flour into a medium-sized mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt. Crack the eggs in and whisk together with the flour, then gradually pour in the milk, stirring constantly. (I ended up adding a couple tablespoons more of flour). Beat all the ingredients together until the batter is the consistency of cream. (No lumps). Refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes. (I looked it up and it is up for debate whether refrigeration and rest is necessary, I say it depends on how much time you have before you want to eat them.) 

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I say this now because if you refrigerate the batter it seems a waste to keep the oven on this high for 30 min.)
Pour 1 teaspoon of oil into the bottom of each of the wells of the muffin tin (or about 1 cm of oil per well). Put the muffin tin in the oven to heat the oil until it's very hot -- almost smoking hot (about 4 minutes).

Pour the batter into a measuring cup with a spout and then pour it equally into each well in the tin (you should hear it sizzle and it should bubble). Use a spoon to collect any leaky batter from the measuring cup in between wells. Return the tin to the oven and bake the puddings for 20-25 minutes, until they have risen and are deep golden brown. Pour a bit of maple syrup on each pudding if desired.

Jamie Oliver did a great youtube video on how to properly bake these puddings. View it here too see what you are getting into. Enjoy! xo, Yana.

July 8, 2014

Summer Cloth Diapering

I am not a hot weather girl. The sun is amazing, beautifully warm weather is to live for and getting a glowing tan is gorgeous, but hot, sweaty, humid weather is pretty much the worst. What makes it worse, is how it conflicts with using cloth diapers on my babies. If I myself am feeling wretched in hot weather, what does my baby feel like in the same weather plus a plastic diaper cover. It must be so hot and sweaty and uncomfortable. Just imagine what it would be like to wear a plastic bag, with holes cut out for legs, in really hot weather.What a joke! It's almost a sort of cruel punishment. So when the weather gets extremely uncomfortable, I put away the reusables, and whip out the disposable (chlorine and chemical free) diapers.

Still I can't shake off a bit of guilt about using disposable diapers. Just the idea of billions of diapers piling high at the dump makes me feel super irresponsible for using them. I could learn elimination communication (infant potty training) and have my babies out of diapers around age one. Or figure out what they used before disposable diapers were invented. Sometimes I just let a diaper-less Teddy lay on a blanket  to let him air out and cool down.

I would love to know the rest of you cloth diapering mama's do in hot weather. Do you also keep a stash of (contraband) disposables on hand?

xo, Yana.

May 19, 2014

Lion's Head Dresser

I've been perusing Pinterest lately, putting together what I would want the boys' nursery to look like. It has to be several things: bright, clean/white, some fun colors, zero trademarked things, original art, geometric, mini-man feel, and lastly some wood and leather is a must. When this room will physically come together, only God knows at this point, because we have just signed the lease for our second year in the one bedroom apartment. We all four are in one bedroom right now, but it's cozy and it works well. However, I have started diy-ing and collecting some pieces that will eventually make their way into a chic little room for my boys.

For starters I saw this pin and the dresser immediately caught my eye. I actually like the whole feel of the "Rock Me, mama" room, but the dresser stood out. Could I buy a similar dresser?  No, not on our budget. Could I diy one? Yes! So we went to Ikea and picked up two Rast dressers. I tell you, these dressers have seen so many different hacks. They are perfectly raw and could be painted, stained, covered in fabric, etc, etc. Just do an "Ikea Rast dresser hack" search online and so many different diy's will pop up.
They were the right size and price (34.99 each) for my project, so we bought them.

I really wanted it to look like a campaign dresser, but the campaign pulls that I found online were between $12 to $30 per. So I decided to add a bit of whimsy to these dressers and buy lions head pulls for $3.21 each instead. These dressers would live as nightstands for the time being, right next to our heads, so Naaman and I wanted to make sure we wouldn't be breathing in all sorts of chemicals from the stain while we slept. So we searched for and found a superb sealant. It is very low voc, non-toxic, odorless when it dries and it seals in any chemical off-gassing, everything we were looking for.

I lined the bottoms of each shelf will this great wood grain wrapping paper. I had almost passed it by during the holidays at HomeGoods. I walked by it once, held it and put it back, and then went back to get it. It was unusual because the roll was heavier than the other wrapping paper rolls standing next to it. Upon closer examination I found that this wrapping paper was made of STONE! How cool! I had to buy it. It feels smoother than paper and has a colder feel to it, and it feels creamy when you cut it with scissors. How they can make stone into wrapping paper I don't know, but it looks great.

 This is really one of the simplest diys but not exactly cheap. It ended up costing under $170 but hey that's for two adorable dressers, and real campaign furniture is so much more costly for just one dresser. This is what I used:

Ikea Rast Dresser $34.99 x2
Cabot High Gloss Wood Stain & Sealant in Georgia Clay ($12.87)
AFM Safecoat Hard Seal ($19.70 + $11.44 s/h from Amazon)
Lions Head Pulls ($3.21 each) x12
Brass Corners ($2.47 per package of four) x6
                                                                                      Total Cost $167.33

Step One : STAIN
It would be best to stain the wood before assembling the dressers. I needed the storage space and it took us a bit to buy all of the supplies, so we had assembled these dressers before we stained them, but I do think that it'd be easier to stain them first and then assemble them.

Step Two: SEAL
The sealant that we used is really close to water consistency, so you need just a bit on your brush. Paint it on and let it dry completely before adding additional coats. I did three coats of sealant.

Align the brasd corners as close as you can to the outside corners of each drawer. Drill holes just a bit smaller than the screws, in the right position. Screw in the screws.

Ikea is the master at creating furniture that assembles easily. It doesn't take very long. Do not attach the knobs that the dressers come with.

Figure out if the holes in the drawer fronts are big enough for your pulls. I had to make them a bit bigger for the lions head pulls to fit. Screw them in. You will also need some washers to help them from twisting around.

Put your dressers where you want and adorn them with accessories and lamps. You are done!

I really like the way mine turned out. They're not campaign like, but they'll work for my boys. Also they could work somewhere else later on because they are not childish looking. It's feels great to have done a successful DIY. I hope this brings some inspiration to you this Monday evening. xo, Yana.

March 5, 2014

By Yourself

I could go to sleep and join them but somehow there is something irresistible to being the only one awake. There is a sense of peace and safety about. Everyone is sleeping but me. Instead I am here, baking, sewing, enjoying mellow indie , and just really happy to be spending time with myself. I saw this pin on Pinterest today and it got me thinking if I do as it suggests.
I think that happiness in life relates very closely to the concept of enjoying your own company. How can anyone else like to be around you if you don't like to be around yourself? I bet this is key to having good self-esteem. Being able to be happy with yourself and giving yourself a break from scrutiny of faults and any other negative thoughts toward yourself. After all there's only one you and life isn't long enough to spend too much time picking yourself apart. Let's focus less on ourselves and just be. Enjoy your own company.