Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Tartan and Snake Print; Freedom and Gratitude

To all my American friends and readers, 
Happy Thanksgiving!
It is my most favorite of ALL the American holidays, and I am so happy to celebrate my 17th Thanksgiving this year! I am truly thankful for my life, for everything that it throws at me, good and bad, I love it all. I really came to believe that contrast is what shapes us - what helps us to sort out the infinite ways of life, choose what feels right to us (to each, their own!), and what makes us who we become. It's easy to feel gratitude for good times, but I've learned to love my disappointments and crisis just as well, because like nothing else, they really teach me to focus on what I want to experience, on what I actually want my life to be. If everything comes easy, then how can we know what is important to us and what is not? How could we learn to appreciate? And how could we ever be able to make choices and stick to our dreams? And our freedom to dream and freedom to make choices is what it's all about to me. That's what I celebrate on this day, and I am deeply and forever 

My holiday gear is comfy, and almost everything is thrifted or well-loved from my closet. The 100% wool jacket with a velvet detail reminds me of late 1980s - early 1990s, and I got it secondhand, as well as the snake print cotton pants by Ralph Lauren. The rainproof leather booties will see their 6th winter, the turtleneck is about the same age. The necklace is from a large retailer, but I bought it on clearance long ago and enjoy wearing it (it got our jeweller friend's attention, and I believe that the stones are genuine).

Lately, I've been working on a couple of books (one new story, and another one is a new edition of an older story); on starting my new Russian Story Time program with local libraries (fingers crossed); and on making contacts in the local community, with great Justin's help. Recently, we had an honor to present our books and birch bark boxes (with an exclusive Andrei Lialin's collection) at the holiday bazaar at the local school, in support of a great educational opportunities for the students. I wasn't feeling well, so Justin was there by himself, presenting our work, answering questions, and meeting neighbors. 

You can see the Andrei Lialin's collection on his site HERE (boxes, containers, 3D art).
I also wrote about his artwork in THIS POST.

Justin was full of stories to share after all, and one of my favorite ones was about a little boy from a Russian family who had two dollars and wanted to spend them on a birch bark piece! Luckily for him, we willingly work with our customers, and Justin made him a deal and sold him a hand-carved birch bark ring. Another story that touched my heart deeply was a lady who purchased SUPERSEAL, our bilingual picture book, for her little neighbor from a Russian-speaking family who are new immigrants and don't speak a word of English just yet - and all their kids have to attend school! I applaud to this kind and perceptive lady who realized that by engaging a child with a story that he can read in his mother language, while seeing a parallel text in English at the same time, it will be so much less intimidating to him to start learning a new language! It sure will - that was the whole intent behind my idea of bilingual books, and I salute those who can understand, appreciate and support it!

It's this sort of stories that always warm my heart - human stories. That was always my favorite part during the years when I traveled to different cities and states with the birch bark collection, and later years when I organized and lead a Russian speaking community in the South Sound, and now when I can offer my books to those who need them - to the children, the courageous little girls and boys who learn to master more than one language at once. Very often it isn't their choice, but how rewarding it feels to overcome this big challenge.

I am wishing you a happy holiday, tasty feast and cozy time with your loved ones! 
And I thank you for reading my blog and being such a wonderful part of my life!

Love and gratitude,


  1. very moving, very touching post - my dear friend!
    you´r so right - we need bad times to learn & know how our good times should look. and being grateful is so important for our happiness - most people today forgot about it and lament despite having a good & secure life - and feel unhappy in the result........
    you are such a wise girl <3
    and looking posh late 80s :-D (lately have a soft spot for that myself) love the bright red sweater with the earthy tones of tartan & snakeprint and your gold jewelry! perfect for a candle lit thanksgiving dinner.
    speaking of - how lovely that justin helped out at the stall while you´r felt unwell - so sweet stories he brought home
    <3 :-D
    hope you feel much better already!
    big festive hugs to you! much love!!! xxxxxxx

    1. Thank you for your kind words, dear Beate! It feels rewarding to read such a touching feedback as yours. But even when I go back and re-read my own words which I was able to write from the inner place of strength (or wisdom, as you say) - it helps me. Because I definitely don't feel as strong and wise all the time. It helps to know that there is such a place within me which I can access at any time, if I make an effort.
      Lots of love!

  2. lovely post, moving and heartwarming!. I feel encouraged to be more grateful and love my whole life, including those bad moments which create a contrast and make that good experiences shine and glow!. Love your inspiring attitude!
    And you look gorgeous in those rusty-earthy colors, the cute top and bag matching colors, the wool jacket, the fab mixed prints!. Really elegant!

    1. Thank you, dear Monica! I am very touched that you feel inspired and encouraged. It isn't easy to love out challenging times, and mostly we can be grateful for them after they pass. But there is a moment when we can actually reach out to our inner selves and find that place of strength - a place of wisdom, gratitude and love - even while being in the middle of struggle. And those moments are really empowering!
      Lots of love!

  3. Reading your post has really warmed my heart, Natalia. At a time when there seems to be nothing but bad news and negativity, it's so refreshing to meet someone with your positive attitude. People - me included - should take a leaf out of your book and be thankful for all things, great and small, life is throwing at them. I totally agree with you that you haven't truly lived if nothing bad has ever happened to you and/or there haven't been any disappointments. It's all part of the tapestry of who we are. As for your outfit, you are wearing these delicious, earthy tones very well. I'm totally smitten with the trousers! Hugest of hugs and Happy Thanksgiving! xxx

    1. Thank you, dear Ann! When we experience disappointments, it means we really put ourselves out there - we took risks and leap of faith, trying to accomplish something that is really important to us. And the more important it is, the more it hurts when we didn't succeed, therefore we feel disappointed. So at very least we can be proud of ourselves for being true to who we are and for trying. But when we feel stronger, we can learn something from that experience which will help us to grow and succeed the next time we try.
      Lots of love!

  4. Being grateful is so important. I think it's the perfect way to acknowledge the blessings in our life...and there are always blessings, even in the hardest of times. There is so much beauty within ourselves and within other people if we only open our eyes to it, if we only acknowledge the healing power of love.

    Wonderful stories you shared today! Language learning is less frightening in form of stories. I'm sure those kids will enjoy and benefit from your bilingual stories. I tried reading the stories to my nephew and niece in Russian but with my Croatian pronunciation it just sounds like slightly different Croatian to them. I can't pronounce the Russian sounds properly at all, my pronunciation is typical Southern Slavic one. :)

    This is a gorgeous outfit btw. I love print mixing. Happy Thanksgiving!

    I do have a question. Did you brother made ALL of those birch boxes? That's a lot of boxes. Did he make the one I have?

    1. Ivana, thank you for your comment and your question, it's a good one. I usually mention that Andrei's birch bark collection is a very special one, where each piece is unique. It is designed by him and made by him 100% (he even made his own tools, and gathered material for his art himself, with my father). He does not work with birch bark these days, so whatever I have is absolutely one-of-a-kind, and I only have a few pieces left (it is selling out). I updated my post with a link to his site, but I will also drop the link here and add it to my upper bar (I did have it a while ago, but I made some changes since that). Here you can find out more about Andrei's art:
      There are also videos about his other artwork, including the work-in-progress photos.

      We also sell birch bark items (boxes, jewelry) by other artisans from Siberia and the Ural Mountains. I believe that the box I sent to you was from the Ural region, and the earrings are from Tomsk (Siberia). Those items are also 100% hand made, but they are made by crafters rather than artists, so there can be a few boxes of the same design.

    2. Thank you for your explanation. I remember seeing some of his works on a site. These things are masterpieces, especially the 3D flowers and houses. It's amazing that something like that can be made out of wood, he really took this traditional craft to a new level.

      Wishing you a blessed and relaxing weekend!

    3. Thank you for your kind words, dear Ivana! It is wonderful to meet someone who is able to appreciate talent, and as you know yourself, it doesn't happen too often. Lots of love!

  5. Happy Thanksgiving Natalia. I love reading this post. I love the idea of the bilingual books.
    Your brother made wonderful boxes. You look amazing Natalia, your pants remember me, I have one snake print pants in violet. Maybee I have to wear it ;)
    Love your jacket and this wonderful necklace.
    With a very huge hug and much love, Tina

    1. Thank you, dear Tina! Violet snake print - what could be more on trend right now? Of course - wear them and share with us! Lots of love!!

  6. Your outfit is stunning. I love the mix of snakeskin and plaid, a subtle print mix. What heart warming stories, especially working with children.

  7. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yoursm, Natalia! You're a beacon of positivity. xxx

  8. What a sensational outfit dear Natalia! The plaid and snake print is a dynamite combination and I love the way the solid lining comes through with the jacket. Just so beautiful and full of textures and dimension.
    Congratulations on the library commitment. Yes to your books being read by many.
    Glad you enjoyed thanksgiving!