Monday, March 26, 2012

2 days in Lviv

Hello Bloggers,

Today's post has nothing crafty in it.  This is just a long summary of my weekend in Lviv.  Stop back later this week for some stamping and card making goodness.  Today is just for family and friends that want an update on Lviv.  Read it if you are at all interested in Eastern Europe.  I won't mind if you skip it also.

It's good to be home.  I enjoy my business and personal travel, but no matter where I go, who I go with or how long I am gone, there is a real joy in returning home.  Ah, it is wonderful to sleep in my own bed, pet my dogs and get back into a normal routine!

So let me tell you about Lviv Ukraine.

1) Lviv has fabulous and interesting coffee shops.  They were EVERYWHERE and each one was unique and interesting.  There were big ones, small ones, fancy ones, modern ones, portable ones... every type.  They served mostly espresso and cappuccino and yes, it was good coffee. We only saw one coffee shop that was an American Brand.  You are thinking - of course - Starbucks - but no.  It was Gloria Jeans...  This is the Lviv Gloria Jeans.  I've never seen a more beautiful Gloria Jeans in all my life.    We had dinner there Friday night because Sarah was craving lettuce salad and they had a nice cafe menu.
2) Lviv streets and architecture were stunningly beautiful.  This was not a Disney World replica of old world Europe - this was the real thing.  Gorgeous churches, stunning government buildings, lovely museums and incredible opera houses filled the city.

3) Soviet Influence.  It is truly hard to believe that people my age would have lived more than half their life under soviet rule and that in this generation this entire country had to rebuild itself.  There was still a large soviet influence in many aspects of the city.  Most noticeable (to me) was the uniformed security in the city and airport. We had a large burly soviet looking man who sat on the couch in the hotel lobby 24/7.  At one point I was tempted to go down and get a coffee, but the thought of passing this man scared me away.  Keep in mind our hotel lobby was very tiny.  See below:
I was glad that this man was in casual clothes and not a uniform, but when I saw a uniformed Ukraine man, it was intimidating.    See below for the airport security uniform.  Very interesting and very different.  Great hat don't you think?
We had dinner at a favorite tourist site - it was called #14 market square.  There were no signs, you just knocked on a big wooden door under the #.  You had to give a password 'glory to Ukraine' to get in and it had all soviet era stuff everywhere.  There were guns that were attached to the wall via a cord that you could take out and have your photo taken with them.  There were soviets with guns (fake) wandering the restaurant and at one point when Sarah went to the rest room, a waiter screamed at her, get back in, it's not safe.  Not knowing what was going on, she retreated into the girls room for a moment only to realize it was part of the theatrical ambiance. 

4) Shopping:  Lviv has very interesting shopping.  We went to a pharmacy, convenience store and shopping mall.  All were very different from American Shopping.  When you go to the pharmacy and convenience store there is no browsing.  All items for purchase are behind the counter and you ask the clerk for what you need.  This is actually very inefficient because a line forms and the clerk can only wait on one person at a time.  Sarah wanted to buy conditioner for her hair and she asked questions about two products and the others behind us just had to wait while she decided and paid before they were helped.  The same was true when I bought a water bottle at the convenience store.   I could not take the water bottle out of the cooler.  The clerk got it for me and checked me out.  The shopping mall was interesting and fun.  There were no large dept stores.  Everything was small shops that specialized in one thing - maybe clothes, maybe just jeans, maybe shoes, maybe make-up.  It was not especially efficient and reminded me of a large indoor flea-market.

And oh my, the fashions in Ukraine.  Very urban and young and wild.  Tight is the way to go and lots of things had zippers or spandex.  All the shoes were heels and even in the end of March they were selling mostly boots - either high boots or ankle boots.  It seems boots are year round attire in Ukraine.  There were also some fun outdoor markets for tourists.  Lots of religious artwork, hand crafted linens and soviet era trinkets.  I got some fun hand painted eggs for our easter baskets.

5) Churches.  Lviv had some beautiful churches.  Gorgeous buildings with gold dome tops and ornate statues.  We didn't get a chance to really go inside, but they were everywhere -  mostly catholic (I'm guessing) and architecturally stunning.

This one (above) was the 'mall church.' It was made of wood and was right in front of the mall and very pretty.  The two below were in the heart of the city and very typical of the traditional, historic churches in Lviv.  Really, really pretty.

6) Food.  Ukrainian food was different, but tasty.  I was glad that I had Sarah there to help me order.  I would have had no clue.  One thing I would not have ordered that we saw on the menu (more than once) was fried lard.  Yuck.  The foods I did enjoy were crepes (for breakfast), potato pancakes (for lunch), borsch (with dinner), meat dumplings (also with dinner), and Apple Strudel (yummy dessert.)  We also enjoyed hot mulled wine, cold sangria and beer.
Sarah was craving western food, so we also had Asian food (sushi for me, stir-fry for Sarah) and lettuce salads.  So, I only had a few Ukrainian meals this trip which was just fine with me.

7) Prices.  Sarah was outraged at how expensive things were in the city, but I found everything very affordable.  For instance, a 20 minute taxi ride to the airport was 45 hryvnia.  A 75 minute hair cut and style at a nice salon was 200 hryvnia.  So that was a $5.00 taxi ride and a $25.00 haircut.  Keep in mind that there is no tipping, so that makes it really affordable in my book.  At one point I ordered an entree for lunch that was 80 hryvnia.  Sarah was like - that is so expensive.  I can't believe you spent 80 hryvnia on that.  I was like - that is 10.00 bucks.  I spend ten bucks at Panera bread and don't really think of that as expensive and my entree was at a nice restaurant with table service.  Everything is relative, but I was happy to boost the Ukraine economy with my business.  Surprisingly clothes and shoes were not inexpensive. Unlike America there are no sales and discounts except for rare cases of out of season merchandise.  Keep in mind that black is a year - round color and they wear boots year round so these were not on sale when we went looking.  Sarah found a nice pair of pants, but they were 500 hryvnia - which is like $50.00.  As you all know in the US, you can hit a Kohl's sale and get a nice pair of pants for much less than that.  In Ukraine, all the stores had similar prices, just different styles and $50.00 was the going rate for pants and jeans.  Boots were similarly priced also.  Below is Sarah wearing her new pants that she bought with the birthday money her grandmother sent over.
8) People.  The people of Ukraine were wonderfully friendly and hospitable.  They were also beautiful,  thin and  fashionable.  Everywhere we went and we interacted with people they went out of the way to help us and ask us about where we were from and why we were here.  The store keeper in the mall where Sarah got her pants was very chatty, telling us about his girls and his family.  The maid in the public rest room was also very chatty as was anyone we conversed with. The women (both young and middle-aged) were beautiful.  The culture certainly emphasizes hair styling, make-up and fashion.  They were stunningly beautiful, most with long styled hair (yes, many with wide bangs), tight black pants and beautiful high heeled boots.  Below is very representative of how the average 20 something would dress - except the girls we saw had fashion scarfs around their necks to stay warm.  This time of year there wasn't a lot of skin showing - even though the weather was warm.  Sarah says they dress warm for fear of getting sick.  America could learn a lesson about this. How many of us have seen young people with shorts on in January when it's snowing out!

The older women had their own fasions.  They were plain, didn't do themselves up at all, but they were charming and beautiful too, just in a very different way.  There were lots of these Babushka - widowed grandmother types with scarfs on their heads and more peasant clothes.  They were all over the city selling flowers or trinkets on the streets.
As for men, they were handsome, often burly and big, mostly with short hair.  They don't smile in photos, nor was their typical expression smiley.  I generally found them to be scary, but I rarely found myself interacting with them.  I'm sure if I got to know them, they would be wonderful.
9) Transportation. Oh. My. Word.  What an interesting and unusual airport Lviv has.  Let me first clarify that a new airport is almost done.  So this charming and entertaining airport will soon be just a thing of the past.  It was adorable, cute and crazy.  Not like any other airports I've been in, but even with it's old fashioned characteristics, it seemed quite secure and regulated so no worries there.  Can you believe they weighed my luggage on an old fashioned scale?

The first picture is the outside of the front of the building.  When the taxi pulled up I almost asked him, are you sure you understood that I wanted to go the airport?  Doesn't this look like a library or museum?  It's the airport!
Below is the inside of the main terminal.  Pretty quiet in this picture, but when I flew in on Friday afternoon, it was packed.  Don't you love those old fashioned counters and the columns?  The ceiling was super cool too.

Remember how I said they weighed my luggage on an old fashioned scale?  Below is the check in counter.  Do you see the blue thing on the right side?  That was the scale.  They took my bags over, put them on that and that was their weight system.

Below is the actual gate where we waited until it was time to board the plane.  It was small, cramped and crowded, but everyone was friendly and it was fine.

 And this is the duty free shop.  They didn't miss the opportunity to make some money, even if the facilities were small.
This picture is the terminal from the 'back.'  The gate had us take a shuttle to board the plane on the runway.  I took this picture as we drove past the terminal.  Can you see air traffic control tower above the columned building?  Luckily there are only a few flights in and out each day so air traffic control is probably a pretty cushy job at this airport.
In this photo below, I am about to board the plane, but you can see the new airport in the background.  It looks 10 times bigger than the current one with glass everywhere.  They are working hard to finish it so all the crazy football fans can fly in for the big Euro 2012 games that will be held in Poland and Ukraine starting in June.  It looks a long way from being done, but I'm sure they'll finish it in time.

Before I leave the topic of transportation, let's talk about cars, buses and trolleys.  The streets are all cobblestone in the city.  All of them.  That made for a beautiful sight, but a bumpy cab ride.  Below is a photo of the street near our hotel.  Most of the cars (including cabs) were very old.

The intersections were treacherous.  As you can see from the above picture they have these 5 way intersections with no rotary, but traffic lights.  The trolley lines run through here also as you can see from the tracks and the wires.  There was some beeping and yielding and a little confusion here - often but no accidents.  At least not on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

The buses were fine.  They were cheap, reliable and crowded.  Sarah and I decided to do a bus trip from the mall to the city instead of a cab. It was fun, but I don't do it every day.  Lots of people were on the bus and we toured the suburban neighborhoods dropping people and picking them up along the way.

10) So, I've been talking a lot about Lviv and the city and the sights, but let's talk for about my reason for being in Ukraine in the first place.  Let's talk about my darling daughter Sarah.  It was so good to see her.  I cried when I hugged her in the airport, and I cried harder when I left, but it's all good.  It's just emotions coming out.  We had some nice time to talk and hang out and it was great.  She is doing so well.  I am so proud of the beautiful woman she is becoming.  She is already different (in a good way from when she left.)  She is confident, strong, expressive, thoughtful and compassionate.  I'm so happy she is learning, growing and helping the world be a better place.  She reluctantly allowed me to spoil her a bit, which was easy since the prices were low by my standards.  She hadn't had a haircut in a long time so I took her to a salon.  She finished with 'movie star' hair.

Above is the start... Below is the finished product.  It was a little 'big' at first.
 As the day went on it settled down nicely.

She's still a little homesick, but she's made friends, both locals in her village and with other peace corp volunteers in neighboring towns.  She's making plans to tour for a week this summer in Europe to see Budapest, Vienna and Prague.  How cool is that for her?  She's really got a good grasp of the language and she continues to work at it.  I was amazed that she was able to talk to everyone and anyone in Ukraine and they all seemed to understand her very well.  I was impressed.  She'll be quite proficient at it by the time she leaves.

We had a fun, but busy time together and I'm so thankful I got to see her.  Thanks for stopping by today and reading about my trip.  Leave a comment if you know how.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Papertrey Ink March Blog Hop

Hi everyone,

Today is Papertrey Ink's blog hop.

The challenge this week was to make a card based on the photo below.  Don't you just love this inspiration photo?  These yellows, whites and blue green colors are wonderful together.  I also love all the candy.  Yum.  Did you notice the Laffy Taffy in the bottom right corner?  I love yellow laffy taffy (banana flavor.)  I'm just like a kid when it comes to these things.  Most adults I know think it taste awful - so artificial and super sweet, but I love it (in small doses.)

I decided to use my daisy stamp from the friendship jar fillers set for my card.  I had fun creating this warm sunshiny card using my new gingham aqua mist paper and yellow copic markers.  I kept the design clean and simple.  I kept trying to add something and each time, kept going back to the less is more concept.

For those who follow my blog you know that today I am in Lviv Ukraine visiting my daughter, heading home this afternoon.  We had a great weekend together.  Lviv is so very interesting.  If anyone wants to experience wonderful hospitality, art, music, history at an affordable price - head to Lviv.   The city is BEAUTIFUL and the people are very friendly, entertaining and talkative.  And there is NOTHING american about it.  It is truly an 'old world' European city that hasn't been corrupted infiltrated with western culture.  It's not that far either.  There are easy connections via Germany, UK and France.   My daughter is living in a small village about 4 hours away.  It was her first time int he city also and she really loved it.  Spending a few days with her was great.  She is thriving as a peace corp volunteer teaching here in Ukraine and that makes a momma proud and happy - you know!

I'll have a longer post tomorrow with details and photo's if you are interested in stopping back.

Above is a quick photo of my beautiful daughter at the shopping bazaar.  Below is a photo of both of us at 'high castle.'
Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today.  I hope you enjoy your day.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Impression Obsession - Spring is in the air

Good morning bloggers,

I have a challenge card to show you today.  Impression Obsession is hosting a 'spring is in the air' challenge.  How easy is that? In my neighborhood, not only is spring in the air, it's in the ground too.  I saw my neighbor's crocus's blooming while walking the dogs yesterday.  I have a feeling my daffodils will be blooming within the week.  Don't you just love spring?
For this challenge, I inked up my I/O stamp - F2290 Flower Pitchers and colored it with pinks and yellows.  I pulled out some my minds eye patterned papers and followed one of my favorite sketches.  I added a flower accent on the side with the sentiment 'you rock.'  This card is perfect for just about anyone.

Check out the I/O website to see what others came up with and/or to join the fun.

I'm off for my morning run, then to church and then a little relaxing with the family before I head to the airport for my trip to Germany and Ukraine.  Stop back next weekend if you want to see pictures.

Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Have a great day.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bloggers Challenge and Europe Trip Update

Hi bloggers,

Today the bloggers challenge is to make a birthday card.  Since Sarah's birthday is in early April, this was a perfect opportunity to make that card.

I wanted to do something really nice for her on her 23rd birthday so I took some ideas from Nichole Heady and CASE'd a card she made.  To case a card means basically to copy it.

 I don't own the same supplies that Nichole did, so mine looks different in a variety of ways, but I can't take credit for the beautiful design.  I just executed one using her design.  So this one below is mine.

And the next one is Nichole's

Isn't this lovely.  I adore the color combination and the design effect.  I am very excited that I'll be able to hand deliver this beautiful card to Sarah next week.  I have a business trip to Munich Germany and I looked into flights to Ukraine.  I was so happy that there was a direct flight from Munich to Lviv and it's less than 500 miles and under 2 hours.  When I added the Lviv city onto my trip and a Saturday night stay, the flight from Boston-Munich-Lviv-Boston was less than a direct flight from Boston-Munich.  Awesome.  So of course, I made arrangements to fly from Munich Friday to Lviv to see my girl.  I think Sarah will have to take a 4-6 hour train ride to get to Lviv from her village, but she is able to take Friday off and it is not a problem.

I am excited to experience eastern Europe.   I think I'm in for an adventure and I think Sarah will enjoy seeing me, getting all the stuff I'll bring her and seeing the city.  Below is a photo of the hotel that Sarah is going to reserve for us.  It looks very interesting and the reviews are good.

Because of my premium status on United, I get to bring checked 2 bags for no additional charge.  I have started to fill them and don't know how I'm going to get all the stuff she wants in the bags.  Plus I have to bring my work outfits and my laptop.  That will be my challenge this weekend.

Bob and I had planned to visit Sarah in her village in April.  Once my work trip came together and this weekend to Lviv, we decided to postpone our other visit to her until the summer.   Luckily I was able to modify our flights without penalty so now I'll see her in March and then again in June.  In June we'll have quite a bit of time to go into her village and also visit Budapest Hungary.  That should be an adventure also.

So that is my Europe trip update.  Stop back by and check out my updates and photos.  I'm sure I'll have a story of two.

Thanks for stopping by today.  Have a great day.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Make it Monday and an update on my running program

Hello Bloggers,

The Make It Monday technique from papertrey ink this week is 'colored kissing.'  I love this technique.  To do it, you stamp a solid stamp image on card stock.  Then add a background stamp image and stamp that on your solid image rubber stamp and then take that image and stamp it on your previously stamped image.  Very fun.

Here is my creation using this technique.  I'm loving orange this year - perfect for a man or woman.

So if you follow my blog, you may remember that about a month ago I started RUNNING.  I stuck with it and can proudly say I have completed the 21 days to a 30 minute running habit.

Below are 10 things that are different because I did this.

1) I am very aware of how different the weather is at 6:30am than the rest of the day.  Sadly, we always seem to have had our worst weather at 6:30 am and I was determined to not let the bad weather keep me from my running program.  One of my songs on my running song list is 'ain't no mountain high enough.'  One verse of the song goes 'no wind, no rain, no winter cold can stop me baby.'  That became my mantra as I ran in wind, rain, snow, and cold! Even though most days these past few weeks have warmed up, there were many, many days these past few weeks when it was 20 degrees at 6:30am.  Brrr.

2) I weigh 4.1 pounds less than I did when I started on February 20th.  It is very hard for me to lose weight.  Even when I follow my weight watcher program, I usually only lose less than 1/2 a pound a week.  With my running program, combined with weight watchers,  I am losing more like 1 pounds a week.

3) I am very aware of the terrain in my neighborhood.  I had no idea there was a slight incline on MacArthur Road. I had no idea there was a slight incline on Brookway.  I really sympathize with Boston Marathoners and the challenge of heart break hill.

4) My clothes fit nicer.  In addition to the weight loss, my legs are thinner and my tummy is smaller.   ( - :

5) Yoga is easier for me.  I used to really struggle with chair pose and warrier poses.  Now that my legs are stronger these poses are significantly easier.

6) I know the routine of the neighborhood in the early morning.  I know that one of the mom's on Brookway drives her daughter to the bus stop at 7:00am.  I know that my neighbor on MacArthur goes out in his ratty blue bathrobe around 6:45 to let his dog pee.  He kind of creeps me out, but at least he hasn't flashed me.  Maybe our neighborhood can take up a collection and buy him a new robe.  His robe looks to be over 10 years old.

7) I have visited the local Lulumon and Lucy stores near my office.  This is a super crazy indulgence, but I bought myself a fun (expensive) running outfit.  It seems crazy to me since no-one sees me running and I am running at early light, but somehow this makes me happy.  I enjoyed picking out a lavender colored jacket, black pants and a matching headband.  Bob got an ipad 3 with our tax refund money.  I got a new running outfit.  He spent way more than me, but that's okay.  Now I just have to wear my fun running outfit instead of grabbing my old sweatshirt.

8) Endorphins baby.  Yes, I do believe it's true.  Running produces endorphins and it puts me in a better mood.

9) I can walk up the stairs and not be out of breath.   I am happily surprised at how much easier other activities are now that I've been running.  I am stronger and my aerobic capacity is noticeably better.

10) Hope.  Since I've accomplished my goal of starting a running program I am very optimistic about my ability to get healthier.  A few years ago my doctor recommended I lose 10 pounds.  Then the following year I proceeded to gain a pound or two.  The  next year the same.  So at the start of 2012, I had about 15 pounds to lose to get to my doctor recommended target.  with my running program I honestly believe I can reach that goal.  Before I started running, it seemed out of reach.

So, the link below is the site I went to for their 21 days to a running habit.  They sent me an e-mail every day with information about my run that day.  The e-mail arrived in my inbox at like 4am, so it was always there for me on my phone before it was time to start.  I also could look ahead to see what the next day or week had in store.  I ran pretty much 5 out of 7 days a week, with some runs shorter than others and the rest days scheduled around the more intense run days.    It was very straightforward and each day I was challenged, but it was always feasible.

So what's next?  Well, now I'm going to sign up for the next program - 5k training program for beginners and yes, I'll look around for a 5k run that I can do.  Maybe that will be a good time to wear my new running outfit!  More details to come....

Thanks for stopping by today.  Have a great day.  If you visit my blog tomorrow, I'll have a beautiful birthday card for bloggers challenge and an update on my upcoming trip to Europe.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dark and Light Card (and update on high school basketball)

Hi Bloggers,

My card below is for the Stampin Sisters In Christ Challenge 130 based on Ephesians 5:8-9.  The challenge is to make a card using light and dark.

I picked dark brown and ivory for my light and dark elements and then added a little hint of light pink to dress it up.  This card uses the papertreyink patterned paper dear jane and a my favorite thing sentiment 'for you.'  I added a tiny tag to the corner that says 'all my heart.'  It's very simple, but I like it.  I also got to use my new papertrey oval die set.  This is a very nice size of nesting cuts so they work really well for this type of look.

So, if you follow my blog, you know that my son plays on the Whitinsville Christian School Varsity Basketball team.  He is a senior this year and the team has done very well.  They played Saturday in the district championship and beat Littleton soundly.  Yesterday was the State Semi-Final Game.  What a heartbreaking game it was.  They lost in the final 30 seconds with a score of 61-59.  So the season is now over.  Eric was disappointed, but not too upset.  He says last night - well I guess I'll be going golfing tomorrow afternoon.   Normally he has basketball practice, but now that the season is over, it's on to golf and baseball.  And so it goes.  As for the game, well, WCS was up the whole 1st half.   St. Joe's had some points and the momentum shifted late in the 3rd quarter.  They never really got too far ahead and we scored some big points and took the lead for most of the 4th quarter.  We were up by 3 points with 30 seconds to go and then the wheels came off.  St. Joe's scored and then they were up by 1.  We fouled and they scored some more.  We had seconds left and couldn't get a play off and then the buzzer sounded, the game was over and we all sat in shock wondering 'what just happened.'

Click the link below if you want more details on the game...

News article about the game.

And so another chapter in our life ends.   I never watched basketball nor knew a thing about the game until Eric started 3rd grade and joined a youth hoop program at WCS.  He is a natural athlete so he took to the game like a duck to water.  For the last 11 years of our lives we have spent countless hours in gyms watching games, countless hours in the car driving to and from games and tournaments and I suffered through countless hours of listening to dribbling of a basketball in my kitchen, basement or driveway.  And honestly, I loved almost every minute of it.  It was a great ride and now I am looking forward to a season of quiet until such a time as I might have little grandchildren running around dribbling a ball.  I'll take Eric's approach and pause for only a minute on the end and start looking ahead to what's next.  For me, it's going to Target today to buy a bunch of things for Sarah to fit in my suitcase to bring to her next week.  Want to know what's on her list?  Peanut Butter, Molasses, Eye Make-up remover, tights, external hard drive, feminine products & Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  Oh and some of her spring/summer clothes that are in her closet.  I'm sure I'll find a few other goodies to bring to her as well.

Well, thanks for stopping by today.  I hope you have a great day.  Come back and visit my blog on Friday.  I have a darling birthday card to share with you for the Blogger's Challenge.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Colour Q and Sweet Sunday Sketch Challenge

Hi bloggers,

Did you all have trouble getting up this morning?  I did.  Even though the clocks changed yesterday I did not have to get up at O Dark Thirty on Sunday.  However today, my alarm sounded off at 5:50 am and my body was not the least bit interested in waking up at that hour.  Good thing my dear husband had coffee hot and ready once my feet did hit the ground.

So, I was browsing around on websites yesterday and LOVED the crafty things I saw people do related to this color combination.  I think the dress is a little frumpy, but those colors are wonderful to inspire some card making.  So, I decided to play along with this challenge and here is what I came up with:

Isn't it lovely?  I couldn't resist playing with some fun spring colors.  I am going to bookmark this website so I can play along with their color challenges again.  Oh and this card also uses Karen Giron's Sunday Sketch Challenge.

Thanks for stopping by today.  Make it a great day!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Denami Blog Hop

Hi everyone,

Are you here for the Denami Blog Hop? 

Welcome.  I'm so glad you stopped by.  If you are following along in the hop, you should have arrived here from Brandi Hall's blog:

My card features a group of fun Denami puppies for a belated birthday card.  Thanks for stopping by today.  If you leave a comment you are eligible to win a gift certificate to Denami.  Good luck in the drawing and thanks for your kind comments.

Your next stop on the hop is Laurie Willison blog:

You can also catch the blog on the Denami blog site: