Mar 28, 2012

Oh Philadelphia Freedom, Shine on Me

The courtyard at City hall, Philadelphia.

Thoughts of home have been filling my mind these days.  The anticipation builds...

Mar 27, 2012

Time Keeps on Slippin'

Those long and dark days of winter seemed so endless not long ago.  Now we are full force into Spring and the pace of life seems to have picked up significantly.  Francie's skills have also increased rather appropriately as well and at almost a year old, it's safe to say she is in full blown toddler mode.

I had anticipated that things would be like this once March came roaring in but I couldn't have fully prepared. Sometimes I feel like I'm doggy paddling my way to stay afloat, but it's good.  Life should be busy, life should make you move to keep up.  And then when the chance to slow down for a minute presents itself, you take it.

I'm really looking forward to the last weekend before our departure. It's Francie's birthday, Easter, and my father in law's birthday all rolled into one and we're planning on taking the opportunity to have a little breather out in the country.  It's the perfect place to kick your feet up and sip on a glass of wine (or two) under the sun.  By then all the packing lists should be written, the suitcases dusted off, and the hours counting down until we catch our flights to Philadelphia.

But for now, the lists remain unwritten, the hours keep slipping away, and a sink full of dirty dishes is calling my name.

Mar 26, 2012

Brighter Days

 A Sunday afternoon stroll through the neighborhood.

Baby naps out in the warm Spring air.

Mom and Dad share a beer under the sun. 

 People work with what they've got.

And you smile because someone took the time to pretty up the place, in their own small way.

Mar 23, 2012

Have Baby, Will Travel

In just about 4 weeks, Francie and I will be on our merry way to the states.  Well, I'm hoping for some merriment but I don't know how that will work out en route.  I may be nervous to the point of being irrational about flying with my own kid, but I can't help it after reading horror stories like this.  And this.  Yikes!  Don't even get me started on the comments sections of any article that ever discussed flying with children- it seems that the dregs of humanity come out of the woodwork to share their hatred of babies on planes, ugh.

Anyway, traveling alone internationally with a child requires a good bit of paperwork.  In order to prevent parents from spiriting away a child and "abducting" them, the traveling parent needs a signed and notarized declaration from the other parent that they are aware and granting permission for the trip.  The state department website says that Bulgarian authorities are strict about this.

Since Francie and I also have a different last name (I kept my maiden name, horrors!), I need to also bring along a copy of her birth certificate.  So I got myself a nice little folder to fill up with the following things:

-Notarized declaration from Martin, copy in English just for kicks
- Copy of the Bulgarian birth certificate (notarized)
- Copy of the American birth cert
- Copy of Martin's passport and Bulgarian i.d
- Both of Francie's passports (BG & US)
- My passport and my Bulgarian residency permit/ i.d

Conclusion: Crossing international borders with little people is about a hundred times more complicated than flying solo.

Mar 20, 2012

Bilingual Baby

I just got finished reading this very interesting article from the New York Times on bilingualism.  Basically, what it says is that my kid is a baby genius.  Okay, not quite.  It discusses new evidence that suggests that bilinguals have advantages over monolinguals in some brain functions.

There was no question when Francie was born that she would be exposed to both Bulgarian and English languages simultaneously. It is essential that she be able to communicate with both of her families as Martin's side only speaks Bulgarian and mine only speaks English (not to mention that the fact that I only speak English).

While I was pregnant, I did a little reading about how to raise a bilingual child but what I found was more geared towards parents taking an active approach to teach their child a second language.  I read several places how we needed a "plan" in place if we wanted to be effective at having her learn both and this freaked me out.  A "plan"?  Kids learn to talk all the time and I'm quite sure it's without a lesson plan laid out by Mom and Dad.  I decided we would just let it be organic for now.  I saw no reason why she couldn't pick up both naturally on her own when she hears them day in, day out.  So that's what we've been doing.

With Bulgarian being the "community" language and also her grandparents speaking to her everyday in Bulgarian, it's been obvious that she favors it at this point.  When I notice her learning a specific word, like an animal for instance, I will follow up right away with the name in English.  So far this laid back approach seems to be working just fine for us.

Also, I'd like to call bunk on all the things I read that said she would probably be a late talker.  Totally not the case here as this little lady repeats everything.  She's quite the chatty cathy!

Are you a two language family?  If so, what's been your approach to bilingualism?  I'd love to hear.

Mar 19, 2012

What a Weekend!

Hey there, hi!  Remember me?  It's been awhile, or so it seems.  We had one heck of a busy weekend over here.  Saturday was Martin's 25th birthday.  We got up early and headed out to pick up all the food and drinks for his birthday dinner.  The weather was fabulous and I left the apartment without a coat!  Very exciting, folks.

We spent the day preparing and sippin on some Martinis. It was pretty much perfect.

Happy Birthday, Martini!
Sunday we headed out to the Sofia Zoopark, along with the rest of the population of Sofia.  There were teenagers hanging out drinking beers and hundreds of families walking around, everyone just happy to be out in the sunshine.

We have visited the zoo before and this time it was in even worse condition.  I'm sure they're tight on money and probably weren't expecting such a turnout this early in the season but it was still disappointing.  They really need to get some funds and clean it up because it has such potential!


Francie seemed to enjoy it as much as an 11 month old can.  Typical Francie style, she doesn't get too worked up over anything.  Giant cats growling and grizzly bears staring us right in the face?  It's all "eh" to the Frenchster.  She inherited this quality directly from yours truly, by the way.

All in all, it was a great start to the Spring season.  The countdown is on to Francie's first birthday and our trip to PA!

Mar 13, 2012

Eat: Homemade Veggie Burgers

You do not have to be a vegetarian to enjoy a delicious veggie burger.  Personally, I don't eat very much ground meat so finding similar options is a must.  These veggie patties are so easy and really tasty!

What you need:
-15 ounce can of kidney beans
-1 shredded red onion
-1 finely diced carrot
-1 cup breadcrumbs
-2 finely chopped scallions
-2 tbspns chopped fresh parsley
-2 tsp worcestershire sauce
-salt & pepper
-3 tbspns olive oil
-sliced mushrooms

What you do:
-Mash the beans in a bowl with a fork
-Add in the onions, carrot, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, scallions, parsley, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
-Season with a little salt and pepper
-Mix all by hand
-Use the other 1/2 cup breadcrumbs to coat your hand made patties
-Heat your pan or skillet and add the olive oil over medium heat
-Cook patties until browned
-Now add a little more olive oil to cook the shrooms
-Put burgers on buns and add shrooms on top


Mar 12, 2012


So did you know that the US and Europe are on different schedules for daylight savings time?  That means that for a few weeks we're only 6 hours apart, time difference wise.

If the forecast is to be believed, which duh- it's totally not, then it should be getting really truly warm by Saturday.  Which also happens to be Martin's birthday.  The wishful thinker in me always falls for the forecasters, they get me every time.

There's taxes to be done and insurance to be bought and documents to get in order and all sorts of preparations for Francie and I's trip home next month and boy am I not feeling ready to do all (any) of that yet.  One of these days very soon it's just going to hit me- Start packing!  Write lists!  Despite the fact that I've been talking about it for so long, I feel like it's going to just sneak up out of nowhere, boom.

We're in the market for a new car seat for the Frenchster.  It's kind of a big deal, picking the best one.  It has to have all the features for safety and comfort combined.  So we (Martin) have been reading up on all the crash test results and online reviews and whatnot.  It's hard to do online research for this sort of thing over here because I'm not familiar with the brands at all.

This weekend I revisited a band that I used to really enjoy a great deal.  Did you ever do that where you just sort of stop listening to something for a awhile and then when you rediscover it again it's such a great feeling?  It feels brand new but mixed in with old recollections at the very same time. Everything old is new again, as "they" say.

Here's to a good week.

Mar 9, 2012


Do you ever have days where you find yourself sick to death of the computer, the internet, and all of these modern technologies that make you feel like you HAVE to constantly be engaging and keeping up?  I've been feeling that lately.  Feeling like I need to step away a bit but not quite sure how.

I rely on my laptop for so much.  I rely on my high speed internet connection.  They enable me to do work, to get ideas, to make and maintain connections, but most importantly it is my communication lifeline to my family back home in the states.  Without a computer, quite frankly, I don't know what I'd do.  I don't have a cell phone or even a land line for that matter, so Skype makes calls for me.  Facebook lets me check in on everybody's latest updates.  And of course, this blog allows me to share photos and stories and thoughts that I otherwise would not have a place to.  The list goes on and on.

Not long ago I found myself in a place, literally, where I could not always connect via the internet.  My usage was sporadic and occasional.  My  laptop saw considerable downtime.  And it was nice.  I have been yearning to get back to that place, both literally and figuratively.

Skagway provided many distractions, along with a sometimes 9+ hour workday.
There was nothing better than an evening walk down to the docks to watch the ships pull out of port.

 Or a stroll down to the rocks at the water's edge known as The Point to watch for whales.

Maybe a nearly 1 mile trek to the other end of town to sit by the falls and soak up the sounds of rushing water.  The list goes on and on.

In Alaska, I was mostly unplugged for months at a time.  I cancelled my cell phone because my provider didn't have coverage there.  I never watched tv, save for the few minutes that I caught a glimpse of CNN in the hotel lobby.  And I got online when I could, when a weak signal translated into a brief connection and I did what I needed quickly and then moved on.

I want to be able to live like that no matter where I am, although whale watching might be a bit hard to do from Sofia or Pennsylvania.  I want to take more walks, to find more peace, more calm.  Being okay with just being and not always doing.  I'm feeling it lately, I'm feeling the pull away from modern technology, away from the screens and the keyboards and the endless, constant connection.

I need to be more selective with how I spend my time on the computer.  I need to be more focused when I get online.  Completely unplugging is unrealistic and not the answer, but finding balance is.

Mar 1, 2012

Chestita Baba Marta Style

Today is March 1st and in Bulgaria that means it's Baba Marta den!  This translates to Grandmother March day.  On this holiday we exchange red and white woven bracelets, necklaces, or miniature dolls with family and friends to offer them wishes of good health and happiness.  These are called martinitsi. 

Tables are set up all over the city with martinitsi for sale.  It's so fun picking out just the right one to give each person.  I always get a little greedy and make Martin buy a few extra for me because they're so darn cute.

This year is extra special of course since it's Francie's first Baba Marta day.  It's been so fun for me learning about all of these traditions and holidays here in Bulgaria and now we get to share in that with Francie too.

Честита Баба Марта!


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