Dating and Relationship Advice


Inspired by some poor choices by several of my close friends, I’ve decided to start a list of dating advice I’d like to share with my daughter. Dating, you’d say? Anna is only 4! Well, it’s probably a bit early, but you have to start introducing and modeling these values to kids early so it becomes natural to them.

For the purposes of this post I will assume Anna will date guys, but she is free to choose her own love life and these points will be applicable to either sex, so just switch up the pronouns when necessary.

  1. What is love? Love is an emotion we feel when there is a strong attraction and/or personal attachment. As your relationship evolves, you will fall in and out of love/infatuation with one another. That’s why it is important to find a friend you enjoy spending time with. With a best friend as partner you will continually find traits of their character to love and respect.
  2. The friend test. Meet his friends. Their behavior will tell you a lot about the person you are dating. Be careful with a person who has no friends… Introduce him to your own friends and see how well he blends in. Ideally, you don’t want to make sacrifices and choose between your partner or friends.
  3. Meet his parents. The relationship he has with his own parents will tell you a lot about your future union. See how the parents interact with each other. We all learn behaviors from our parents and environment in which we grow up.
  4. Kids and animals. Test out your partner around animals and children. Babysit or petsit together with him. His attitude towards someone else’s babies will show you how they are likely to behave with their own kids and family.
  5. Observe behavior rather than listen to the words. Many people say great things about their intentions but never actiually act on them. You really need a partner who will walk the talk, someone you can trust.
  6. Benefit of the doubt. It is important to remember that no one is perfect. Not even you! It is silly to expect it from others and vice versa. If something doesn’t work out don’t rush to make judgements, start by asking your partner for their side of the story. Often enough our minds come to the scariest conslusions based on the limited information we have. Allowing someone to explain their actions may defeat your fears and save a healthy relationship. Of course, if you are not convinced by their story, you can seriously consider the benefits of staying in such relationship.
  7. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug. Everyone will agree that relationships are a lot of work. However, if after putting in a lot of time and effort you are still not happy with the result, pull the plug! Take charge of your life and go find someone who will make you happy. Don’t waste your time being unhappy.
  8. “Must haves” list. It’s not what you’re thinking! Not the skin, hair or eye color; not the body type or clothing style; not thefinancial status, etc. It’s the list of things that matter to you the most. For me it was my partner’s stand on politics, religion, family, ethics, abuse, and understanding or at the very minimum interest towards my culture. These are the things that shape our life together and I would not compromise on.
  9. Ask the tough questions to check-off your “must have” list. And do it soon! Before your relationship becomes too involved ask everything that matters to you the most. Don’t be afraid to be true to yourself. Afterall, you have nothing to lose, you’ve only known him for a few dates…
  10. Build trust. Openly state to your wisely chosen partner that you trust him with your heart and ask him to protect it. In return promise to protect his heart from breaking. If two people care about each other there is no room for jealousy. If you feel jealous or threatened by your partner’s behavior, communicate it in a calm manner. He may not be aware he is causing you pain and allow him to correct his behavior. If it happens again or he is ignoring your feelings by trying to convince you that it’s all in your head… pull the plug! This relationship is not worth your time… It is impossible to trust someone who does not respect your feelings.
  11. Zero tolerance for any kind of abuse. There are many forms of abuse: physical, mental or substance, etc.; and in our family we don’t tolerate either. Be straight and open about it in the beginning before any signs show. Most likely, anyone not acting in good faith will disappear on their own. Or else, pull the plug! Life is too short to live in
  12. Trust your gut. You have a beautiful gift of intuition. It will guide you through life and love, often very discretely. If you’re still unsure, ask opinions of your best friends and family who will always have the best intentions for you. Regardless of all our opinions, the decision is yours. We will support you no matter what, because we love you and we are your family!

This will be an ongoing list, but hope to have some solid advice for Anna when she grows up and begins to date. As parents we will not be able to protect her from kissing frogs; however, this list will set a good foundation for her to start making wise decisions on her own.

I value your opinions. Please share if you have anything to add to this list?

Chicken Plov (Rice Pilaf)


When I was a child our next door neighbors made this amazing Uzbek Plov (Rice Pilaf). The smell of spices and flavors made even the pickiest eaters hungry. I can already smell it as I am writing!

Plov (pilaf) is a perfect mixture of protein, grains and vegetables – great for a healthy diet and easy way to get your child to eat several food groups in one serving. Enjoy this amazing recipe your guests and whole family will love!



  • Meat: Organic Chicken Thighs (boneless and skinless) (2.5-3 lbs = 1-1.5 kg) or traditional lamb
  • Grain: Organic Indian Basmati white rice (32 oz = 2 lbs = 905 g)
  • Vegetables:
    • 1 onion
    • 10 large carrots (shredded)
    • 2 garlic heads (used whole)
  • Grapeseed oil or any other vegetable oil
  • Spices: salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, 2-3 bay leaves, and 3 whole cloves
  • Optional: scallions
  • Cookware: Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven or you can try a regular pan or a crock pot

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2.5-3 hours


  1. Mince 1 onion and sauté it in a large amount of grapeseed oil (~8 oz) on high heat.
  2.  Add 2.5 – 3 lbs of diced chicken thighs. Boil out all chicken broth (juice).
  3. Add shredded carrots. Boil out all liquid. ~ 25 minutes from the beginning of cooking.
  4. Add 1 liter (33 oz) of boiling water.
  5. Add spices to taste: salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, 2-3 bay leaves, and 3 whole cloves.
  6. Cut off the bottoms of the garlic heads and add whole garlic heads to pot.
  7. Cover with the lid and set heat to medium. Cook for ~10 minutes.
  8. Wash Indian Basmati white rice. Add it evenly on top of the mixture and cover with additional 1 liter (33 oz) of boiling water.
  9. Turn heat to high and boil with open lid for a total of 12-15 minutes. When the water starts to seep down into rice (~7-10 minutes), turn heat to medium and cover with a lid.
  10. After cooking rice for the above mentioned 15 minutes take the pot off the heat, cover rice with a porcelain plate, cover with the lid, wrap it into a towel and a thick blanket. Let it sit for 0.5-2 hours.
  11. Optional: mince scallions and add on top of Plov.
chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-minced-onion-sauteed-grapeseed-oil chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-add-diced-chicken chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-add-shredded-carrots chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-shredded-carrots-add-boiling-water chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-cut-bottom-of-garlic-head-off chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-add-spices-salt-pepper-cumin-coriander-whole-cloves-bay-leaves-garlic chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-wash-organic-Indian-Basmati-white-rice chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-spread-organic-Indian-Basmati-white-rice-evenly chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-cooking-rice-and-chicken-evaporating-liquid chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-wrap-pot-into-towel-and-thick-blanket-and-let-sit chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-wrap-pot-into-thick-blanket-to-continue-cooking chicken-plov-pilaf-lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven-mix-cooked-ingredients-bon-appetite-ready-to-serve

Bon Appetite!

Printable PDF version is at

Kids’ Favorite Educational Toys by Age

Thanksgiving is about all the things we are grateful for. Regardless of all other successes, family and especially kids are usually at the top of our lists. It’s amazing how much light and laughter they bring into our lives. I wish everyone to experience this bliss!

If you’re super organized, November is also a great month to do your Christmas shopping with all the wonderful Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. However, my heads starts spinning from all of the choices, especially for kids!

Choosing a gift for a child is never easy! When possible, I prefer educational toys which will engage curious brains, develop their motor skills, and provide hours of fun. Here are a few of my favorite budget-friendly gifts for kids by age groups.

0-2 years old

multi texture ball set gross motor skills tactile sensesInfantino Textured Multi Ball Set

  • Helps develop baby’s tactile senses
  • 6 easy-to-grab textured balls
  • Great for gross motor skills
abc animal pocket bag gift 0-2ABC Animal Train Bag

  • Learning ABCs, letters, colors, and animals
  • Manufacturer replaces lost pieces FREE
  • Compact, portable, machine-washable
my first tech toys keys phone remote control
First vTech Toys

  • Rescue your real tech gadgets by giving him his own set (keys, cell phone, remote control)
  • Trilingual, English, Spanish and French
  • 4 games modes, lots of fun with lights, sounds, and colors
leapfrog picnic basket colors shapes-manners
LeapFrog Shapes And Sharing Picnic Basket

  • Explore shapes, colors, numbers, and manners
  • Perfect picnic set for two to teach your child to share
  • Fun fill-and-spill toy
peek a shoe octopus balls numbers colors motor skills
LeapFrog Peek-A-Shoe Octopus

  • Explore cause and effect
  • Learn numbers and colors along with fun songs
  • Develops gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination
bath tub toy fishing pole and fish motor skills hand-eye coordination
Fishing in the Tub

  • Develops hand-eye coordination
  • Improves gross and fine motor skills
  • Includes fishing pole with attached plastic rope and hook and 4 foam fish

3-5 years old

sand toys bucket molds shovel rake watering can
Beach Sand Toys

  • 1 zippered bag for convenient storage
  • 15 pieces (bucket with a handle , shovel and rake, watering can, sand sifter (bucket cover), 10 molds)
  • Hours of creative fun
bath tub toy map of usa
USA Map in the Tub

  • Learn about US geography while soaking in the tub!
  • 74 float and stick foam puzzle pieces
  • Includes all (50) states, weather and landmark pieces and storage bag
water paint numbers abc paint on the go
On The Go Water Bundle

  • Explore numbers, alphabet, animals, and colors
  • Compact, reusable and mess-free
  • Great for fine motor skills and early writing skills
opposites puzzle learning toy fine motor skills
Opposites Puzzles

  • Learn opposite concepts in pictures and words
  • 24 two-piece puzzles, 48 pieces
  • Develops hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
play kitchen toddler cooking food
Play Kitchen

  • Improves gross and fine motor skills
  • Realistic burners with lights and sounds
  • Microwave, oven, refrigerator, and dishwasher, plus 22 play accessories
workshop tool bench toddler gross and fine motor skills
Tool Workshop

  • Improves gross and fine motor skills
  • 50 piece accessory set
  • Includes an electric drill, 2 drill bits, 8 screws, 8 nuts, saw, hammer, pliers, adjustable wrench, screw driver and 17 “wood” pieces, bins and jars for storage, spring action vise and pretend shop vacuum

6-8 years old

spot it focus visual perception speech language and fine motor skills
Spot It

  • Award-winning game of visual perception for 2-8 players
  • Between any two cards there is always one matching symbol
  • Develops focus, visual perception skills, speech-language skills, and fine motor skills
standing easel chalk board painting preschool early learner
Melissa & Doug Standing Easel

  • Encourages fine motor skills and creative expression
  • Stand-up easel for painting, coloring, and lettering
  • Includes dry-erase board, chalkboard, locking paper-roll holder, child-safe paper cutter, 4 easy-clip grips and 2 large plastic trays
bicycle with training wheels gross motor skills
Monster High Girl’s Bike

  • Improves balance and foot-eye coordination
  • Includes training wheels
  • Boosts self-esteem and sense of independence
bop it coordination focus reaction game
Hasbro Bop It

  • Encourages focus and quick reaction
  • Promotes coordination
  • Fun to play alone or with friends
bubble rocket stump it outdoor toy fun
Lanard Toys Bubble Rocket

  • Fun and exciting outdoor toy
  • Lightweight plastic projectile soaring through the air, leaving a trail of bubbles
  • Teaches cause and effect, while entertaining younger siblings
pie face game roulette family fun
Pie Face Game

  • Take your chance on a pie roulette
  • Fun for the whole family
  • Includes I pie thrower, 1 throwing arm, 2 handles, chin rest, splash guard mask, spinner and sponge

9-10 years old

knex building set great addition to lego fine motor skills
K’NEX 375 Piece Deluxe Building Set

  • Perfect for practicing building skills
  • Provides hours of fun and endless designs
  • Great product for creative minds
smartlab thats gross science lab chemistry experiments
SmartLab Toys That’s Gross Science Lab

  • 26 gross experiments for hours of fun
  • Fun and educational chemistry facts
  • Use household items in these exciting experiments for kid of all ages
perplexus original labyrinth within a sphere

  • 3D challenging labyrinth contained within a sphere
  • 100 exciting barriers
  • Easy to use, but hard to master
thames and kosmos crystal growing fun experiments
Thames & Kosmos Crystal Growing

  • 15 fun crystal growing experiments
  • Design your own shapes and colors
  • Learn about geometry and structure of crystals
thames and kosmos electricity and magnetism fun experiments
Thames & Kosmos Electricity and Magnetism

  • 62 easy experiments with snap-together blocks
  • Explore the relationship between electricity and magnetism
  • Experiment with a motor and electromagnet
passport to culture game cq cultural intelligence teens
Passport To Culture Game

  • Travel the globe while testing your knowledge of world cultures
  • Challenge your CQ (Cultural Intelligence) with questions on people and places, food and drink, world treasures, greetings and gestures, or customs and traditions
  • 2-6 Players/ Teams; 636 Questions; 48 Cultural Scenarios

11-15 years old

ringke clear customizable back iphone 6 case
Ringke FUSION Customizable Clear Case for iPhone 6S / 6

  • Drop-protection case
  • Transparent customizable back
  • Superior anti-scratch coating
  • for iPhone 6S / 6 (2015/2014)
adult coloring book whimsical designs
Patterned Coloring Book for Adults

  • 70 pages of whimsical designs
  • Coloring is no longer just for little kids
  • Provides stress relief as well as entertainment
money matters for teens larry burkett book
Money Matters for Teens

  • Teaches kids the value of money
  • Earn, Spend, Save, and Give
  • Smart teens make smart adults
boomerang outdoor fun

  • Handcrafted high performance boomerang is fun for kids and adults
  • Boomerang comes back EVERY TIME
  • Gets your teens outside to play
Quadcopter Drone With HD Camera
Quadcopter With HD Camera

  • Create memories with this flying HD camera and 2GB Micro SD card
  • Can be flown indoors and outdoors
  • 7 Minute flight time and 100 minute charge time
kindle fire tablet teenager
Kindle Fire

  • 7″ IPS display and 1.3 GHz quad-core processor. Rear and front-facing cameras.
  • 8 GB of internal storage. Free unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content and photos taken with Fire devices. Add a microSD card for up to 128 GB of additional storage.
  • Up to 7 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching videos, and listening to music

Thanksgiving turkey in just 1 hour! I can do that!

Thanksgiving should be about family time and not cooking time. I’ve search online for yummy turkey recipes that save time. Here is a recipe that’s delicious and will allow you to spend more precious time with your loved ones.

The trick is to cut the back bone out and lay the turkey flat on the tray. This way it will roast evenly and cook twice as fast. Basic laws of physics save the Thanksgiving dinner! Bon appetit!

Cold Nights Pajama Trick

toddler cashmere sweater cold night pajamasAnna is yet to fall in love with blankets. Until then I am constantly challenged with keeping her warm at nights while keeping our energy bill low.

Ta-da! Introducing the cheapest warm pajamas or wearable blanket which you most likely already have in your closet. YOUR CASHMERE SWEATER! Or any warm sweater in your closet will work.


  • Warm and snugly
  • Soft to touch
  • Wearable and not easy to take off
  • Adjustable sleeve length
  • Long to cover most of the tiny body
  • Belonged to Mommy

It will last you several seasons, while your child grows and hopefully falls in love with blankets. And most importantly, your toddler will be proud to wear it because it belonged to YOU!

I’d love to hear your tricks on keeping toddlers warm on cold nights.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

oatmeal raisin cookies toddler cooking and sneaking a cookie

What kid doesn’t like to bake cookies? Not my child! Although many of the cookies never made it to the oven, as my toddler is like her mother, who enjoys eating batter / dough.

“Spontaneous” – best describes our cooking style, since we improvise with ingredients on hand while making our yummy masterpieces. Feel free to modify the recipe to fit your tastes.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Recipe

Batch: 24-30 cookies


  • 14 tablespoons of butter softened (1 and ¾ of butter sticks)oatmeal raisin cookies toddler cooking ingredients
  • 1¼ cups of sugar (or ¾ cup of brown sugar and ½ cup of granulated sugar)
  • 1½ cups of all-purpose flour (optional – skip if you want chewy cookies)
  • 3 cups of uncooked oats
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (optional – skip if you’ve used salted butter)
  • 2 teaspoons of maple syrup (or 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla)

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Bake Time: 15 minutes

Directions: Follow this step-by-step instructions. Allow toddler to measure, pour, mix, and taste all of the ingredients to add some educational value to this already creative process. Don’t worry about any mess; it’s only dirt! But SO much FUN!

oatmeal raisin cookies toddler cooking breaking eggs into dough oatmeal raisin cookies toddler cooking adding maple syrup oatmeal raisin cookies toddler cooking adding baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar and softened butter until creamy.
  3. Add eggs and maple syrup (or vanilla and cinnamon).
  4. Add combined flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add oats and raisins. Mix well.
  6. Using a spoon, drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. Leave plenty of space between drops to avoid cookies sticking to each other.
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Cool for 1 minute on a cookie sheet. Then transfer to wire rack or plate and let cool completely. Store lightly covered. Enjoy!
oatmeal raisin cookies toddler cooking adding oats and raisins oatmeal raisin cookies toddler cooking spooning dough to cookie sheet and eating dough oatmeal raisin cookies toddler cooking eating a cookie

Fluffy Baked Omelet


Teething for the most part went pretty easy for us. However, the 2-year molars made sure we got our taste of the pain. Anna refused to eat most everything, so I had to get creative to make sure she gets some food in her stomach. An omelet came to mind. It’s a good source of protein and it melts in your mouth. Perfect for my teething toddler!

It’s been forever since I’ve had a soft, fluffy omelet like we had in our Russian kindergartens. Anna gave me a good reason to bring it back to our menu. It’s also one of those quick and easy recipes. You will enjoy cooking it together with your child!

Fluffy Baked Omelet (omelette) Recipe

Ingredients: eggs, milk, spices (salt and pepper), butter (to grease pan)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Bake Time: 25-30 minutes

Directions: Use an easy to remember Omelet Formula to measure your ingredients. Multiply the formula as necessary.

Omelet Formula: 1 egg + 50 ml of milk

In this recipe we’ve used 10 eggs and 500 ml of milk. This makes 4-5 servings, assuming an adult eats 2-3 eggs.

toddler-cooking-omelet-recipe-ingredients  1280x960-toddler-cooking-omelet-recipe-adding-salt  toddler cooking omelet recipe mixing
  1. Combine eggs and milk in a deep mixing bowl.
  2. Add spices (salt and pepper) to taste.
  3. Softly mix the ingredients, don’t beat them.
  4. Use a butter stick to lightly grease the pan.
  5. Pour the omelet mixture into the pan. Don’t fill the pan to the top as omelet will rise a bit.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C). Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Do not open the oven during the first 15-20 minutes.
  7. Serve omelet cut up into portions. Add a piece of butter on top for flavor (optional). Bon appetite!

Additional comment: the omelet will rise during baking process, but will settle once you pull it out of the oven. Not to worry, this is normal. The final height of your omelet will be at about the level to which you’ve filled the pan. Hence, take this into account when measuring your ingredients.