Posted in 1940s, Food, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Twelve-dish Christmas supper


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. To mark the recent Russian Orthodox Christmas, this snippet comes from my fourth Russian novel, in a scene featuring the traditional twelve-dish supper of Christmas Eve (6 January). This is the beginning of 1949.

NYU freshmen and Irish twins Igor and Ilya are living with their great-aunt Valeriya and her second husband, Grigoriy Golitsyn (a prince by birth). Their guests are Valeriya and Mr. Golitsyn’s oldest child together, Vasya; his wife Dusya; and their children, 6-year-old Stella and 2-year-old Nora. Also present is Valeriya and Mr. Golitsyn’s daughter Vasilisa, who’s seriously dating another prince by birth.


After the Troparion, Mr. Golitsyn takes out a blue and white bowl of honey and makes the sign of the cross on each person’s forehead in turn, starting with Valeriya and ending with Nora.

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, may you all have sweetness and many good things in life and in the new year,” he pronounces after Nora has been anointed.

Valeriya lights a large yellow candle in the center of the table, contained in a red and white porcelain dish, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem.  Then Stella stands up on her chair and reads the Nativity story from the Gospel of Matthew.  The youngest child is traditionally supposed to read it, but Nora doesn’t know how to read anything yet.  Finally, Mr. Golitsyn asks for God’s blessings on the wine, bread, and food, breaks the round, twisted kalach bread, and distributes it to the other eight people.

The first proper meal of the supper is kutya, cooked barley kasha sweetened with chopped walnuts, honey, dried cranberries, and poppy seeds.  Also around the table are caviar, mushroom soup, fish soup with dumplings, cabbage soup, pickled mushrooms, pirozhki, stuffed carp, baked trout, draniki, pickled cabbage, boiled potatoes with dill from Vasya and Dusya, raspberry tea, wine, blueberry vareniki, walnut pudding, and assorted dried fruits.


Draniki are potato pancakes; pirozhki are baked or fried buns stuffed with things like mushrooms and beef; and vareniki are kind of like blintzes or crêpes, dough pockets stuffed with either savory or sweet foods. The Troparion is a one-stanza hymn, with many different forms.

Posted in 1940s, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, Igor Konev the younger, Violetta, Writing

WeWriWa— “Don’t be a stranger”


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s excerpt comes right after last week’s, when Igor discovered his aunt Lyolya is the ballet teacher of Violetta’s youngest sister Flora. Though Violetta insists she’ll never marry, she nevertheless invites Igor to visit again sometime.

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“It’s starting to get dark,” Granyechka says. “You should probably head home, Gorik, so your great-aunt doesn’t worry too much.  She probably likes for you and your brother to come home on time, after she’s lost a child and had another one away at war for three years.”

“Please don’t be a stranger,” Violetta says. “You’re always welcome to come to our church for a change, to eat Sunday lunch with us, or to just visit.  I also expect to see you at some of the art museums.  Perhaps you’re free next Saturday?”

Igor smiles, his heart racing. “I sure am, for a nice girl like you.  Which museum would you like to go to?”


Igor’s great-aunt Valeriya lost her first child, Liza (Lizaveta), to measles pneumonia at age thirteen, in 1913. In her second marriage, to a deposed prince from the House of Golitsyn, she was blessed with two children at age 43 and 46.

Posted in Photography, Third Russian novel, Writing

What’s Up Wednesday


What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly hop/meme with four simple headings. Anyone can write a post and add the link to Jaime’s blog.

What I’m Writing

I spent the majority of the last week writing my final paper for Organization of Information. It ended up at 15 pages, with a bibliography a bit over one page. My title page was in Monotype Corsiva, while the main text was in the gorgeous, classy, venerable Janson. Palatino will always be my font soulmate, after 20 years together, but it’s fun to mix it up with other typefaces for papers. Janson is one of the fonts I had to seek out for download, as it didn’t come with my computer.

My topic was the Barnard Archives, coupled with discussing college and university archives as a whole, and how they organize information, use metadata, grant access, appraise their collections, etc. On Tuesday afternoon, I had a Skype interview with one of the archivists. If there’d been more time, I would’ve loved to have taken her up on her invitation to come there in person. I’m still planning a visit there for some research for the future second draft of my WIP.

I’ve managed to find some time every day to work on my WIP as well, though not nearly as much as in the past. Currently I’m up to 527,000 words, still Chapter 67. Fedya and Vasya have officially been sworn into the Army, and have just left on the train to boot camp in Virginia. Vasya’s bride of three months, Dusya (who had the free spirit and guts to wear a black dress for their Halloween wedding), comforted his mother Valeriya by saying her first grandchild may be on the way.

Dusya has been around since Part II of the first book, when she appeared as one of the youngest of antagonist Boris’s students at the religious school. When Tatyana got her job at the church camp in Part II of this book, I decided to make Dusya one of her co-counselors and to make them best friends. I also brought back now-adult alumni Rodya and Patya for this purpose, and made them into main characters too.

Valeriya is Ivan’s aunt, related to him twice over. In her first marriage, she was married to his father’s brother, but she remained his aunt after his father murdered his brother in a drunken rage. She’s also the older sister of Ivan’s now-estranged mother. The only child of her first marriage, Liza, was murdered in 1913 at age about fourteen. Valeriya remarried a former prince, Grigoriy Golitsyn, in 1920, and they had two children when she was in her early forties. Mr. Golitsyn started out as the manager of one of the boarding houses Lyuba and her friends stayed at during the Civil War. Both of them should’ve been grandparents a long time ago, if they hadn’t each lost their first children.

I’m really looking forward to writing Valeriya as a young woman when I eventually write the prequel. She was the first woman in her family to attend university, though she was also married and had a child during those years. She’s also been a big advocate of women’s rights and progressive causes for probably her whole life, in the way someone born in 1877 would be. Valeriya isn’t nearly as radical as Katrin!

What I’m Reading

The journal articles I found for my paper on the Barnard Archives. Not really time for much other reading at this point in the semester.

What Inspires Me

I recently celebrated my 13-year anniversary with my favouritest album, Quadrophenia. It’s such an emotional, sublime, majestic, beautiful, moving, poignant experience that never wears out. Jimmy’s journey is just as meaningful every single time.

What Else I’ve Been Up To


I bought this adorable potato-scrubber when my new (sane!) roommate and I were at Bed, Bath, and Beyond recently. You can’t be a real Hunky (Slovakian) and not love potatoes!


My first attempt at making baked potato wedges. They didn’t taste or look as perfect as my parents,’ but they were edible, and not too firm. Practice makes perfect. Now that I have a potato masher, from the Madison Avenue Price Chopper that’s about five minutes away from the downtown campus, I’m going to try making mashed potatoes! (The Madison Avenue Chopper is respectably proletarian. The so-called “Ghetto Chopper” is over on Delaware Avenue, near my old junior high.)


I was trying to load my little stapler I’ve had since fifth grade with the extra staples my parents gave me. They were too big to fit. I looked in the pencil case I wove during camp when I was twelve, and lo and behold, I still have the original box of staples, with quite a few still left. This box is seriously vintage. And that’s how I found out I have a mini stapler and that it’s apparently hard to find staples this size at most stores.