Hettie’s Reflections – Blog Posts

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Welcome to Hettie’s Reflections!

Hello! My name is Hettie, I was born and raised in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and I emigrated to the United States in October 1996. I live in Palatine, IL and work in Chicago.

I’ve been very active in the Russian blogosphere, and my American friends keep asking me when I am going to tell my story in English. Well, the time has come.

I am going to write my story for my granddaughter Nadia, and for all my American friends, who has been so supportive through all these years, and hope that my children, Igor, Vlad and Anna will help me through this journey.

My Russian blog used to have “a lot of everything”, because first, I just like to write a little something every day, reflecting on everything happening in the world around me, and second – because I believe that people trust me more knowing me as a person. Everything I’ve done in my life so far, and everything I am doing every day, made me – and still making me the person I am.

This being said, although this blog is intended mostly to record our family history, there will be still “a lot of everything” here. However, for those who is interested in the history solely, I will paste all the links to the Hettie’s Timeline page, which will hopefully allow to read all these entries in a chronological order.

The links to my interviews and videos (mostly professional) will be pasted on this page, and also for those who is interested what I am doing in my professional life, feel free to check out my blog The World of Data.

My blog Hettie’s Cooking is hardly a cooking blog, at least I do not update it often. However, some of my legendary recipes, like “Mom’s soup”, can be found there.

Enjoy 🙂

Fall Is Here

Boris arrived last night, once again in the aircraft barely 1/4 full, and this time, nobody asked him for his marriage certificate or proof of vaccination. Which, honestly, makes me worry! Because it means that the border control does not know anymore what’s allowed and what’s not.

On the good side of things, Uber from ORD does not cost $100 anymore, but somewhat around $35, which is cheaper than before the pandemic.

Today was the first seriously autumn day, with rain, and wind, and cold. From sandals to boots, in a matter of several days.

Detskiy Sad: Activities

There were lots of different activities in detskiy sad. Usually, there was one educational activity in the morning. It could be painting, when we all learned to paint something very specific and in a very specific way; for example, we would be given pieces of dark blue paper, and we would learn to paint white branches of the trees covered with snow. We were never given paint to do art projects on our own; all painting was teacher-supervised to avoid ruining our clothes. Or we could make something out of clay (again, no creativity, repeat what the teacher showed). Twice a week, we had music lessons. There was a grand piano in the “big room” (I think it was the former drawing room). The music teacher played the piano, rehearsed the song’s verses, and we would sing along. That’s when I found out that I can’t sing in tune. She also taught us some dances. Tape recorders already existed but were rarities, so everything was accompanied by live music. I do not recall us having any PE classes. In the morning before breakfast, we had zariadka: morning exercises which we performed standing in a circle with the teacher showing us what to do. Many years later, I was shocked to recognize some of these exercises in my yoga class! For the older kids, there were more classes, and they would do reading, writing, and math.

After the morning activity, we would go to play outside unless the weather was really bad. There were no (or almost no) playgrounds at that time. Often, our teachers would take us to the nearby park. There were some sandboxes and some slides to go down. In winter, we would take our tiny show shovels with us and make tunnels and snow fortresses, and if the snow was moist enough, we would make snowwomen.

We would return to detskiy sad to have dinner, and then there was a nap time. For smaller children, there were bedrooms with metal-frame beds with springs. Older children had to take camp beds from a closet and set them up in the “big room.” All of us had to change into pajamas for nap time, and we had to stay in bed for two hours even if we didn’t need to nap.

After a nap, we had “poldnik,” and then one more class, and then we would get dressed in our outdoor clothes and get outside to play by close to the entrance to the detskiy sad, and that’s where the parents were picking us up.
Some parents picked their children earlier. I remember one girl was always picked up earlier by her father. I was so jealous of her! I even remember her name, although we were not close friends. Her name was Marina Efimova.
In winter, it was already completely dark by 3-30 PM, and we played outside in the snow, under the street like, and the snow was glittering.

After my mom picked me up, we stopped at the small grocery store, which was located in the basement of one of the homes near detskiy sad. It was a so-called “half-basement,” with the windows, although you had to go several steps down to enter. I am not sure why, but there were a lot of grocery stores in the older part of the city located in such half-basements.

That was pretty much all my day – after we got home, I had some supper and would go to bed right away.

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.

How My Life in America Started , and About My First CEO

And reblogging this post as well. After all, the longer I live in the US, the more I am thankful to a person who brought me here

Hettie's Reflections

My move to America won’t be possible without Pam – the CEO of the company, which hired me for my first job in the US. She was an outstanding personality and quite a controversial character, but one thing for sure: it’s only because of her that my move to America has happened.

Granted she was considering the interests of her business first, and for sure I was initially paid on the lower margin of the acceptable pay rate for a position, but she took on herself a responsibility of bringing me over.

In was not only about the money (although if you think about it, with myself and my three children, there were four visas and four airplane tickets to pay for, and as I’ve mentioned earlier, I had no money at all, so all these costs were upfront).

But what is more important, she’d taken on herself a responsibility…

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Our First Day In The USA

Reblogging the post I published a year ago about our first day in the US. That’s what was happening on that day twenty-five years ago.

Hettie's Reflections

Yesterday, there was a 24th anniversary of the day when Vlad, Anna, and I came to the US. In the past several months, I wrote so many posts about our last weeks in Russia and the first weeks and months in the US that I have almost nothing to add. But today, I was thinking about these first days again, and suddenly I recalled some of my feelings.

After Val picked us up at O’Hare, he drove us to Des Plaines, where I would sign the lease for my first ever apartment. I was tired; I barely understood what was going on. In addition to Val, one more VIN.net employee was waiting for me in the leasing office. His name was Art; he was a sales rep, and he was supposed to help me understand what I was signing; apparently, Pam didn’t trust Val to explain it to me :).

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Flying to America for the First Time

Today is the 25th anniversary of us (Vlad, Anna, and I) leaving Russia to fly to America. Reblogging the post about that day 🙂

Hettie's Reflections

Before I start, let me tell you a couple of words about how my children have reacted to the news that we are going to go to America. First of all, they were very excited to tell everybody around, and the funny thing is that nobody believed them! They would be at the playground, and would tell other parents: we are going to America for two years!!! And other parents would be yea, sure… And then I come and say that it’s true!

When Anna and I were talking recently about these weeks before our departure, she told me that she remembers there was one thing she was sad about, but she can’t remember what exactly it was. But I remembered! The Fall play in their daycare was in rehearsal at that time; it was a modern version of the Russian folk tale “Репка” (“The Turnip”). Both of them were…

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Detskiy Sad: What Was On The Menu

The food in detskiy sad was in many ways different from what I ate at home, probably that’s why I remember so well what was on the menu.

I disliked many foods for a long time because of the way they were prepared in detskiy sad. In some cases, it took me many years to try some dishes again and realize that they are actually quite good.

I didn’t have breakfast at home on the weekdays, and I think most kids didn’t. I do not recall whether my mom had breakfast before going to work. Our breakfast in detskiy sad was the same every day. First, some hot cereal. It could be either mannaya kasha (farina), oat porridge, hot rice cereal, or “pshenichka” – wheat porridge, or millet, always milk-based, although dry milk was often used. Then, a piece of white bread, something like a french baguette, with either a piece of butter or cheese and something called either “coffee with milk” or “cocoa.” In reality, both drinks would come from cans of condensed sweet substance, which contained some milk, a lot of sugar, and some traces of coffee or cocoa. It was dissolved in hot water and then poured into our cups.

Shortly after noon, we had lunch, which was called dinner. I know it sounds funny, but I have no idea how to explain this linguistical paradox. I can only speculate how this swap of meanings happened historically, but I know for sure that in the 19th century, and possibly until after the revolution, the Russian language didn’t have this problem. The meal at noon was called “poldnik” which means exactly that: something happening at noon. Dinner would be around 5 PM (sometimes as early as 4-30, sometimes later), and then it could be supper after 8 PM (or it could be none). I should probably research what happened with the normal order of things after the revolution. In any case, it was lunch, which was called dinner :). And it was a four-course meal. The first course was “a salad,” which meant shredded carrots or coleslaw (without dressing). Then, there was soup (called “the first course). Then an entree (“second course”). And then compote made of dried fruit (which I hated).

All soups were cooked differently from how they were cooked at home, but I especially hated the yellow pea soup, sour schi, and “rassolnik” (and I hate the latter two till now:)).

The second course would consist of some protein (a piece of fish, or a meatball, or a piece of chicken) with some carb side (pasta, rice, buckwheat, or mashed potatoes). In addition, there was almost always a piece of a sour pickle. We were required to eat everything that was on the plate, and although you could sometimes avoid the food you really-rally hated, it was always a fight. Once, I accidentally dropped this piece of pickle into my apron front pocket and didn’t realize it right away, so I ended up getting away with not eating it. I tried to do it on purpose for the next couple of days, but then I was caught:). The only dish I ended up liking in detskiy sad, that I didn’t like before, was liver. I never tried it, but then I saw my best friend devouring it, and I decided to try it, and it turned out I liked it a lot.

Funny fact: they used to make some “detskiy-sad style” versions of famous dishes, including beef stroganoff, goulash, and beefsteaks, so for a long time, I could not understand what was a big deal about them :).

After dinner, we had nap time, and after the nap time, we had “poldnik” which does not make much sense since it was not at noon but 3 PM. It often consisted of a glass of boiled milk (boiled for sanitary reasons, tasted horrible) and something random. “Random” could be a pastry or a piece of “zapekanka” (cottage cheese baked with eggs and flour) or some vinegret (salad with beets). In theory, detskiy sad had to be open till 8 PM, and the kids who stayed that late were upposed to get some supper, but I do not think it ever happened.

There was always lots of drama around food in detskiy sad because very few kids liked all of the dishes served, however, we were expected to leave happy plates and consume two half-pieces of rye bread at dinner. I think, my passion for fresh fruits and vegatables can be explained by the fact that I had almost none as a child!

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.

Things Happen…

Here is what the plan was. After almost two years of living in crisis (due to various reasons), Boris and I agreed to try to return to normalcy, and as a part of it, to try to live a week without any special events, just doing our usual things.

Boris’s school usually has a midterm week at the end of October, so there are no classes. Also, there are no actual midterms for the courses he teaches, so he didn’t need to be online. That being said, we planned for him to come on Saturday the 23rd (he has classes on Friday) and leave next Sunday.

When I talked to him on Sunday, he said: you know, there is one complication… It turned out that he never checked his schedule, and the actual midterm week was not the last week of October but one before last! There was already too late to exchange the tickets (and in any case, the airlines stopped doing the unlimited exchanges), so now he will have to teach at night!!! Or rather in the wee hours of the morning, both Thursday and Friday, and another long meeting on Wednesday. So much for careful planning!

Open House Chicago 2021 – Part 2

The next neighborhood we visited was Bridgeport. I never knew Chicago had a maritime museum, but there it was! The building where the Chicago Maritime Museum is located is a former Spiegel Catalogue Warehouse, on the banks of Bubbly Creek (Now, it’s a Bridgeport Art Center, and the Maritime Museum is in the basement).

The museum is wonderful; honestly, it’s a pity it is so far from the Loop! If it were closer, I would take more people there :).

One of the curators explained to us how the large ships could not sail in the Chicago River because it has so many bends
Continue reading “Open House Chicago 2021 – Part 2”

Open House Chicago 2021 – Part 1

OHC is an event I try not to miss. Although some years I was in Helsinki that very weekend, and some years, the weather was really horrible, I would make it more often than not.
Each time we go together, Igor comes up with a route we never did before, and each time we explore new places (at least, new to me :))

Last year, there was no OHC due to COVID, and this year, there were way fewer sites than in pre-COVD years, which Igor declared to be a positive thing: planning became easier.

On the first part of our OHC tour, we went to the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The first stop was The Plant – a former slaughterhouse and meat-packing facility converted into a green technology site, housing 20 businesses, including indoor and outdoor farms, beer and kombucha breweries, a bread bakery, and other emerging food producers and distributors. Bubbly Dynamics, who owns the facility, tried to preserve the features of the original building. You can see the signs on the walls identifying different stages of meat processing. Also, the toilets are located in the former walk-in refrigerators. That might sound funny, but I felt very uncomfortable closing a heavy door behind me and putting the latch down. It almost felt like the temperature was about to start dropping right away.

Approaching The Plant
At the entrance
Algae everywhere!
Continue reading “Open House Chicago 2021 – Part 1”