February 16, 2014


 Dear Friends! 
 It is my pleasure to announce the official release of Urban Crusing, an online publication for modern families.

 Inspired by our favorite Connection Line of Stokke strollers whose focus is "in the best interest of a child", and after many months of hard work and dedication, Urban Crusing is now live, committed to its mission to enrich lives and create happier families. 

We are honored to collaborate with great and talented editors and bring unique and interesting content to you in upcoming weeks and future. Travel with us and our editors, get inspired, find the best of the best products for your little one or peek into our daily life - Urban Crusing is committed to bringing only the best to you and your little ones. This site will be directed to our new site automatically, however there are a few ways of entering Living Notes that may not be a subject to automatic redirection. Should that be the case, please go HERE to our new site. 


January 27, 2014


 California is spoiling us with its produce. Year round farmer's market with seasonal produce is my personal little dream-come-true. We picked up a few fresh bursting with nutrition avocados( and here is why avocados rock )  on Sunday and put our creativity to test:

What can you do with avocados that is not a guacamole?

 You will be surprised, but actually a whole lot more then one would typically think. I am going to start with these four and I promise your guests will be blown away. The best part? It won't take you long at all!

Avocado ice-cream? Sounds crazy? Absolutely not, if you do it this way:

Avocado Honey Lime Ice-cream 


  • 4 large egg yolks
  • cup pure honey
  • tsp. salt
  • 2 cupshalf and half
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp. lime zest
  • 3 ripe, fresh California Avocados, peeled, seeded and pureed
 *LN tip: we also made this ice-cream using maple syrup and agave for low GI, but honey gives it by far the best consistency. 


  1. Whisk together eggs, honey and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. 
  2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, bring the half-and-half, buttermilk and lime zest to a full simmer. Once liquid begins to bubble, remove from the heat. Cover and let steep 2 hours.
  3. Once cream mixture has cooled, strain into another medium saucepan. Over low heat, bring to a simmer again.
  4. Temper the egg and honey mixture by adding the simmering cream to the mixture in a ladle a little bit at a time while whisking. Then, return the mixture to the saucepan. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the custard thickens enough to coat a spoon and the thermometer reads 170°F to 175°F, about 4 minutes (do not allow mixture to boil).
  5. Strain mixture into a clean bowl and allow the steam to escape. Cover and chill mixture until cold (at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day).
  6. Process the custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add avocado purée halfway through freezing.
  7. Transfer to a bowl or tub and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to 3 days. 

In the mood for some sea food? Ingredients list looks long and scary, but read close : it's really simple!

Avocado Dungeness Crab Tower

8 oz.f resh Dungeness crab meat
3 oz. Roma tomato, seeded, finely diced
3 oz. English cucumber, seeded, finely diced
1 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp.r ed wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and white pepper to taste
2 Fresh Avocados

Basil Vinaigrette
(Yield: 1/3 cup)
10 basil leaves
2 oz. extra virgin olive oil
1 oz. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. shallot, chopped
2 Tbsp. Fresh Avocado
Pinch of granulated sugar
Salt and white pepper to taste

Basil Vinaigrette:
Puree all ingredients in a blender. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the crab meat, half of the diced tomato, half of the diced cucumber, half of the parsley, the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice. Mix gently. Season with salt and white pepper.
Place a 2" wide, 3" tall ring mold on each plate. Cut avocados in half lengthwise and remove seed. Using a spoon, cut out silver dollar sized pieces of avocado. Place a few of these pieces on the bottom of each ring mold. Top each with ¼ cup of the crab mixture. Place another few pieces of avocado on top of the crab in each mold, then top off each with another ¼ cup of the crab mixture. Press down firmly, but gently. Lift off the molds, and top each tower off with more avocado rounds {full recipe}

White Chocolate Avocado Mousse 


  • ½ cup white chocolate chips
  • 10 Tbsp. sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 Tbsp. boiling hot water
  • 1 ½ ripe Fresh Avocados, peeled, seeded and halved
  • 2 cups cream
  • 1 cup crème fraiche*
*LN tip: any soft cheese ( think brie variety or softer) makes this desert heavenly! just the right proportion of sweet/salty, rich , but not too heavy - my personal favorite right here! 


  1. In a medium bowl, place the white chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and hot water. Stir until smooth and set aside.
  2. Puree the avocado in a food processor and fold into the white chocolate mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, whip together the cream and crème fraiche. Fold into the avocado mixture. 
  4. Spoon into serving dishes and allow to chill in refrigerator for 2 hours before serving. {serving suggestions}
And the least expected recipe. Margarita is not something that springs up to your mind when you think "avocado", but let me tell you : our guests were impressed. And go ahead and try it with Pomelo Pellegrino if you prefer a virgin margarita ( or for breastfeeding selves like me ). I promise , it will be a hit.
Kicked-up Avocado Margarita


  • 1 ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. ancho (or regular) chili powder
  • 2 lime wedges
  • 1 ripe Fresh Avocado, seeded, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 ½ cups crushed ice
  • 3 oz. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. agave nectar
  • 4 oz. tequila (*LN tip: use try pomelo pellegrino for vigrin margarita)
  • 2 oz. triple sec
  • 3 sprigs cilantro
  • 2 lime wedges, for garnish


  1. On a plate, mix together the salt and chili pepper.
  2. Run a lime wedge around the rim of each margarita glass and turn each glass upside down into salt mixture, twisting gently until the rim is completely coated.
  3. In a blender, combine the avocado, crushed ice, agave nectar, tequila, triple sec and cilantro sprigs; blend until smooth.
  4. Pour the margarita into the prepared glasses. 
  5. Garnish the rims of the glasses with lime wedges. Serve.
*Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly. {nutritional info}

Now tell me, does this qualify for unexpected uses of avocado or what? 
Any ideas that you want to share?

January 17, 2014


Now, that i've shared our salad savvy tips with you, it's time to talk about some of our current favorites around here.
These four salads are my often go-to's. Between a little sweet, a little sour, some savory, a pinch of spice and bursting with nutrition greens, it is guaranteed that all of your taste buds will be in a happy land. 

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Green Salad with Basil Vinaigrette 

 The vinaigrette:
 10 large fresh basil leaves thinly sliced 
2 tbsp white wine vinegar 
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
Salt and pepper to taste 
The salad: 
1/3 cup sliced almonds 
6 cups (packed) torn red lettuce leaves 
1 1/4 cups sliced fresh strawberries 
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled  
*LN tip: i love this recipe with spinach or boston butter lettuce. here is your anti-flu medicine on a plate.

Fennel and Cucumber Salad:
4 scallions
1 seedless cucumber
1 fennel bulb
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
one lemon
oil and vinegar to taste
salt and pepper to taste
*LN tip: our salt of choice is either celtic gray or hawaiian pink. however, if you have any black salt on hand, this salad looks simply spectacular with black specks when served on a white plate

Kale and Blood Orange Salad

1 small bunch dino kale
4 small oranges
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
maldon salt or other large flake finishing salt
*LN tip: we've substituted blood oranges for grapefruit and other citrus a couple of times, and i am a huge fan of pink grapefruit for this version of a salad : just the right amount of sweetness for my taste.
{full recipe}

Pear and Gorgonzola green salad  

 2 lg pears, about 1 lb
  1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  4 oz. Gorgonzola or other creamy blue cheese
  6 C. mixed greens, washed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
  1/2 C. vinaigrette dressing (bottled or homemade)
  1 C. Walnuts
*LN tip: a truly simple salad, takes seconds to make and will wow your even most gourmet guests. we added thinly sliced leaks and used simply a bit of lemon juice and freshly pressed olive oil for dressing. as a variety, some slightly toasted pecans were a big hit as well.
{full recipe}

Check back for more fun nutrition next week. Exotic or domestically creative, baby-friendly or gourmet eater approved, our salad savvy and salad pro series got you covered.

Do you have some favorite go-to's? Please, share!

January 16, 2014


How is your January going? 
At the calendar marking the 17th, it is an "already" and "only" more then half way through the first month of the year. We've had a few birthdays ( year end and year start are some busy times for us) , greeted the New Year and what comes with it,  celebrated Christmas again  ( Orthodox Christmas is in January , and no presents ) , had some dear friends visit ( and i can't believe i have ZERO pictures of them), dealt with flu ( no fun at all), and are up and running with the K12 schooling system. 

Here is a little instagram recap of details:

^^ a little change for a tree topper this year is , i believe , my favorite part of the tree decor ^^

^^ a little helper at the mielle candy shop helping mama prep for one of the birthdays we had last month * i fell in love with this little place. so very highly recommend! * ^^

^^ the birthday boy's morning and a little box of macaroons. a little less nutritious breakfast then i prefer , but birthdays are once a years, so why not , right? ^^

^^ decisions, decisions... we took a new approach to the birthday cake this year ( upon kids' request and SO happily approved by this mama: instead of baking a cake, they decided to go for a slice from a bakery. we figured that each would get 2 slices if we baked a cake ourselves, so we went to the total of eight bakeries to find 8 different cakes that they liked which spread over the course of 2 weeks. let me tell you - i loved it. not only did i not have to cut out 2 or so hours from my already way-too-overbooked schedule to make the cake, but the fun of going around, picking-choosing and then sharing bites and spreading the birthday fun over several days vs just one has been so great that I am thinking of making it a permanent tradition in our non-traditional family. fitting too, right? ^^

^^ but we are not immune to traditional stuff: like a "nutcracker" or a fussy baby and a super tired mama ( aka THE crabby pants ) ^^

^^ the 2014 midnight picture. considering the "numbers" of people in this "little" family of ours, i am just happy the two of US are looking in the camera, even if it is too dark and waaay to grainy of a shot. on another note , i have noticed a nice side-effect of having a lot of kids: by the time you get to your food, it is typically 80% gone, so here is to never being afraid to try new and delicious things. if you like it, they will like it too, so no danger of overindulging here. ^^

^^ when you wait for Grandfather Frost to some (* Grandfather Frost = Santa, but on New Year, cultural fun thing from my childhood that we keep in our family for our kids to experience too) ^^

^^ arabian shade-dance , or side-effect of loving the nutcracker too much ^^

^^ new year's day explorations in little italy and finding our destination. he thought we should go right. we went left because the google map on my iphone said so. ^^ 

^^ turns out technology does not know everything ^^

^^ a GREAT benefit of exploring new things on a holiday: you get an entire trolley bus to yourselves ^^
^^ and the little man slept... ^^

^^ ... and smiled . just the way i like it ^^

^^ the best personal christmas card in the world : from our family to yours, five kids and hair-do's included ^^

^^ christmas eve service ^^

^^ between the two shots we've got a family picture ^^

^^ one more reason why i love the bassinet so much: off and up the SLEEPING baby goes ^^

^^ a little surprise E prepared for us on one of our starbucks' nights. he doesn't pull himself to sitting just yet, but he will surely sit ( and refuse to lay down too) when he is awake. and considering that he's got at least 5 people run to him at his slightest sound, no wonder E is not in a hurry of doing everything by himself ^^

^^ a little expresso and a fine cocoabella chocolate to celebrate the first weekend of the 2014 ^^
^^ i love unexpectedly running into people i know. even if one of them is pouting ^^

^^ face-making is her second nature ^^

^^ and here is what happens when you get too involved in animated reading and don't pay attention to your most important person in your lap : ^^
^^ he spits all over you. ^^
ps: i love having a pre-teen who snaps pics non-stop. 

^^ the best seat on the trolley ^^ 
( i have suspicions that it was THE trolley that awarded us with the flu )

^^ i wish that deciding on a good vitamin was as easy as deciding on a great stroller ^^

^^ self-dressed and ready to go have fun ^^
^^ this is that moment when you forget how actually hard it is to have 2 little ones less then 2 years apart ^^

^^ and this is the moment when you forget that you haven't really slept for the last ... umm ... 10 years in my case ...^^

^^ attempt 1157 in trying to get a good picture with self-timer. it was all worth it ^^


This is a really small insta-summary of little Xplory-ations and Crusi-ing around. The grand plan is to sort through 12 32GB memory cards of it all this weekend and share some of the amazing details with you that the real camera has captured.

 Crossing fingers and toes that nobody gets sick again.

* pictures are taken with the iphone 5s. vsco cam is used to edit when desired 
*want to peek more into our life? instagram knows it all!

January 08, 2014


salad savvy

Health is always a priority in our family, and I firmly believe that a large part of one's well-being is good nutrition. We've tried many different approaches to eating, and I always lean to the all-time tested, simple, well-grown and well-made foods. A piece of levain bread with some natural sea salt, a slice of cheese or aromatic fresh olive oil is mouthwatering and as far as nutritional component goes - is a meal on its own. 

We love salads. Most of the time my dinner is a salad : it's light and easy to throw together quickly after a long day. More and more my little ones request larger portions of it in addition to their dinner plates * which we will be covering later on *, making me one happy mama. Salads are also something that is EASY to have slip into a monotonous routine, which apart from becoming boring, also looses its nutritional power, because with little variety the body gets accustomed to the food and does not absorb the nutrients well ( fun fact, isn't it? ) .

But you don't have to travel the earth to gather the best recipes possible. Thanks to pinterest, our food making routine is never boring anymore, and as we experiment with the recipes, we often end up creating more of our own versions of something delicious. Next week I will share some of our favorite salads, surprisingly simple and equally interesting. Today I want to cover the basics of what can make even the simplest of the salads delicious. 

1. Good fats. 
I think we all know by now that fats are not evil. As a matter of fact, you need fats to keep your hormonal balance in place just as much as you need all your vitamins. But, of course, differentiate between good and bad fats, and please, DO keep a balance. I highly recommend to invest into a bottle of a great olive oil - we get ours from the local farmer's market. Fresh, beautiful and so aromatic it makes you want to sit down for a lunch break right then and right there. I guarantee that the nutritional content of that product is skyrocking even though it does not come with a standard label. Sometimes I do not feel like oil of any kind, but some cheese sounds just right up my alley. Unfortunately, my little guy has a strong allergy to cow's milk, and until that's passed ( if ever), I am somewhat limited. Fortunately, there are multitudes of goat's, sheep's and other milks to choose from, which is an interesting discovery for me * i've already compiled a ton of notes to share with you! so, be on a lookout! *  As far as non-dairy cheeses go, my strong advice to stick to RAW FERMENTED non-dairy products. From my research and experience, those cheese are easier on digestion and do not mess with hormones. 

2. Sweet fruit.
Contradictory as it may sound, but add a little sweet fruit to your savory salad and you will not regret. We all know about non-sweet fruits and are pros at adding veggies, but I promise you will discover something you love and your tastebuds will thank you for it. 

3. Green base.
I cannot say enough about the importance of good green base. My personal favorite at the moment are kale and arugula, which are bursting with nutrition. Did you know that arugula,  also known by its European name, rocket, has been used in salads for a long, long time. Though it's a relative of the mustard plant, arugula was originally considered a cabbage substitute (its name comes from eruca, which is Latin for a cabbage-like leafy green). In the U.S., this flavorful green was practically unheard of until the 1990s, when it rapidly rose to popularity. Today, you can buy it fresh in nearly any supermarket, and for cheap!
  • Make a salad of fresh mixed arugula, and your brain will surely thank you. A large handful of raw arugula — or about 85 grams — is an excellent source of folate, delivering 20 percent of a nutrient that helps to support a healthy nervous system.
  • Fresh arugula is also an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, which (respectively) support eyesight, promote healthy gums and contribute to your blood's ability to clot properly. 
  • As for kale, here is a long list of benefits - believe me, they are all true.
 4. Spices and such
Here is to last, but faaaaar from the least idem on my list. It is a-mazing what a little bit of a new spice can do to your beaten up, old true and faithful salad recipe. My personal favorite discoveries have been saffron, shallots ( try them with balsamic vinegar and strawberries!) and truffle salt. My tooth is not the one of a sweet kind, and I can talk about salt for ages ( maybe we will talk about that later too...) , truffle salt is on the outmost top list of the best finds ever. Yes, it is price-y, but it is oh, so worth it! A couple ounces goes a long way and everything is just simply amazingly delicious with a pinch of that white magic dust on it. There is a difference between the white truffle and black truffle, so try to see which of the two you like most ( i do both!), and you don't have to buy it before you try - a local cheesemonger will help you out at any Whole Foods, should you want to taste it. 


January 01, 2014

To the New Year 2014

Happy New 2014 Year, dear friends!

I want to mark this first day of the new and beautiful year with gratitude for the year passed and dreams and wishes for the year that just stepped onto the ruling pedestal. 2013 was a year like no other, full of contrasts between tears of happiness and moments of desperation. But as the best of the human nature is, we forget the bad, savor the happy and keep the lessons learned to apply to a future chapter in the book of life. We said goodbyes to 2013 on a happy note and thanked God for many blessings and opportunities sent to us during the last 12 months. We've grown in numbers,  added true friends to our small circle of dear people and grown in faith and closer as a family are just a few from the very extensive list.

I have many hopes and wishes for the New 2014th Year. Though without any resolutions ( i still seem to not be able to adapt this custom, even 15 years later ), I am looking forward to 2014 with a happy heart. I hope and dream to fill the next 365 days with more laughter, more explorations, more time dedicated to travel and discoveries of new places and cultures, to growing new hobbies, talents and opportunities and continuing on with the ones acquired during 2013. I am beyond excited for new developments and success within work related avenues coming to life this year. And although we have had a huge slip off in the technology department during the last several months ( TWO computers with logic board defect - what are the chances! - which caused a complete loss of over 20 thousand images ) , I am more in love with photography then ever. I found it to be my new creative outlet, and have been working much during the last two months on creating a new path to follow.

 I am also looking forward to more of the exhausting technique classes, rehearsals and collaborations. At 34 this year and having gone through many, many years of life "on stage" I am realizing that I may not have many more of those left in the future. And should this be my last one, I want to have it stored in my memory as the best one yet. 

I hope for complete health of all of our loved ones. And then also wish and hope to grow more romance in our marriage, because between two separate careers and one combined, five children and what seems like a thousand responsibilities, it is easy to let go of that part, but it is oh-so-crucial in marriage, at least for me. I also want to steal a few more minutes together with my oldest son. 2013 marked his 10th birthday, and it won't be long before he enters the all-time "too-cool-for-mom" teens. I am marveling at the blessing of having this extremely intelligent, witty, talented and beautiful little human with a heart of gold in my life, and while he's cool with the fact of hanging out with me, my schedule is and will be filled with more photography outings, concerts, art galleries and chess tournaments. Though his mother, it is not bias of me to state that the world has gained another future genius when my little man entered the world way back in 2003. 

My list can go on indefinitely, and although it may never end, it is the ability to see even if only some of the dreams realize what makes it for a part of my definition of "happy" making it more exciting to look toward the future. And last but far not least, I am just throwing it out there into the universe that it would be much appreciated to have the minutes in the hour go a little slower, even if only for a day or two.

I hope for more love in the world, happiness and peace within hearts and families, understanding between people and abundance of new, better, opportunities for all. As they say in my culture, when translated directly : 

 With New Year! With New Happiness! 

How about you? What do you wish or hope for in this new year?
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