Childhood With the Russian Circus


Violetta, left, with her mother while o tour with the circus in 1986.

I am very excited to introduce the Traveling Family Series. It’s a project I’ve been contemplating for several years and finally made connections with the right people to make it happen. For this first feature, Violetta Afanasieva is talking about her childhood experience touring with her parents while they performed with the Russian Circus as figure skaters.

Her mother was a three time Moscow junior pair champion and her father a graduate of the Russian School of Circus Art. Together, they toured with the Moscow Bolshoy Circus On Ice for 25 years.

Are these photos not gorgeous? What an amazing childhood!

I am fascinated, and this was a nice way to start the series since we’ll be talking with parents who take their kids on the road in the next two features. It’s interesting to see the type of impact travel can have on a child. In this case, it inspired a rewarding and adventurous career.

Violetta depicts a time and a place that is now only spoken of briefly in history books. It is an honor to host her story here on Mouse In Your House and I’ll outline a brief timeline of her career before we get started. English is Violetta’s second language but I thought she did a wonderful job explaining and sharing her memories.

From birth on, Violetta traveled with her parents for the majority of their tours. When she turned 5, she moved back home to attend school but was also heavily involved with the state-run ice skating program. The Soviet Union had only recently dissipated so the country was very different than it is today and sports was extremely serious business. The children’s schedules were strict and school was scheduled around on-ice classes, ballet, swimming, running and other aerobic sports geared toward preparing skaters for competition. Training was intense and because of this the country produced several of the best figure skaters in the world at the time.


In 2006, with her husband by her side as her partner, the pair won the Extreme Ice Skating World Championships in St. Petersburg.

Violetta competed at the national level successfully for several years. At 14 though, she missed the showmanship aspect of touring professionally and decided to join her first ice show with the Moscow Circus on Ice alongside her parents. Her signature performance was a hula-hoops act, which she eventually perfected to combine adagio and acrobatics with a partner. You can see it here.

She eventually met her husband while on tour and today, the pair performs throughout the world together. They are a mesmerizing and extremely talented pair. Learn more about them on their website. Violetta and her husband, Pete Dack, are available for public speaking engagements and you can find their performance schedule as well.

Welcome, Violetta…

Tell us about your parent’s work structure. How did they make travel possible with a little one? 

Both of my parents were working for the division of Big Moscow Circus – “Circus on Ice”. My parents would always go on trips, usually around 3 months at a time. I was born in Moscow and started to travel with my parents at a very early age. To help my parents, my grandmother quit her job to be with my family and help with taking care of me. She would travel with us and raise me while we were following my parents. Usually my grandmother and I would join my parents during the trips across Russia, but we would stay in Moscow when they would travel to different countries. Most people in the circus companies had families and kids, so I always had friends around. It’s was quite exiting for the kids to be exploring new places and we had plenty to see.


Violetta’s mother performs.


A portrait of her father.


A portrait of her mother.

Where did you sleep and how were the performers fed? Were restaurants an option? 

I started performing when I was 14. When my parents traveled with the circus, they stayed at hotels, a Russian kind. Every floor had a community kitchen, so they cooked. When they would travel outside of Russia, they would live on the per diem.


Violetta’s family celebrates New Year’s on the road.

When I started touring, I never toured Russia. I did a year or two with the circus and then was hired by a European company, Holiday on Ice. They also hired my mom and my dad. We worked with that company for 6 years. We had a car and caravan, like most of the people in the company. We would stay at the camp sights or right by the building we were performing in. My little brother (4.5 years younger) traveled with us too.

What did your “normal day” as a kid look like? 

When I started school, I stopped traveling with my parents and stayed home with my grandma and grandpa. So my childhood was pretty normal. Expect that I was a part of a russian sport program and my schooling and training session was especially designed for my class, there were 15 of us. So I hardly played outside my home, because I would leave around 6am and return 6pm. I would play with my group mates between school, ice sessions and off ice training. I would join my parents on their trips only during school breaks and few weeks in the summer.


Little Violetta poses outside the circus entrance.

Exploring new place was the best. Never boring or repetitive. There were about eight kids of my age in my parent’s circus, so there was plenty of ideas of what to do and to play. I don’t remember playing with toys. We always played active games. It was always exciting to know that you are going to travel. I loved it! Spending a day in the train, while we would be going somewhere in Russia was fantastic. Because the production would occupy a couple of train cars, there was lots of room to roam around. We also would travel long distances in the car, which was definitely a favourite for me and my brother.

Any favorite memories that stand out from your days on the road with your family?

My best memories was to watch the audience reaction to my parent’s performance. No matter where we were people loved them and applauded. That fascination with performance laid the path for my career choice. As for being on the road, I would say it is the feeling of going somewhere was always the best. It’s like going on vacation.

How do you think traveling as a kid influenced your adult life (if at all)?

Because I traveled since I was very little, travel became a very normal thing. I never stressed going somewhere new, never worried that I will get lost or will not understand different languages. I understand people better because I’ve seen different lifestyles and customs.


One of Violetta’s first times on the ice with her mother.


Stopping for a photo break while traveling with her family on tour.

Would you take your own child on the road with you? 


One of Violetta’s first performances.

I think my situation would be different, since my family is in Russia and my husband’s family would not be able to travel with us and help us to take care of our kids. Also, my husband and I are self employed. We don’t belong to the company that travels as a team. Sometimes we would go some where for a couple of days, sometime for a couple of months. It would not be possible to travel with our child, I think. When we start our family, we would have to settle and work in one spot. Well, maybe with the exception of a cruse ship show, we might take our kid with us.

Thank you so very much, Violetta! 

If you’re interested in learning more about figure skating during the pre and post-Soviet Union era, there is a wonderfully engaging book written by Olympian pair skater Ekaterina Gordeeva that paints a detailed picture of life and sport during that time.


Violetta and her husband, Pete Dack, perform with hula hoops.


Violetta and her husband perform a headbanger or “bounce spin” during a show.

A few more photos from Violetta’s personal collection…


Violetta’s father performs.


Violetta at 5-months-old traveling with the circus troupe.


Hand-in-hand with grandma.


A vacation, posing with mom.


Violetta’s dad at work.


A portrait of her mother.


Baby Violetta, her mother and her grandparents vacationing at the Black Sea.

I hope you enjoyed this start to our Traveling Family Series. I’ll be back next Thursday with our second story. And a huge thank-you goes to Molly Quigley Moenkhoff, another incredibly talented ice skater and a dear friend of mine, for introducing me to Violetta.

P.S. I actually skated competitively for most of my childhood. It’s something I plan to talk about here on this blog. I’ve just never gotten around to figuring out exactly how I want to explain and share those 10 years of my life but we’ll get there eventually. Happy Thursday!

Photo Copyright: All photos are owned by Violetta Afanasieva and may not be used without her permission. Please email her directly or feel free to email me ( and I will forward her any requests if you’d like to use them. Thank you!

mouseinyourhouseChildhood With the Russian Circus

Matt’s Music – Paper Wires

I’ve written before about being married to a musician but I’ve never actually posted Matt’s music on this blog. So….I am today. We’ve had a lot of fun lately with some of his shows. The Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival made for quite the late night family party (Gray and I did some dancing together) and he’ll be playing at Barley’s in Maryville May 16. Come on out if you’re nearby.

Here’s a little tune for your day. It gets me in a good mood. Happy Tuesday. I’ll be back Thursday with the first feature in our Traveling Family Series.

Matt Honkonen “Climbing Vine” from Loch & Key Productions on Vimeo.

mouseinyourhouseMatt’s Music – Paper Wires

When It Doesn’t Rain

Another month has passed and our blogging collective is on to its second writing prompt. This time around our prompt word is “rain”. To be perfectly honest, I’m just glad it’s not raining. Now, I’m going to go quickly knock on wood.

OK, I’m back. So this post is my plea to Mother Nature. Please, pretty please, be kind when it comes to the downpours this summer. I’m not asking for a draught here, but this past weekend, when it was bright and clear and the perfect temperature for sitting outside in a beer garden and chatting over some salad, was so appreciated. And I want more of these days.

Grayson turns 5-months old today. I CAN NOT believe it. Where has the time gone? I can’t wait to get his little baby toes in some sand this summer, but we sure are enjoying these warm Tennessee days in the meantime.

When it doesn’t rain our family gets up late and smiles big…

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We dine al fresco…

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We try oranges for the first time…

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We photograph that single dimple nonstop, in case you didn’t notice…

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And we eat whole artichokes with melted butter…

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Happy Monday, everyone.

P.S Be sure to check out Katie from Hello Little Bean. It’s a lovely blog and I’m very proud to join these ladies every month in blogging together. You can find their links below and read their posts for our writing prompt day.

“Rain” is the April writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Katie of Hello, Little Bean. A few words from Katie — Hi! I’m Katie and I write a blog called ‘Hello, Little Bean.’ It’s about life as a new mom to my cute daughter, Lark Story. I’m California born and raised, but currently live in Michigan with my soon-to-be husband, James and my soon-to-be stepson, Brennan, as well as our little Lark and two kitties. I’m a full-time graphic designer who loves all things artistic and creative. I’m overly sensitive and sentimental, sarcastic and foul-mouthed at times, a foodie and a reality tv junkie who’s completely and utterly in love with motherhood. You can also find me on instagram, facebook, pinterest and our little online boutique, Bold Threads.

/// The Mommy Blogger Collective /// Christina, Courteney, Dena, Erica, Erin, Gillian, Katie, Misty, Nicole, and Renée. ///

mouseinyourhouseWhen It Doesn’t Rain

How to Dress a Fashionable Toddler

Tuyen Ho is a friend I met through my husband. They work together at a local design shop here in Knoxville. Andimage6 maybe, just maybe, I rejoice a little inside every time she posts another photo on Facebook of her stylish daughter. Can you really blame me? Just look at that adorable Bjork dress. I die.

So I asked if she’d be willing to give us some tips on how she dresses her sweet Cát Vy. I don’t have a daughter and doubt I ever will. Both Matt and I have two brothers, no sisters, and a family history of reproducing little men. Let’s just say, I’m not holding my breath. But this post made me WANT A GIRL. As in, I said it a million times and Matt was, all, NOOOOOO. And then he looked at these photos and was all, well maybe…..

Tuyen, you need to come pick out my wardrobe too! Enjoy the lowdown on one extremely fashionable toddler.

1. Cát Vy is absolutely adorable. What are some of your tips for dressing her so beautifully?

Thank you for the kind words about my little Cát Vy! I love it!

My tip for dressing a child is to try not to restrict yourself with any rules or pre-conceived notions about what’s stylish or trendy or expected. Trends come and go quicker than growth spurts. But, classic pieces will never go out of style, which is also a plus for the next child who gets the hand-me-downs.

Cát Vy is a girl, but she doesn’t wear head-to-toe pink all the time. Sometimes I shop for her in the boys’ section. That’s usually where I can find classic, oversized sweaters and cardigans, or plain tees. I also don’t keep myself confined to the toddler aisle either. I’ll often look in the older girls’ department for items that will fit her, but not necessarily the way it was intended (e.g. a shirt becomes a dress). Buying larger sizes is also a great way to save money over time, since she will grow into them rather than out of them. Plus, as she gets bigger, the fit of the piece changes, giving it a new look.

A couple of things I keep in mind when buying larger sizes are 1) make sure it looks intentionally oversized, not ill-fitting, and 2) play it safe by picking items that don’t have any characters or themes she may lose interest in after a week or two. One way I add fun to her wardrobe without adding additional cost is to look in my own closet. Scarves and necklaces are one-size-fits-all. Sometimes I’ll complete Cát Vy’s look with one of my statement necklaces that’s not too large and won’t over-power her tiny frame. And she loves it, because she gets to be like her mommy!

I am able to find Cát Vy clothing and accessories basically anywhere (I’ve bought her a dress at the fair before!). Generally I’m a bargain shopper. I’ll buy her basics at stores like Target and Old Navy. They are great for cute finds on a budget, but every now and then I’ll splurge online when I see something I wouldn’t be able to find in local stores. Some of my favorite online shops are, and I find I revisit these sites often, even if I don’t shop. Their clothes have so much personality, I can’t help but be inspired when I look through their collections.

2. And we should probably get to know you’re little model. How old is she? What’s her favorite color and what’s her favorite piece of clothing or outfit?

Cát Vy is 2 years old, 3 in July. Her favorite color is pink. Luckily for me, we’ve somehow struck an unspoken deal where I work it into every other area of her life, and she’s content with a fairly pinkless wardrobe. I tend to like it more as a bright pop of color in a small amount. Her favorite items in her wardrobe are her hot pink rainboots, or depending on the day, her Princess Anna gown from the movie Frozen.

Quick Disclaimer: Cát Vy gets to wear pink anytime she wants. I don’t tell her no if she picks something out for herself. As long as she’s covered and warm, I’m ok with it. But, for as long as she’ll let me pick out her outfits, I’ll do it.

image9 4. Name the top five little-girl fashion pieces you wouldn’t want to go a week without.

My top five little-girl fashion pieces are:
a good pair of suspenders (any color will do!)
her ducky necklace
her Pocket Twirl Skirt from Fluer + Dot
her Lucky Top boots
her gray beenie I got from the general dollar store

5. Do you sew a lot of her ensembles and which ones so far? Any tips?

I wish, wish, wish I could sew clothes for her, but I can’t yet. I have so many ideas in my head, it would be great if I could actually make them. I have crafted her a few costumes which involved hand-stitching, but nothing highly-involved. Learning to make her clothes is my next big hobby though, for sure!

Note: Tuyen did make the Bjork dress, pictured below.

6. You’ve obviously got a knack for fashion. What’s your professional background and has it influenced your style at all?

I’m a graphic designer, and I definitely think my career goes hand-in-hand with my fashion sensibility. Both need to be well-balanced and cohesive to be successful, and the small details are what refines the overall look. I’ve always thought typography was like shoes. You can have the perfect outfit, but if you have on the wrong shoes, then the outfit falls apart. Much like a design piece, you can have the perfect layout, but if the typography is wrong, the piece falls apart.


7. Are there any spring items out on the internet that you just know Cat Vy needs to have in her closet?

Once spring weather does come, it will take me a minute to adjust. I’m always layering her up. So this spring, I want her in simple, breathable pieces like these jumpsuits from or dresses like this one on

8. What are her thoughts on fashion (as thoughtful as a two-year-old girl can get haha). Does she love it?

Cát Vy LOVES getting dressed up. Before she even turned one, she was obsessed with shoes. They were always the first thing she would look for after she woke. Now she likes to wear all sorts of accessories; hats, necklaces, headbands, sunglasses, scarves, etc. I think she’s open and willing to wear all these things because she see’s me wearing them. She alway says, “…just like you!” and my heart melts.


Thanks so very much, Tuyen! She is awesome and I can’t wait to see what she does in her life with all this fashion sense you’re passing on. Here are some final shots to make you smile, dear readers. Have a fantastic, sunny weekend.










mouseinyourhouseHow to Dress a Fashionable Toddler

The Traveling Family Series

I have always dreamed of being able to do some long-term travel with my family. It’s one of those scenarios Matt and I have imagined a lot through the years but so far, we like our little setup here in Knoxville. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still enjoy considering all the different opportunities out there in this great big world and I absolutely adore hearing about family adventures abroad.

Sometimes, I admit, I use this blog to dig a little deeper and learn more about the lives I find so interesting.

Hence, I present to you the Traveling Families Series. I had a wonderful time interviewing these families and people and I am so thankful for their willingness to take part, their time spent answering questions and forking over photos and their general openness to sharing their life with us.

So how with this all go down? During the next three Thursdays I will be introducing a family or individual who have traveled with their family for their job. Next week, we’ll kick things off with a very talented ice skater who grew up touring with a Russian circus. She’s welcomed us into her world and her memories and I am so excited to share her photos and thoughts with you!

Traveling Family-01

mouseinyourhouseThe Traveling Family Series

Yarn Bombing at Knoxville’s Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival

Have you heard of yarn bombing? I never knew about it but was at Knoxville’s Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival in Knoxville this past weekend and was delighted to see all this fun yarn art. Who came up with this goodness? How awesome that someone somewhere spent time creating these colorful tree cozies and garlands for us visitors.

Honestly, Knoxville, I just fell head over heels in love with you all over again this past weekend.  And I needed the mush fest, bad. On Saturday morning, I looked at Matt during a neighborhood walk and told him I just couldn’t shake this funk I had gotten myself into during the week. I wanted to crack it, but it just wouldn’t budge no matter how much matte I drank or front porch lounging I did. But when Gray and I finally arrived downtown to see daddy play in the Old City for the Rhythm N’ Blooms festival I finally got a big breath of festival energy that sunk down to my toes. It was time to relax.

Maybe it was being surrounded by all those happy people enjoying such fantastic music. The lineup really was impressive (and not just because Matt played ;). Cereus Bright, Black Lillies, Brett Dennen, Ben Sollee, Guy Marshall, Daryl Scott, Tim Lee 3, Senryu, Harpeth Rising, Shovels and Rope, the Felize Brothers. The list went on and on.

So on top of being able to dance a little bit, I got Gray setup in the Ergo and enjoyed finding these yarn bombs as we wandered through the Old City. So thank you, to whoever spent their time creating this incredible art. What a great weekend that I desperately needed. It was a perfect way to welcome in Spring….finally.











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And some shots from Matt’s show and the fam enjoying the music. My favorite spot was the Jackson Avenue Viaduct stage with string lights and food trucks lined up for the choosing.





Matt and the very awesome Preston Davis and Cody Noll rocking it….


mouseinyourhouseYarn Bombing at Knoxville’s Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival

Can Moms Really Have It All?

Ahh, the working mom life. Can I just take a second to say, what the fuzz has happened? I’m almost two months into owning working-mom status, but I feel like I blinked after maternity leave and realized that I photo-49hadn’t taken a break to just sit still for weeks. I have tried so hard to be diplomatic about this but I’m breaking down. The exhaustion has broken me.

I don’t want this post to become a comparison of working mom vs. stay-at-home mom for so many reasons. For one, maybe in the next ten years I will choose to spend more time at home and I know, because I spent more than three months at home with Gray, that I wouldn’t want anyone telling me how much easier I have it. And it’s just not true. I felt beaten down and desperate many a time while I sat with Gray day in and day out in our little treehouse trying to feed him and entertain him as he squirmed and cried for what, I still may never know.

I really do believe that staying home is work. It’s HARD work. But to try to pretend that both scenarios are the same is just not true. I’m talking to myself here because I’ve been trying to act like being a mom is being a mom and if I stayed home it would be no different. But that’s just not the way it works.

It’s time, dude. It’ just nonexistent with this working balance challenge. And the things I miss are seeing my kitchen, looking out a window, spending time outside and well, seeing Grayson. I see my baby less. It’s hard to admit, but that’s the truth (why, I don’t know since that’s pretty obvious). I don’t think this is always a bad thing. I love that I get to keep working and challenging myself because it keeps me fulfilled as a person, as a woman who worked hard to get where I am today in my career.

The benefits are that I get to drop off my baby for a little while and devote my brain to something non-baby. That really is nice. I’ve read so much research about the benefits of staying home vs. working. Some say part-time moms are most satisfied. Others say babies need to be in daycare to learn communication skills. Other research says having baby in daycare threatens their development because their needs aren’t met quick enough (only four hands for so many babies). I get tired of trying to figure out what’s best. Do you?

photo-49I could say that I can work all day, stay healthy, have a hobby and keep my baby happy. All day today I’ve considered what I could do to make all those things work better so that I don’t end up leaving the car running with the keys in the ignition while I’m sitting in a restaurant. I could buy a big calendar and keep it up-to-date more regularly. I could wake up at 5:30 AM and go running. I could spend my weekends cleaning.

Dude, I am not kidding when I tell you that I spent a good amount of time today trying to figure out the best ways for Matt and I to share our calendars. Because they are both insane.

But the thing is, it so often feels like one long marathon. When do I finally stop and choose to enjoy things? This one life with this one baby? I could have it all. Sure. But maybe the bigger questions that keeps sneaking into this brain of mine is whether having it all is worth it.

I have no answers today. I didn’t even figure out the merged calendar thing. I’m doggy-paddling, and I’m ready to give up (the good thing is, you don’t get to give up on motherhood). I have this print on my wall in the kitchen that says, “dishes can wait, life won’t.” It’s true. I get it. But man is it a daily struggle to make sure my actions line up with that mentality.

But tomorrow’s a new day with new opportunities. I’m very thankful for that and it’s fulfilling in a way to know that I’m doing my part by navigating each day the best we can. Here’s to tomorrow and letting whatever comes my way become my version of “all.”

mouseinyourhouseCan Moms Really Have It All?

5 Food Subscriptions to Try


I’ve been totally intrigued by the new meal subscriptions being mentioned across the internet lately. My interest finally got the best of me a few nights ago and I went and ordered a total of seven meals. I know, put the debit card down, right?! I just got so excited thinking, wow, I can do my grocery shopping practically right here, right now, and it will all come right to my front door. Bam. Done. This is amazing, if only they end up being delicious little meals. Here’s hoping.

The first one will be delivered Saturday and I’m totally waiting like a little girl on Christmas Eve for my foodie packages to flank my front door. It sounds like the meat is vacuum packed, but that’s almost all I know regarding the transportation and packaging process so far. How is this all going to go down?!

Once the meals arrive, I’ll be blogging about the experience, how easy or challenging they were to cook and if Matt and I liked the recipes. I’ve ordered from Plated and Blue Apron. Unfortunately, there were a lot more subscription options that delivered to San Francisco and New York and other big cities exclusively. Our Tennessee options were somewhat limited. But heck, we’ve never had anything like this concept available before that I’m aware of, so let’s try it out.

Home delivery like this could save so much time (grocery shopping with a baby ain’t easy!). Most of the prices still beat out a restaurant price tag so they’re fair game for us to consider using occasionally, especially when we put the promotion codes to work.

Here’s what I discovered through ordering and the other subscription companies I have on my list.

 1. Plated
Offer: Plated provides all the ingredients needed to cook complete meals. The ingredients are delivered right to your door and they send you lots of emails to let you know it’s headed your way. Their menu is created weeks ahead of time so you can check the recipes out and opt in to take part that week or opt out. You can header-right@2x-f8c81aa0f08b5bcc46e531bc1eb10091choose from 4 meat/fish options and 3 vegetarian selections.
Price: A $10 membership gets you a $12 meal. A la carte is $15/meal. I ended up using a promotion code – GetPlated – and purchased four meals for $20.
Pros: Unlike other subscription services I found, this one includes meat. There are very few items they won’t ship, like eggs. They send a fair amount of emails to keep you updated on everything, including the fact that my subscription is about to renew unless I update it accordingly. The food selections looked divine: italian roasted steak, pan fried red fish and cauliflower leek fritters.
Things to Consider: The minimum purchase order ended up being four plates of the same meal. This is probably not an issue for most families but since it’s just Matt and I, I would have preferred to pick two different meals. But I’m still excited to try our lamb meatballs with orzo and asparagus.
New Benefit: I just received an email from the Plated team letting me know that they launched their Plated Platinum for Pumps program, so you can now order your dog goodies in one website visit. Pretty sweet.


2. Blue Apron
Offer: Their team sends all the food you’ll need to cook up a complete meal. They also include meat. The normal subscription includes three meals a week and they also list their menu online ahead of time. You can skip a week at any time. They say it takes about 35 minutes on average to prepare the meals, each clocking in around 500-700 calories per meal. It’s an easy way to know how many calories you’re consuming.
Price: $10 per meal (or $20 for a couple)
Pros: I like that they give you six options so there’s not a whole lot of choosing to do.
Things to Consider: You do need to remember to select vegetarian options if you want something other than the meat/fish selections. Otherwise, they’ll send what you’ve indicated in your profile.

3. Peach Dish
Turkey-Burgers-+-Steak-Chimichurri-28-1024x678Offer: You’ll get a box of fresh, pre-portioned ingredients and recipes sent weekly to your abode.
Price: $50/week for two dinners for two people
Pros: No minimum obligation and you can cancel at any time. I also like their instagram account, where you can see more fun food pics.
Things to Consider: They have a wide variety of meal options to consider.

3. Hungry Globetrotter
Offer: They send a kit that includes all the spices and sauces you need to cook a meal for four people. The recipes sounded delicious – Argentine Asado and Peruvain Roast Chicken – and greek_dinner_large_largewould certainly provide a nice break from my normal food routine. The Hungry Globetrotter team is all about introducing you to new recipes inspired by an array of different world cultures.
Price: around $35 per food kit
Pros: It’s a fun way to try new foods and spices that you may not consider without reading through a ton of different cookbooks. It’s also nice that you won’t have to buy an entire new seasoning jar that you may or may not use within the year, especially if it’s a more obscure selection.
Things to Consider: Meat/fish is not included! The cost seemed pricy.

4. Nature Box
Offer: They’ve come up with 100 different healthy snacks – think apple chips and pistachios – that can be dropped off at your lovely home.
lonestarsnackmix_site3_1Price: starts at $19.95/box (comes with 5 snack bags). Boxes go up from here.
Pros: They’re committed to keeping things healthy. For me personally, snacks are a big deal and something I overlook constantly, leading to headaches and bad eating habits. I don’t buy enough selections and tend to hold off until meal time. It’s so much better to eat small snacks throughout the day, so if someone would like to deliver them to me, man oh man would that make life easier.
Things to Consider: Their website layout makes it a bit hard to navigate the different options. Scrolling was wonky, but the snacks looked yummy!

The obvious concerns regarding these subscription options are packaging waste, carbon emissions from transportation and the fact that the food isn’t local so there’s a missed chance to support local growers. For those reasons, I’ll be following up with an overview of some of the CSAs (community supporter agriculture initiatives) here in Knoxville. These are great ways to buy local produce and meat in bulk from area farms committed to a natural growing process.

This is all making me hungry.

Have you tried any of these subscription offers and what did you think?

mouseinyourhouse5 Food Subscriptions to Try

Young Business Owner Thrives Despite Turkish Social Bans


Mehmet measures a vintage Turkish kilim area rug to determine if it will work for his pillow cover production process.

A great benefit of being a blogger is the people from all over the world you come into contact with. For me, one of those new friends is Mehmet, a young business owner who runs two online stores. He sells beautiful Turkish towels at Longest Thread and the other is BohoTrunk where he creates and sells vintage pillow covers made from old Kilim area rugs. I’ve hosted a couple giveaways with him.

A few weeks ago I was browsing around on Twitter where I saw an announcement that Twitter had just been banned in Turkey. I automatically emailed Mehmet see how he was dealing with the news and what the social environment was like in response. Rarely does international oppression – an event outside the realms of the U.S. – effect someone I know personally. It boggled my mind that he couldn’t reach for his phone and easily Tweet away if he wanted, although it shouldn’t since this is a daily reality in many third-world countries. Youtube has also now been banned.

He took some time out of his incredibly busy work day to describe the current environment and how he’s managing during these challenging times as a small business owner selling to a international audience.

Quick disclaimer: Although Mehmet and I partner together on this blog occasionally, this post was in no way sponsored. Enjoy his perspective. And thanks, Mehmet, for taking some time to share your views and love for Turkish culture.

il_570xN.544346502_3gbtWhat’s your background and educational experience?

I was born and raised in Izmir, Turkey. I went to the University of Exeter, in the UK to study Psychology there. After finishing my degree, I came back to Turkey and have been working on my companies.

Why did you choose to start your own companies and specifically the types of products: Turkish towels and pillow covers? 

I simply love cultures, and everything related to them. But I don’t like being stuck in one culture. I like to take the best sides of different cultures. My dream job would allow me to be flexible and have relations with different people all around the world. I searched for jobs in Turkey that would suit my interests for months, but I couldn’t find any. So I started my companies out of frustration.

There’s so much that goes into selling products, especially when you’re trying to reach a world-wide audience. What are some of the challenges and benefits?

All of the products are handmade, and requires a lot of attention and patience. Unfortunately, in Turkey craftsmanship is declining rapidly like in many other countries. No one wants to be an artisan anymore. We can only make up to 20 towels a day. Many other companies have stopped using the traditional methods we are using, and started working on full automatic looms that makes approximately 500 towels a day. But there’s a big compromise on quality and authenticity. I’m very happy to do my part on saving the old traditions.

To be honest, it’s a lot of work. I try to do everything on my own; quality checks, taking the pictures, writing isa_760xN.10664536227_g2ezthe descriptions, communicating with customers, shipping items, etc. At the weekends, I go to small villages to find antique kilim rugs, reinvent them and make pillow covers.

Trying to reach out a world-wide audience is challenging but very engaging. One of the biggest challenges is designing the products. For example, some cultures prefer bright colors, whereas others like pastel tones. So keeping the right balance can be challenging when you have a small budget. But it is wonderful to know that someone who lives miles away from you using your products. It’s a wonderful feeling.

How is the Turkish government impacting small business owners such as yourself?

Unfortunately the impact of the Turkish government on small businesses is huge. The economy is not stable. Raw material prices change a lot, and makes it very hard for everyone to predict the future.

And regarding social media. We just learned that the government has banned Twitter. What’s the impact and response been in Turkey?

Well, with the bans in social media it is impossible to feel that you are free, which is very hard for me to adapt after living in the UK for 4 years. This may sound bit exaggerated to some but losing something you’ve already had is harder than losing something you’ve never had.

il_570xN.528524933_sscgThe impact of Twitter ban has been huge. There are approximately 10 million active Twitter users in Turkey, and it was one of the few sources that Turkish people used to get unfiltered news (thanks to our government nearly all of the media channels are very subjective and indirectly managed by the government). However, with government’s bans in the past as well (YouTube was banned for a couple of years), most Turkish people are now tech-savvy. A lot of people accessed Twitter by changing their DNS servers – you can see DNS server numbers sprayed on the walls while walking down the streets. But the government banned the DNS servers as well the other day. Now you can only access Twitter with VPN services like Hotspot shield.

P.S. While I was reading the draft, I’ve just found that YouTube is now blocked again… I think there will be a ban on Facebook soon as well.

Give us an insider view of the Turkish culture as you see it? What are some of the aspects of daily life that differ from your experience in the UK?

I find the Turkish culture very complicated. From what I see, there are two different cultures within one big il_570xN.578088632_hxvhculture; the first one seems very similar to Western cultures –modern views and individualistic. The second one is very similar to a typical Eastern culture – more conservative, and collectivistic. I don’t see any problems with that difference, but both of these sub-cultures in Turkey have very opposite perspectives and both groups want the others to be just like them. I think this is one of the biggest problems in Turkish culture.

A lot of things are different between Turkish culture and English culture. You can see that in every aspect of life – the way people talk to each other, how they dress, what they eat, etc. The most important difference for me is that Turkish people like to get very close and have close ties. In a way that is very nice, but sometimes you feel like they want to take control of your life!

isa_760xN.10174017632_oux1What are some of your favorite aspects of Turkish culture? 

Hospitality is very high in Turkey. Nearly in all Turkish restaurants you will get a free cup of tea or coffee. I think it’s such a nice gesture.

On your website, you mention that visitors are welcome to drop by and enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee. That sounds lovely. Have you had the chance yet to enjoy that experience with a customer?

I’m a big coffee lover, and been exploring the local coffee shops all around Izmir. My customers are very welcome to enjoy a Turkish coffee with me at my home office, or I can show them the hidden coffee shops scattered around Izmir. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to enjoy the experience yet, but I’m very looking forward to it.

And lastly, if you had to pick your two favorite Turkish foods what would they be?

My two favourite Turkish foods are stuffed vine leaves, and fish kebab with cherry tomatoes & lemon. If you can find a Turkish restaurant around where you live, I strongly recommend you to try stuffed vine leaves.



Thanks very much, Mehmet! Now I just need one of those gorgeous towels from your beach collection, a bowl of grape leaves (as we call them in the States) and a big ocean to sit by.

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