how was summer

Hey, hey, hey. I thought it would be only fair I showed up with a life update, because last time we talked was April. And let’s be honest, I was a bit of an emotional mess. I owe you an update, which I decided to do separately from cucumber and tomato salad from now on. Many things have happened since April, many good things, that I will share.


In spring, I decided to address the skeletons in my closet and see a counsellor to improve communication in my marriage, to deal with the past, and to be healthy from inside out. Many-many of you have asked me in person and many of you are wondering how did therapy go.

Therapy sessions with Alex went really well. We did two in total, completed “homework” in between, and have arrived to a better understanding of each other. It was really-really great to have a third party’s insight onto our small and big differences and arguments. Honestly, since then it has been normal life. I highly recommend “Five Love Languages”, which I had on my bookshelf for over 6 years now and just read it this year. Ironic and sad, but with a happy ending.

What ended up much harder was addressing my past, which I was not going to do going into therapy, but kinda decided to along the way because it quickly became clear happy Olena is impossible without some questions answered. I think very few of us grew up in perfect homes, and in 2017 you could really “be in therapy” even if you were stuck in an elevator for 5 minutes with power out. At the end of the day, it’s 2017, which is ridiculous in so many ways. I probably have never shared, or maybe shared just a bit and was too scared to share more, but my childhood was very far from perfect, and not because of poverty or I have witnessed a murder, but because of people who surrounded me and some that still are in my life. Back in spring there was a lot of questions I couldn’t find answers for. There are still some questions left I will never find answers for, and I almost accepted this fact. It’s human psychology, and lacking older generation wisdom in my life, I needed some human psychology insight.

My past is a very-very-very hard part of my life for me to talk about, I’m still surprised myself when I want to share about it how scared I get. Simply because I was always denied my feelings and dismissed of with any issues, I was extra work nobody wanted to do. Sometimes I myself have a hard time accepting the mess of a life I grew up in, and can’t describe it making sense to anyone who asks, but I will try in short. And not to play a victim, or ask for an “awe, your poor thing” comments, but to share because I already opened this can of worms and in hopes to help other women out there who struggle as grown ups to accept their own goodness, which often results in food related unbalances, which we are trying so hard to fight here on iFOODreal. It’s all about being healthy inside and outside. However, I still don’t support women stuck in elevator therapy.

My childhood problem was my own family. My parents divorced when I was 5-6, becoming the worst enemies, mom and grandma forming a coalition against my dad. All my life I was brainwashed by both of them how horrible of a person he was, that he was crazy to the point that he underwent a surgery becoming a human from a dog (based on a movie). They spared my ears of no adult appropriate language details about him every single day, making sarcastic jokes whenever I saw him, afterwards completely prohibiting me seeing him to the point I was hiding in the bushes near our house thinking he is crazy when he came to visit me. It is such a long story, I don’t know where to begin or end, it’s very-very-very sad. That divorce really messed me up for life, how my mom handled it, and how she completely denies talking about it and brushes any of my childhood concerns under the rug. How grown ups handled it not caring about me at all, so selfish. But that’s one part of a problem.

Another issue was not the divorce but people around me – critical, judgemental and simply not kind people. My family around me literally labelling me as my dad’s crazy off-spring with the same “impossible” personality and all the traits of “a bad” person. The worst part in all of this is my mom’s role who loves me because I’m her child, but there is a part of her that sees me “she is like her dad” and we have a ton of issues coming out from that because I still have to communicate with my mom. We have never been close, neither was I close with my 8 years older half-sister, probably for above mentioned reasons, – she simply hated me, insulted me, ignored me and that issue was completely ignored by our parent – I do not wish that experience upon anyone. Then you add a mom with untreated depression to the mix (probably stemming from the same problem), which she completely denies but which is 99% obvious with anxiety, insomnia and just no interest to anything in life except her own well-being, financial and physical. I grew up by myself, completely lonely in this nut house full of people who didn’t want to be around me but had no choice (truly they didn’t love each other either), with mom who never had interest in anything I was going through, as long as I was fed, dressed in minimum and healthy. Above that everything for me was an “unnecessary” extra. I never had a birthday party, a doll, a playdate, or a haircut. I never went to Grade 1 because it was “OK” to go straight to Grade 2, because all grown ups were “busy” fighting each other. Those were all “unnecessary” things and the list is long. I grew up by “myself”, that’s why I’m so independent and mature.

As a kid, I remember always dreaming of growing up really fast, making my own money, marrying a handsome good guy, moving out, creating my own little family who I will have total control over, and living happily ever after. I so wanted to be just normal, like my friends, and someone else to see me normal, and do what other people do – bake cookies with kids, talk about their crushes, sign them up for sports, take them out for ice cream just because, listen to them and not make fun of their “little problems” (not to mention to have a functioning normal mom and dad, and a loving sibling, I didn’t even hope for that because even as a 6 year old I knew that was out of reach). And I got it, I truly did! I married Alex who is my dream come true (“funny” thing is Alex comes from completely disfunctional family with alcohol abuse – we just found each other LOL, two people who wanted to have normal family), we work hard to make it work, and we are truly enjoying each other and our boys. But on another hand, I still have my mom who to this day deep down thinks I just got “lucky” with Alex like she never did in all her marriages, and that Alex puts up with me a lot, and that she can form a coalition against my “impossible” dad’s personality with Alex and my kids; and doing so is not a big deal. And it’s 2017, yes. That’s why I needed therapy, I needed to stop feeling guilty about who I am; get rid of constant criticism and judgement.

It helped. It was so hard. I was balling my eyes out for two sessions, it was a river flowing down my face I could do nothing about. So much pain over the years have accumulated inside of me. I felt so sad inside that I am an orphan with alive parents, rejected by my family, like an ugly duckling. I cried a lot this spring, a lot. But things always get worse before they get better. I learnt. I learnt a lot. I learnt to love myself. The most important thing I learnt about myself this year was that I am a good person, as good as Alex. I learnt that your family members have flaws too. I learnt that your mother is just another human being who is not perfect. I learnt to accept the fact that people don’t change and I can’t change them. I learnt that I have control over my own surroundings. I learnt to create boundaries, whether it is my kids, husband or a mother, I learnt that. Great book => “Boundaries”.

So, that’s that in short. I don’t think I will ever be fine with my childhood, however it’s in the past, and my present and future are bright, and that’s all that matters. But boundaries are very important.:)

how was summer


This summer we had so much fun travelling! We started our travels with amazing road trip to San Francisco. Boys are older than little kids now but not annoying teenagers yet, so these few years are great for road tripping.

how was summer

Then we did short camping trip near our house for 3 days, which is all boys want – shoot some cans, make s’mores, explore the woods and ride a bike. I found $300 tent in amazing condition for $20 on Craigslist, and I would say it was the cheapest summer trip.:)

how was summer

For my birthday, we rented a house with friends for 5 days in Oroville, WA located on Osoyoos Lake. I just love good old small American towns, their charm with 2 grocery stores where employees have never heard of quinoa, no traffic lights and ducks crossing the road. We spent most days by the pool and eating a lot of Italian food, mamma mia – homemade wine, homemade ricotta, cheese from Italy, cheese from Arizona, grapes from vineyard, milk from under the sheep (my 6 year old was the only one who tried it and loved it:)). So much fun!

how was summer

We would have totally drove to Oregon to watch solar eclipse if not for Alex’s lack of vacation days. Instead we did it from the porch and that has to suffice until 2024, I think, is it?!

I have one more trip planned this year – Mexico City by myself to visit friends, our exchange student and her family. Last time I did it, was an all-inclusive trip back in 2012. Way overdue. One week of amazingness of course will be posted here. The best part is that there is a built-in maid at that house that cooks iFOODreal food.:) This trip is gonna be nuts fun.

Other than that, summer time was a lot of me with the kids time. I now have 11 year old going on 15 on my hands, who is challenging my brain daily, making some days barely bearable. I have done a ton of evening walks, daily – they keep me sane.

how was summer


And now back to work, but really I love my job so much I can’t wait for kids to go back to school (counting – 15 days left), so I can work uninterrupted.

Big news are that Alex is leaving his downtown office job to help me run iFOODreal. It either gonna be super good, or more therapy. We have been preparing for this transition financially for a few years now, and finally this day is almost here – September 15th. You should see completely revamped new website by the end of the year. We have hired a brilliant branding agency who will help us to serve you better. Prepare to see videos. There will be a lot of information on how to shop and eat healthy. Basically, we are moving away from clean eating which is not me anymore to feeding your family healthy in affordable way. Still same recipes, same ingredients and same me, just in a different package. You will just see way more of me since I will have Alex to show more of me.:) I would love to hear any of your wishes, or you simply can fill out reader’s survey.

Chat soon! I’m off to Costco because how we can avoid dinners and such hasn’t been reinvented yet => my Costco shopping list (maybe I will find something new and healthy to add).


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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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  1. So many great news! Ukrainian parents are stubborn! I wish I could send you a hug. Not a pity hug but a happy hug! 🙂 You are AMAZING!! You have accomplished SO much that it is truly an inspiration for all who know you and visit your space of the cyber world.

    1. They sure are!!! Thank you so much.:) I’m blushing here but deep down know that I have been working hard and do love where and who I am today. Will do my best to continue to inspire.:) xoxo Hope you are enjoying back to school. 😀

  2. Living everyday with a retired spouse, no, every day isn’t the easiest! But most of them fun and interesting! Because we’re best friends too! I am sure as working partners, you two will be fine. Maybe with a counseling appointment thrown in here and there too! Lol!

  3. Olena! I have no words,and with you, I don’t think I need any. While our backgrounds couldn’t be more different, they also, our results be more similar. You, like me, decided that you had to do something to heal yourself and current family. The past cannot be changed or fixed, just understood. I am fo happy for you and Alex, the kids, and the future! It’s looking so bright! Email anytime.

  4. You are a breath of fresh air for sharing your total honesty. I admire your courage and strength to do what’s best for you and your family. I am so excited to see the new adventures that you are undertaking with your hub. (It’s not easy because I have been working with my hub for 25 years now & some days are still challenging). God Bless you!

    1. Thank you, Sue! As long as not every day will be challenging, it’s fine. We all have days when we feel like “killing” our spouse or kids, but those days are numbered compared to good days.:) But I’m sure working with a spouse is not a walk in the park…

  5. I am so happy for your achievements! And super excited to see your new website. You are an amazing woman, never doubt that. I’ve started “Boundaries “, struggling with similar issues, you know?

    1. Hugs to you too! I loved “Boundaries”. It was just what I needed, as an Eastern European where older generation “rules the world” and younger generation often lacks any respect whatsoever unless you are a successful doctor or a businessman. Good luck, and follow your heart and gut!

  6. Hi Olena, New reader here. You are amazing to have withstood the horrible adults in your family and to have created a wonderful life for yourself. You can pick your friends but not your family sure has deep meaning, huh? Shame on your mother and grandmother for dragging you into your parents’ mess. And in such a big way. I know blood is thicker than water and all that but you owe those two women nothing and I think you should distance yourself from them. You’ve had your fair share of misery to risk even an iota of more misery inflicted on you by their jealousy of you. They “made their bed” long ago, and you owe them nothing. Lots of luck to you in every aspect of life. I’m rooting for you!

    1. I no longer think “can’t choose your family” and “blood is thicker than water” as life’s fundamentals. For years, I was so scared of judgement but for no reason, it’s my life and my decisions, and unless you walked in my shoes, no one can judge me. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but I definitely learnt to see past “blood” and “family” stereotypes and look after my own interests no matter what I am told. I stopped speaking to my half-sister 5 years ago and it was one of the best decisions I could have done for my family. I love my mother and she will always be with me, it’s just “Boundaries” and counselling helped me realize I will never get what I was still looking for and how to move forward.:) Thank you for your words!

  7. Your awesomeness never stops surprising me, I love you! And can’t wait to see you! We’ll have lots of fun! You are someone to look up to! have fun

    1. I love you too and can’t wait of October!!! Thank you for your kind words. I’m so happy to help your parents to shape you into this amazing Mexican young woman.LOL

  8. I have been a reader for what seems like years now and have watched you grow and change along the way. I have so much admiration and respect for all you do and am grateful you are so willing to include your readers in your journeys. I have learned a lot from you, and not just about food, even though I am quite a bit older than you. Thank you for teaching us how to embrace life and overcome obstacles along the way. Your very candid viewpoints are refreshing because that’s just what they are…candid but not hurtful. We can all benefit from that! Good luck with bringing Alex on board. I am sure it will bring you even closer together. Looking forward to the many good changes coming our way. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Cindy. In 2017 we could all benefit from less fluff and more honesty, it doesn’t have to be complete airing of dirty laundry but frankly these overly sweet pretending everything is amazeballs empty conversations with other women are tiring. Having meaningful conversation about day to day life or getting people to do what they said will do is nearly impossible these days. Not sure how people can make friends these days if they want to be honest …
      I think too our work together with Alex will bring us closer as we will have more in common. SO exciting and so much fun it will be. I have been feeling lonely working by myself lately.
      Have a great day and thank you for your words of support.:)

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