If You Love Puzzles, Snail Mail, and/or Russia Then You’re Gonna Love This

I present to you the “All About Russia Giveaway!” If you’re just here for the awesome free stuff, then click the pic! If you wanna hear all about the how and why I put it together, keep reading!

Click the picture, or CLICK HERE to be directed to the giveaway!

I’m way later than I had intended to be publishing this, but better late than never, right?! I just wanted to answer any questions you all may have been thinking about this (and more upcoming giveaways) so if you think of any more questions let me know! I’ll answer them along with future events!


Maybe none of you are actually asking this. I’ve never paused to wonder why someone was doing a giveaway. I just look at whether I want the freebie or not. But from a creator’s point of view, this question is really important! The first and biggest reason for me to throw giveaways is because I have the ability, by virtue of being a “creative”, to team up with others and get access to some of these things for FREE. And if I have an opportunity to reach out and give someone a valuable gift that normally would be put on the back burner til we’re all rich, then why wouldn’t I?! Secondly, my personal opinion is that the things I make are pretty fun and educational, okay. They work for my family really well and I hope they work for others! But to continue to create them, I need an engaged audience. My thinking at present is that hopefully hosting giveaways will get people engaged on my account and encourage more people to reach out to me and talk about what I do!

How did you put this together? Is this out of pocket?

Great question! Putting together a social media giveaway is no walk in the park, people! Once I had the idea, I couldn’t put it aside and just started messaging all of these people that I love to follow and draw inspiration from on social media. I would scroll through their shops and accounts to see what things they had that worked the closest to my niche – country units, Russia, books and activities promoting diversity, and learning tools. I came up with a few common themes that I was seeing – Russia, diverse books, and studies of certain cultures and would tell the creators the theme of the giveaway I had chosen and how I thought their participation would make the giveaway more valuable.

For this particular giveaway, I was following Miss Maisy and had a different theme that she had wanted to be a part of (it fell through a few weeks ago), but she was the one who recommended doing a Russia giveaway together because – unknown to me – she was working toward her Russia letter for subscribers! It was perfect and only required a small shift for the two of us to jump on this other track. Of course, not every creator I message responds or is able to participate, so for a minute it was just the two of us.

But I was also tinkering with other ideas. (I have lots of ideas lately.) Like making and selling a puzzle design! I was doing research on how to get started and came across a video explaining how this one company – Cobble Hill Puzzles – makes their high-quality puzzles. It was actually pretty interesting to me so I gave them a peek on Insta. The first thing I saw on their account was a Matryoshka puzzle and I honestly didn’t even hesitate. I just hit that “message” button and gushed over what a pretty puzzle it was. That I had seen their video and hoped to make a puzzle one day. That I might need to get the matryoshka puzzle for myself as a Christmas present, and would they be willing to send it to a giveaway winner of my Russia-themed giveaway. I’m not sure if it was super professional, which I always try to be over messenger, but I can guarantee that it was the most “me” of all the messages I sent. They one-upped me and said, “Hey, we have your Christmas needs covered – give us your address, and then give us the contest winner’s address when it’s all over.” Friends, if I had been pregnant or any more hormonal than normal I would have cried tears of joy.

And that’s how this giveaway was set up! Miss Maisy will mail you directly. Cobble Hill Puzzles will ship to you directly, and I will send you my downloadable file! So this first giveaway is really a dream being at little to no cost to me! My next giveaway though, I will need to cover shipping to the lucky winner. But I can share the details on that one in a couple of weeks when it comes.

How does the giveaway benefit Color Me Culturally Confident?

Lots of ways! If nobody is buying my stuff, then one day I may well give up. Hosting a giveaway is a way for me to try to see what my audience wants and get my name out there. Asking friends to share about my accounts is painfully awkward, and discouraging when friends don’t follow through and share it. So giveaways fill that gap and let me connect with other creatives that can agree to support me in sharing about my products and accounts.

I don’t really want to win this giveaway (for any number of reasons), how can I still help?

No worries! I totally understand! That’s why we talk about “target audiences” in selling, right? Maybe you just aren’t the target audience because your kids are the wrong age, or whatever. But you’re a friend and still want to show support by spreading the word. So hit that “share” button anyway! It only takes you a second and you won’t win anything unwanted but eternal gratitude from me!

Red Notice by Bill Browder

Um. Whoa.

Can that be a sufficient summary for this book review?

“Red Notice” is Bill Browder’s autobiography, yes, but it’s also his personal testament and accusation against his murderers.

Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

Wait, what?

Yeah. It’s that crazy. Bill Browder is still touring the world in 2019, making global change, and very much alive. But he’s pretty sure he already knows if he’s found with a bullet in his head exactly who will have given the kill-order: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, or another high-ranking Russian oligarch in the Putin regime. So he just wanted to make sure everyone else in the world knows too.

If you’ve seen “Kicking and Screaming” then you can appreciate all the “He’s Dick, and he’s got balls!” jokes.

To put that into perspective, Vladimir Putin might just be one of the wealthiest men in the world ruling the most openly corrupt government in the world. I say “might”, because his net worth apparently is dependent on who you ask (click here to read about speculation of his net worth). Can you imagine the resources at his fingertips? You might after this story.

Now seriously, Bill Browder has some serious guts. His story is incredible, and as a result he’s been called Putin’s No 1 Enemy.

From a cultural history perspective, this story is fascinating, because we see an example of how an American helps create a major cultural shift in Russia. But also, it’s so important to be conscious of how you read generalized statements. There are so many times that Browder says something along the lines of “Russia is….just that way.” In this book, that Russia that he is usually referring to is the government of Russia, but in any book we have to consider exactly what group the author is interacting with and not allow a generalization lead to misinformation or incorrect ideas.

I know a very different version of Russia (I was there 2013-2014 at the very end of this book’s timeline), because I was involved in a religious mission, whereas Browder was invested in finance and politics. And it was interesting to me at the beginning to read some of his generalizations about Russian people being cynical and guarded. So often I met people just the opposite, and there are a lot of reasons to that. I have a very naive view Russia. But, the further into the book that I got, the more I found myself thinking that I would have read so many situations better if I had read a book like this before going to Russia.

He describes one scene in particular that I can relate to wherein a sick man falls into traffic and nobody wants to help him for fear of being falsely accused by the police. I never could understand this when I was in Russia, but I felt that his observations were pretty well-grounded as I read the book, and allowed me to reflect on personal experiences with a whole new meaning.

I’ve waited for this book for 6 months to finally be available from the library and it was worth every second of the wait. As if the book wasn’t good enough, I also searched Youtube for some videos that are vital to the story and was so impressed at what I found. I don’t know what I envisioned when he talked about the Youtube content they created, but these are really really great videos that describe in simple terms major parts of the story and were used in order to protect different people and fight the corruption of Russian government simultaneously.

There are at least 3 in this series that should be listed when you follow this link to Youtube.

I also found a number of TEDtalks given by the man himself – Bill Browder – and this one is another decent summary of events in this story. But still, you have to read the book!

How to Play Vyshibaly

So you’re learning about Russia and want a kid friendly game, right? Durak is too advanced maybe; lapta is just too confusing without someone who knows the rules; and you’re concerned that gorodki might teach your small child it’s okay to throw sticks. (And by you, I mean me. I’m the one with a child who throws sticks.) So what do you play? Vyshibali! This game is so fun and easy. Something like Dodgeball meets Red Rover, and all the rules got reversed.

These Russian kids give a great visual of how to play the game, but if you don’t speak Russian and still feel a little confused after watching this, then read on and I’ll explain these simple instructions.

What You Need to Play

  • at least 3 people
    • 2 throwers, and 1+ dodgers/catchers in the middle
  • a ball

Game Rules

  1. The first step is to decide what everyones rolls will be in the game. You’ll see that the children in the video do this (0:16) by circling around one person and essentially doing “eenie meenie miny moe” to sort two people out of the group.
  2. The two throwers should spread apart facing each other with room for everyone else to stand in a line between them. (0:23-0:29)
  3. The throwers take turns calling out instructions and trying to get the people in the middle “out” by various means.

How to Get “Out”

  1. In a dodgeball-like version, the throwers may simply try to throw the ball at those in the middle, who should try to stay in a line without getting hit. If a player is hit by the ball, then they are out. The player may yell “DODGE” before throwing the ball, so that players know what to do. (0:30-0:40)
  2. In another version, the thrower might yell something like, “CATCH!” before lobbing the ball high into the air. If the player who tries to catch the ball drops it, then they are out. (0:45-0:51)
  3. In yet another example, the thrower in the video yells “BOMB”, again lobbing the ball into the air towards the dodgers. The dodgers all “take cover” by squatting in place and freezing. If the ball lands on them, then they are out. (1:04-1:14)
  4. A fourth option shown – the thrower gives an instruction prompting everyone to line up. The ball is then rolled on the ground to the opposite thrower. All of the dodgers should line up behind one another, allowing the ball to roll between their legs. If anyone does not manage to line up in time for the ball to go between their legs, then they are out. (1:15-1:25)
  5. I could be 100% wrong on this one, but to me it sounds like the thrower is yelling “MACARONI” as his instruction. Whatever he says, the dodgers all plant their feet in place and have to avoid the ball without moving their feet. (1:26-1:33)

I really think this game is perfect for such a wide age range and as soon as I get a big enough group of kids over 2 years old together to play, I’ll share a video of how it goes! If you beat me to it though, please share your experience and send in a video here, on Facebook, or tag me on Instagram! Enjoy!

And if you want to learn more about Russia through fun games and interactive ideas, check out my Russian activities pack!



I hate to admit that I read an R-rated book, but the first thing you have to know about “Pachinko” if you’re on my blog is that it is NOT for youth. This is not one I would put on my bookshelves for the long haul, and because of that, I didn’t know whether or not I’d give it a review at all. But the excuses for why I kept reading through the book is because it really was such an interesting look into a WWII racism-fueled relationship between the Japanese and Koreans. If you haven’t read “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” then plan to read these two titles back to back for a whole array of perspectives on an overlapping bit of history. If you care to have a little more chronological order, then read this one first as it starts and ends earlier. You almost forget that it’s fiction. Almost. And then there is that other layer of the book bearing the motto “a woman’s lot is to suffer.” It takes you through how different women (and men) deal with that suffering. Do they grin and bear it, rise to the occasion, or let it overwhelm them? It does all of this by basically following 4 generations of shameful acts on a Korean family that ended up living in Japan around the time WWII.

There are two things you will need to understand before this book is over: 1. go-saeng and 2. pachinko.

Go-saeng,” Yangjin said out loud. “A woman’s lot is to suffer.”
“Yes, go-saeng,” Kyunghee nodded, repeating the word for suffering.
All her life, Sunja had heard this sentiment from other women, that they must suffer – suffer as a girl, suffer as a wife, suffer as a mother – die suffering. Go-saeng – the word made her sick. What else was there besides this? She had suffered to create a better life for Noa, and yet it was not enough. Should she have taught her son to suffer the humiliation that she’d drunk like water? In the end, he had refused to suffer the conditions of his birth. Did mothers fail by not telling their sons that suffering would come?

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

This book offers some very thought-provoking questions, like the one above, about the suffering that comes with this life.

I got way too far into the book before figuring out what a pachinko even is. At first, I was honestly envisioning a bowling alley, which just made no sense – why it would be frowned upon to work in a Japanese bowling alley. So don’t be like me and think that if you read this story. Instead, imagine a hundred slot machines and line them up in a small building or room. Also, take away the money that you would cash your coins in for gambling, and instead use your pachinko balls to trade in for special prizes or tokens. Gambling is illegal in Japan, but the loophole people found was to exchange their pachinko ball winnings for special tokens, and then sell those special tokens on the black market. And just like that, people have their gambling. Voila! Hence why its frowned upon. And yet some of the major characters of this book working at pachinko parlors are some of the most well-off characters! It’s these kind of backwards situations that carry the plot along – giving in to some “shameful” act and then living with any blessings, consequences, lies and scrutiny that follow.

Photo by Emile Guillemot on Unsplash

Physical deformities, illegitimate pregnancies, disagreeing with the government, preaching an unwanted gospel, internalized racism, gender equality, homosexuality, suicide, abortions, it’s like the Japanese-Korean “Inferno” diving through all the levels of things these people wanted to hide from a judgemental society. A society trying to figure out who they were and where everyone stands within a post-war mess that’s had multiple cultures all forced into this uncomfortable mixing of different kinds of people living together. So if you’re wondering what the historical relationship between Japan and Korea is, this might just be a good read for you.

Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

I think the kids nowadays say “I’m shook”? And I feel like this is the correct context for my first time ever using that slang, because this book for reals left me “shook”.

I just can’t say enough good things about the work and research that went into this book. And for people to share their stories like this is incredible too when you think about it! The author tells the overlapping true stories of 7 different people and their families as they slowly discover that communism doesn’t work and the leader they so loved has cheated them.

The alarming problem with North Korea that is illustrated in this non-fiction text is not that they live in squalid conditions under crazy dictators and without electricity. (I mean, that’s a huge problem, but that’s not the most alarming part.) No. The alarming problem is that Korea made its way into the twentieth century at pace with the rest of the industrialized world, but before the century ended, North Korea LOST their power grid. Can you imagine living your normal life with internet and theaters and telephones (which I can assume you have if you’re reading this), going through something as awful as a war, and then slowly watching each of those things be taken away as the electricity goes out?! It just blows my mind. I had never stopped to wonder what North Korea had once been, only ever looking at it as we all know it now.

I can’t even say more without giving it away. Just go read it. Please. And then tell me you read it so we can gab about it and maybe start a book club!

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