Saturday, December 25, 2010

More billboard fun

This billboard says "Trust - it's like me, but a bank."

You can bet Trust will protect your assets. Trust will even hide out in your office building to shoot the terrorists holding your ex-wife hostage.  Trust doesn't mess around.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

It has been an interesting year. Moving eight time zones, having a new baby, starting a new job. Actually ... maybe it's a typical year for us. This Christmas, we are thankful for our wonderful life. We hope you, too, take the opportunity to enjoy your loved ones this holiday season. Have a very Merry Christmas and may 2011 be even better!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Billboard fun

This one cracks me up because the model is performing a maneuver similar to that employed by breastfeeding mothers to stop a spontaneous milk let-down.

This one is just puzzling. 

"This perfune smells so good I just want to lick it off my knee?"
"If you wear this perfume, you'll be struck with an inexplicable urge to bathe yourself like a cat?"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Necessity is a mother

This morning, driven more by the need to get out of the house, than by the need for cabbage, I decided to take the babies on a walk to the Ramstore about a mile away. Natasha and I made this trip at least twice a week in the summer, and it looks like we're on track to do the same this winter. My getting-everyone-bundled-up system is still being ironed out, so I should not have been surprised when, about five minutes after leaving the Embassy, I noticed that Natasha was not wearing boots. Just her snowpants, her down parka, a hat, mittens and little pink cotton socks. I had decided to put on her boots after putting her in the stroller, and then forgot completely. It's a miracle I made it as far as I did without being flogged by a babushka for exposing her to the elements like that.

I looked in the basket for the pink fleece blanket I usually keep there. Empty. I had taken the blanket for Zoia's swing when she spit up on the other two warm ones we keep in the house. Nothing in the cupholder, or in my pockets for that matter. I tried to pull down her snowpants to cover her feet, but they actually fit her properly so that didn't work.

So I had a decision to make. Walk another 10 minutes to Ramstore, spend 10 minutes in the store, and then walk 15 minute back home? It was about 20 F . Downright balmy after last week.

No, I couldn't do that. Natasha would be fine, but the babushki would have my head. Reluctantly, I turned around, kicking myself for wasting 20 minutes' getting-everybody-ready-time for a mere five minutes outside.

And then inspiration struck.

Those would be my red-velvet-and-Thinsulate gloves on her feet. I bought them at Marshalls to wear on the just-warm-enough-to-be-somewhat-fashionable days. Turns out they are actually warm enough to wear on it's-so-cold-that-I-don't-care-if-I-look-like-a-giant-brown-caterpillar days! And warm enough to serve as boots, should the need arise. Natasha's feet were toasty when we got home.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The little things

Last night about 9:30, we decided to catch up on this week's episode of Glee.  Zoia was sleeping in her swing, but Natasha was awake - part of our plan to keep her up a bit longer in hopes of beating this horrible jet lag. 

Toward the end of the episode, the glee club's competitors sang a catchy song that I don't know the name of because I am officially old and out of touch with pop culture.  Jeremy started dancing.  Natasha and I followed suit.  We danced to every song for the rest of the episode and had a great time.  It was a moment I want to remember for the rest of my life.

And later that night, when Natasha woke up crying for the third time and I stumbled blearily down the hall to tend to her, I thought about our Glee dance party and smiled.

It's definitely the little things that are going to get us through the next few months.

(Also, I am happy to report that last night's episode of Glee was the third good one in a row.  After a very disappointing start to the season, things are picking up!)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Have I mentioned it's cold?  Tomorrow the high is supposed to be -2.  Yes, Fahrenheit.  So tomorrow we won't be going out.  I've decided 0 degrees is my cutoff. 

Today, however, it was a balmy 5 degrees.  So we went grocery shopping.  I'm pleased to say I cut our preparation time in half.  I managed to get my own boots on before dressing the girls.  That helped tremendously.  I wore Zoia in the Ergo, but constantly peeked down to make sure she was still breathing - I was worried I'd smother her!  Natasha went into the umbrella stroller with a rain canopy over it to block the wind.  We managed to get through the store without incident.  Somewhere between the store and home, though, Natasha lost a mitten.  I knew I needed to sew them onto a cord and thread them through her parka sleeves, but I was procrastinating.  Mommy fail.  Good thing I have a few back-up pairs.  I can sew them together tomorrow, since it will be too cold to go out.

Also, today I learned that they keep their caviar under lock-and-key.  And that's just your run-of-the-mill red salmon caviar.  They don't sell the pricey stuff at this particular store.  Guess caviar theft is a problem here.

No pictures at this point because wrangling two babies leaves no hands free for a camera.  Maybe this weekend.

Monday, November 29, 2010

We're back! Also, it's really freaking cold.

After a couple false starts, wherein Jeremy flew back to Moscow alone in mid-November and then returned to DC for 48 hours over Thanksgiving weekend to pick us up, we are all back in Russia.

Also, it is ridiculously cold here.  It was about 50 degrees when we left DC on Saturday.  Today it is 7 degrees.  And that's without windchill.

Our flight from DC to Moscow went about as well as we could have hoped.  No one was forced to pose for nude photographs or groped during our trip through security.  The TSA agents were very polite.  The flight was half-empty and Zoia slept almost the entire time.  Natasha didn't sleep much but only screamed for about 10 minutes.  All our luggage arrived and nothing was broken.  All in all, a successful trip.

This morning our layette shipment arrived.  Then Jeremy left for work.  I am proud to report that I did not grab him by the leg and plead him not to go, though I admit that I was afraid to be left alone with our daughters for the first time.  About an hour later, I decided that we were going to take a short walk, despite the fact that it was 7 degrees outside.  I figured that if I didn't do it now, I would never conquer my fear of taking them out in the cold and we'd be stuck inside for six months and this would officially be The Winter That Masha Went Insane.

First I had to get everyone bundled up.  That took awhile.  When I was sitting outside on the steps, wearing Zoia on my chest, trying simultaneously to put my boots on and preven Natasha from running off, tripping over her too-big boots and cracking her skull open on the concrete, it occurred to me that I need a better system.  Winter is going to be long, so I'll get a lot of practice.

We walked to the produce stand, which is only five minutes away, and which, I was delighted to find, is open even when it is ridiculously cold.  I bought a pound and a half of mushrooms, two heads of lettuce, four cucumbers, two zucchini, two enormous pears, two persimmons, a pound of mandarins and a pound of grapes.  It cost me $30.  I didn't even care.  I was just grateful that I didn't have to walk a mile to the Ramstore.

Jeremy should be home in about two hours, and there have been no catastrophes.

A good first day back, I'd say.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back in DC ... here, catch!

We welcomed our new daughter, Zoia on Monday afternoon. She's a hefty 8 pounds (1.5 pounds bigger than her sister) and 20.75 inches long. So, we are already placing bets on if she'll play rugby. Training starts tomorrow with Lego block curls.

The last 48 hours have been a little surreal. I got off the plane on Saturday and by early Monday morning, Masha was in labor. Z wasn't expected until next Friday, but I guess she didn't want to spend any more time than necessary inside the womb. And apparently, N left detailed instructions for how to enter this world as Z came out with a hand on her cheek (N came out with two!). But the jet lag has been a blessing as I've been wide awake to to do the 3-5 AM living room walking tour with Z to let Masha sleep. No coffee needed.

Now we just have to convince our oldest that this strange thing that is taking all of mommy's attention isn't so bad. Exhibit 1: Upon seeing the baby laying next to Mama, N proceeded to grab her leg and pull her away from Masha. Result: N is rewarded with strawberries in the living room in an effort to separate the two siblings. Might not be the behavioral reinforcement we are looking for, but it worked.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I know you've all been waiting ...

So, I've been having a little bit of a rough time keeping up my end of the blog posts as my wonderful wife reminds me. Not really my fault as I didn't have a good camera to take any pics. So, unfortunately, no pics from the U2 or Pogues concerts. I do have a couple from my beer bottling (blond pilsner type beer), but I'll post those when I return to Moscow so I can include a couple from the beer tasting.

Speaking of beer tasting, a colleague of mine has offered to do a little cartoon drawing/logo making if I can come up with a name for the beer and beer company. Any thoughts on "Wife Said I Needed a Hobby Beer Company." Other ideas?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Natasha is 1!

It was pointed out to me recently that I haven't done such a great job at keeping up with the blog since leaving Moscow.  So here's a little update.

Natasha turned 1 on Thursday.  She also cut her first tooth about a week ago, and has been almost-walking for the past three or so weeks.  She does up to 10 steps at a time before falling.  It's pretty cute.

I'm due in less than three weeks and #2 is officially full-term.  So Natasha could become a big sister any day now.  Hopefully #2 will wait until Jeremy arrives on October 9, but I'm starting to worry that he/she plans to make an unfashionably early appearance.  Not much we can do about that, though, and it wouldn't be the first time a Foreign Service brat is born before Papa arrives ...

And speaking of Papa, he's been living it up in Moscow.  I've been telling him to blog about his adventures, but I guess he's too busy attending concerts (U2 and The Pogues) and bottling his own beer to fire up Blogger.  It's a rough bachelor life, I tell ya.

A few birthday photos, starting with Natasha wearing the same dress I wore on my first birthday (incidentally, my father was also absent - having moved to Washington ahead of me and my mother to start his Foreign Service training).  The cake is carrot (made using this recipe, which really is awesome - I just added vanilla and omitted the nuts).  We made sure Papa was part of the proceedings using the magic of Skype and webcam.  And Natasha ate her entire carrot cupcake (though unfortunately I had to give her dairy-free frosting as she is still allergic to cow's milk), but only after I took her out of the high chair and held her on my lap.  After that, it was meltdown city.

Ah, the first birthday ...

Monday, August 23, 2010

All flown out

Natasha and I (and #2) have flown some 7,000 miles and 16 hours in the last 10 days.  We are now done with flying for the next few months at least, and I could not be happier.  A few highlights from our travels:
  • I learned that, for the most part, the Muscovites who so impressed me with their politeness and regard for a woman with child (in or out of the womb) must not be the ones who can afford to fly to the United States.  When Natasha and I finally made it to our gate at Domodedovo Airport, I actually had to ask multiple people whether the seats next to them (occupied solely by luggage) were taken, before someone reluctantly cleared a space for me.  When an airport employee wheeled an elderly woman to the gate and rather unceremoniously dumped her there, standing, no one offered a seat.  Natasha and I gave up our seat in her favor.  I don't think anyone was moved to regret by my dagger eyes, but I stared them down all the same.
  • When I saw the symbols on this bathroom door, I thought that they denoted a safe place for handicapped people to pee or for mothers to nurse their babies.  I was wrong.  When used in tandem, the signs actually mean, "Please Smoke Here."

  • Natasha's car seat, which fit just fine in the Delta economy seats on the way to Moscow in May, was too wide for the United "Economy Plus" seats on our Moscow-DC flight.  (The flight attendant was nice about storing it in a closet for us, though, so that's something.)  
  • The bassinet, which we did get (thanks, Agent C!), was basically a hard-bottomed vinyl sleeping bag.  With some padding, it would be adequate for an immobile baby, however, Natasha is pretty much the opposite of immobile these days.  So I had no way to contain her other than holding her.  Also, she peed on me within the first hour of the flight.  Having stuffed the carry-on full of her various diapers, extra clothing, toys and food, I didn't have a change of clothes for myself, so I spent the next 13 hours stinking of baby pee.
  • Having satisfactorily emptied her bladder, my daughter then amused herself on the plane by bothering our very tolerant seatmate.  Later on, I let her crawl down the aisle.  Yes, I know it's gross, but I had no way to contain her and it WAS a 10-hour flight.  Go ahead and judge.  Anyway, the aisle-crawling was short-lived, as it turned out Natasha was mostly interested in turning into people's personal spaces and playing with their shoes.
  • It was raining when we arrived in DC, so we had to wait until the storm had passed (an hour later) to get our bags.  Little known fact: United baggage handlers actually melt in the rain.  Thankfully, my luggage does not.
  • In the cab on the way to my parents' house, where Natasha and I were staying over night, she projectile vomited not once, but three times.  While we were stuck in rush-hour traffic on 495.
Also, there's a TSA agent at National Airport, whence we flew to Omaha the next day, who is on my list.  True to form, no one offered to help me get myself, Natasha, our carry-on and her car seat and stroller through security.  I managed to get everything folded up and on the belt, but on the other side, where there is no room to reassemble yourself, I had a bit of trouble.  Needing both hands to retrieve and unfold the stroller and carseat, I plopped Natasha into one of those security bins.  This conversation ensued:

Agent: You can't do that.
Me: Do you have another suggestion?
Agent: You can't do that.
Me: Well, I'm seven months pregnant with a baby and a bunch of stuff.  If you'd like to help, that would be great.
Agent: That's not my responsibility.

Since we were in America, my fellow passengers just watched us snipe at each other.  No one offered to help unfold the stroller.  I really should start expecting this.  Maybe then I wouldn't get so pissed off each time it happens.  Also, I was really tempted to take a photo of the agent and post it on the blog, like that girl in NYC who took a photo of her subway harasser.  I figured I'd get arrested, though, so I refrained.

Natasha screamed half the flight to Omaha, but other than that, our remaining travels were uneventful.  We spent five days catching up with grandparents and great-grandparents and other friends and family in Nebraska, and then flew Omaha-Chicago-Norfolk, VA without incident.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Reason #9,567 why I hate United Airlines

The smog has gotten worse here in Moscow, so we've decided to move up my and Natasha's trip to the U.S. to await the arrival of #2.  We're headed out of here next week.  Unfortunately, the only direct flight from Moscow to Washington on an American carrier is a United flight. 

I loathe United Airlines.

I loathe them with the fervor of 500-some burning forest fires.  Their flight attendants are, hands down, the rudest I have ever encountered.  My luggage almost never gets to where it needs to go (like that one awesome time when my bags, coming from Armenia, somehow ended up in Manchester, England, instead of in DC).  When I call their customer service line to find out whether they've located my bags, I get an automated message saying that my request is being processed - only to find out days later, after actually getting a real person on the line, that there is actually no record of my request.  Plus, after all that crappy service, they have the nerve charge for everything but toilet paper.  (And I wouldn't be all that surprised if, on my next flight, there were a Russian port-a-potty money collector outside the WC door, handing out tiny squares of generic single-ply at 15 rubles a pop.) 

So when we started out trying to get seat assignments on this particular United flight, I wasn't that optimistic.

We wanted bulkhead seats so that we could get a bassinet for Natasha.  Our travel office called United and was told by an agent (let's call him "Agent A") that the bulkhead seats were reserved for Economy Plus passengers.  Did we want to pay the extra money for the upgrade?  At that point, no, we did not want to pay extra money just so that we could sit in the only place on the plane that could house the baby bassinet.  It was the principle of the thing.  (And don't even get me started on the sham that is Economy Plus).

A little later ...

OK, principles, schminciples.  We called United to upgrade to Economy Plus and attempt to reserve bulkhead seats.  No dice.  Agent B told us that the bulkhead on our flight was actually an exit row, so babies and enormously pregnant women could not be seated there.

Being fully aware of the lack of consistency among United booking agents, we called back.  Agent C, speaking from a call center somewhere in India, informed us that the bulkhead row (and let's not forget that it's an exit row) was actually reserved for disabled passengers only.  Jeremy argued that his wife would not exactly be fully able-bodied, given the huge belly and the squirmy infant.  Agent C said, "Oh, she's pregnant?  No problem.  And no, you don't have to upgrade to Economy Plus to get the seats."  So now we have seats on the bulkhead and a reserved bassinet.  I know, having flown United way too many times in the past, that the likelihood of us actually retaining those seats and getting the promised bassinet are probably only about 50 percent.  But we like Agent C.  Even if she works for an evil, evil airline.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Now I remember why I left journalism

Just watched a story on CNN about a turtle trying to cross a busy Boston road. 

This makes me sad.

(For the state of the news industry, not for the turtle.)

Friday, August 6, 2010


If you've been watching the news at all, you know that Moscow is currently under seige by a giant smoke cloud generated by some 500 forest fires.  Add to that the current blistering heat, and it's like a little taste of hell. 

Yesterday the wind blew the smoke out of the city temporarily, so Natasha and I took a walk in the 100-degree heat to the grocery store.  Which is not air-conditioned.  As horrible as that was, I'm glad we did it because the smoke is back today and we've been cooped up indoors.  Being inside doesn't offer complete relief, however, as the smoke has seeped through the cracks around our doors and windows.  Jeremy and I have massive headaches and we're a bit worried about the long-term impact on Natasha's health.  There's no rain in the forecast, so it seems the fires - and the smog - will continue for some time.

I leave you with these photos.  I took the one on the right today.  The one on the left was taken last week, on a not-completely-smoke-free day.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Zoo

This weekend we took Natasha to the Moscow Zoo.

She wasn't such a fan of the emu.

Giraffes in the city.

The zoo makes snow for the polar bears, but the bears weren't fooled and stayed inside (it was about 95 degrees).

"We ask you not to feed the animals," says the sign next to the girl throwing bread to the ducks, and who incidentally is standing just a few yards from ...

This animal-feed vending machine.

It's the little incongruencies that make life so interesting.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Because chocolate is too girly these days

I saw this in the check-out aisle at the grocery store today and could not resist buying one for Jeremy.

The subtitle reads "Keep from women."

The back reads, roughly translated: "A special form of softness exclusively for men, this powerful and tender chocolate is the inviolable property of men!"

When we returned home, I powered up my good friend Google and found a press release announcing the launch of the product back in 2005. The release states that the the bar is "based on deep understanding of a modern man psychology."

According to Nestle Russia official Aleksandra Tarasinkevich, "The role of woman in a society is more and more increasing. A distinction between a woman and a man is gradually drawn. So much the men would like to have things, which will belong only to them. Considering this need, "Nestle" company developed a key idea of "untouchable man's property", which was laid in the basis of Nestle® Classic for Men strategic concept."

The press release also notes that the heft of the bar makes it the right size for a burly man-palm (and presumably, too large for delicate female fingers).

Despite my voracious appetite for chocolate these days, I'll try to heed the warning on the packaging and keep my hormonal and swollen pregnant paws off the manly candy bar. At least until Jeremy gets home.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Must be made of gold

Our second week in Moscow, I went to check out the local D'etskii Mir (Children's World), which is about a 10-minute walk from the Embassy. Spotting a sale bin, I rooted around and was astounded to find, among the other items, priced in the $10-30 range, a baby dress marked down from 15,000 RUR (about $500) to 5,000 RUR (about $165). Last week, I went back to the store to pick up a few things. The dress was still there. Still 5,000 rubles. It's just been hanging there (pictured below, on the right) for eight weeks. Wonder whether a) it will ever be sold or b) they will mark it down further.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I am not a butcher

Yesterday I made this for dinner.  I inadvertently baked it at a lower temperature than necessary, and my gravy totally separated and looked horrible, but both chicken and gravy were absolutely delicious.  It's hard to screw up the flavor when the recipe calls for that much butter.  Because of the sheer fattening-ness of this dish, we won't be having it very often, but it's definitely a keeper. 

I will, however, buy pre-cut chicken parts next time.  This time I decided to use a whole fryer that I had in the freezer.  I found a Youtube video about cutting up a chicken, got out my knife, and went to town.  I'm not usually squeamish about meat, but by the time I got to the part where I was instructed to pop the bird's thigh bone out of its socket, I started to feel a bit nauseous.  I don't think I'll be doing that again.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Care package!

Yesterday's mail brought a care package from my friend Claire.  We met Claire and her husband Erik through the Bradley childbirth class we took before Natasha's birth, and they have become good friends.  Erik likes to take pictures and build stuff, and Claire loves to sing, cook and craft (hmm, does that sound familiar?).  You can follow their adventures on their blog.

Anyway, I thought her care package was so cool that I had to share:

Those are vintage recipes, a decorated-by-Claire birdhouse for Natasha's room, a real handwritten letter and a card, some Burt's Bees hand salve for the cold Russian winter, and some adorable buttons for future knitted projects. 

I always want to send care packages but never know what to put in them - now I have all sorts of inspiration.  Thanks, Claire!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Uh oh

So, you might have heard about this 5-minute chocolate-cake-in-a-mug. There are a lot of recipes floating around out there for it. I tried one last year, and it was just aight. Last night, we tried this recipe. I used more milk in place of the brandy since we didn't have any on hand (well, except for the bottle of 15-year Armenian cognac that was a wedding gift from my voice teacher; but I didn't think cake in a mug warranted opening the bottle). I also added a few pieces of Hershey bar and a dollop of peanut butter to Jeremy's cake.

The cake rose pleasingly in the microwave:

Didn't look like much on a plate, but it was SO good.

I ate about 2/3 of mine before my stomach cried uncle (and this doesn't happen often, particularly in reference to cake). Jeremy scarfed his down and ate the rest of mine. Then he lay back on the couch groaning about how much his stomach hurt. Today, though, as he was heading off to basketball, he said "Honey, can you make me that chocolate in a mug again?" This time he only ate one, but proclaimed his stomach "kinda full."

Try it. You won't regret it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I'm famous!

OK, that might be an overstatement.  But I am guest blogging about cloth diapers today over at Vanessa's Crafty Nest.  Figured it was a good way to talk about one of my favorite topics without doing yet another post about it here.  Maybe I should start a mommy blog.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

You'll catch more flies with honey ...

I was told that I would have a very different experience in Moscow without a pregnant belly or a baby in tow.  Had my first taste this weekend.  We all went grocery shopping together, and on the way home, I stopped into a small store for white vinegar (they only sell the fancy stuff at the larger stores we go to).  I knew this small store carried the vinegar because I've bought it there before.  Jeremy waited outside with Natasha, and I went in alone, pregnant belly masked by a large shopping bag.  My exchange with the shopkeeper (the same one who smilingly sold me the vinegar and cooed at Natasha last time):

Me: I'd like some white vinegar, please.
Her: (scowling) We don't have white vinegar. 
Me: (spotting the vinegar on the shelf) Isn't that it right there?
Her: That's not vinegar.  That's vinegar ESSENCE.
Me: Ok, then, can I please have the vinegar essence?  Also, do you have dishwasher salt?
Her: (continuing to scowl) No.

I scanned the shelves but didn't see the salt.  I'll bet she had it, though.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

It's official

I am no longer a Foreign Service officer.

It's strange to see those words in black and white (or eggplant and cream, as the case may be).  Throughout my school years, though I had other ambitions  -- you know, rock star, astronaut, music teacher -- the Foreign Service was always my second, constant, choice.  I took the written test while still in college.  I didn't pass that time and ended up going into journalism.  But I decided to take it again a couple years later, and prepared by studying up on economics, since I was pretty sure that had been my weak point the first time.  The oral came along while I was living in Alaska and during a time when I was perfectly content with my life, but I decided to fly to Seattle and take the test anyway.  As it turned out, I passed.  Nine months later, "the call" with an offer to join an A-100 class was perfectly timed, as I had recently decided that reporting was not for me and was looking into other options.

I have truly loved being an FSO.  There are few other jobs in this life that give you the opportunity to serve your country, do interesting work, and live in far-flung places all at the same time.  Armenia was a terrific first tour.  It was a fascinating place, and the embassy was small enough that I was handed some great assignments during my two years there.  I probably shouldn't admit that, had I not joined the Foreign Service, I would probably only have a vague idea where Armenia is.  I certainly never would have met its foreign and defense ministers.  I never would have seen Kabul International Airport (nor been a witness to then-Sen. Joe Lieberman making his dinner at the embassy cafeteria salad bar).  I wouldn't have met my husband. 

So resigning was not an easy choice.  I have debated it for the last few months.  As I have always truly believed in staying at home with my children at least until they are school-aged, I was surprised at how hard it was to let go of my working identity.  The news that we are expecting a second child this fall, and the knowledge that, as a trailing spouse, I would still live the life I love, made the choice a bit easier.  Ultimately, it was the best decision for our family.

And now I get to complete the FS-family trifecta: minor dependent, employee, and finally, trailing spouse.  Right now, my focus is going to be on the babies.  But when we get this parenting thing down (we will get it down, right?) and the kids are a bit older, I might go back.  Or maybe start career #3.  Novelist?  Pastry chef?  Music teacher?  The world is, once again, my oyster.  It's exhilarating.  I'm a lucky girl.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The movers are coming, the movers are coming!

Our stuff is here and will be delivered tomorrow at noon.  I can't wait to be reunited with:

1) My dishes.
2) My dutch oven.
3) My crock pot.
4) My sewing machine.
5) My yarn.
6) My guitar.

The flip side, of course, is that we have to find places to put the dozens of boxes (and piano!) that are en route.  Not sure how that is going to work, but we'll keep you posted ...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More fluffy mail

Pardon me while I discuss cloth diapers for a minute.  These days, it's my favorite subject.  I recently completed a huge online shopping spree to bump up our stash in preparation for #2, and the packages have been trickling in over the last week.  The latest shipment is pictured in the photo.  The three columns of diapers are teeny tiny newborn fitted diapers for #2.  When Natasha was that small, we used prefolds, which are what you think of when you think of cloth diapers: rectangles of cotton that are fastened with a pin or a Snappi.  We are still going to use prefolds, but I have heard that fitteds contain the newborn poop better, so I figured we'd try some out.
The diaper on the left is a new fitted diaper for Natasha, shown for comparison's sake.

Your money's no good here

So on Friday, I rode the metro to a nearby market in pursuit of raspberries.  I had tons of change in my purse, so I decided to use it to pay my fare (52 rubles, or about $1.68, round trip).  The ticket ladies, I've found, tend to be pretty sour people, second only to the women who collect money at the port-a-potties (entry fee: about 65 cents).  I certainly don't begrudge the port-a-potty ladies their attitude, but I digress.

Anyway, I must have really pissed off the ticket lady when I shoved a fistful of change through the slot.  She glared at me, sorted the change, and then passed me back a two-ruble coin (about 6.5 cents).  "People won't take this," she said.  Now, it's common in these parts for stores to refuse badly crumpled, ripped, or otherwise marred bills, but I've never had a coin rejected before.  I countered that it was money all the same, but she wouldn't budge, nor hand over my ticket until I'd replaced the offending token.  In case you are wondering what it looked like, there's a photo.  The bad "penny" is on the bottom.  An acceptable one is on top.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


This is why the house is a mess and there's no food in the fridge ...

Last night Ghana beat the U.S. in the World Cup.  Jeremy didn't know the U.S. was going to get its behind handed to it by Ghana for the second World Cup in a row, otherwise, he says, he would NOT have stayed up until 1 a.m. to watch the game.  Sucked for him, then, that today was his morning to get up with Natasha and that she decided to wake at 6 instead of 7:30.  Not my problem, though, so I rolled over and went back to sleep :)

I woke at 8:15.  Natasha was pretty cranky, so she went down for a nap at 9 a.m.  Since she wasn't going to be up in time for church, I went alone.  I returned at 10:30 and Jeremy went back up for a nap around 11:30.  Natasha and I spent the morning playing.  At about noon, she fell asleep on me.   My water glass was out of reach, the computer was across the room, and I was pretty sure I would have to pee soon, but at least I was lying on the couch, and dammit, I will never wake a sleeping baby!  Plus, she hadn't fallen asleep on me in like five months, and I was enjoying it.

By 2:30 p.m., my bladder was threatening to explode, so I tried to put her down on a blanket on the floor.  To nobody's surprise, she woke up screaming.  I changed her diaper and got her a bottle, then ran into the kitchen to fix myself a plate of bread and cheese (I hadn't eaten since 9).  Natasha freaked out when I left the living room, but Mama (and #2) have to eat!  Once I returned to the couch, she crawled over to the back doors and loudly indicated that she wanted out.  We took a blanket and toys out to sit on the grass until 3:15, when we decided Papa had slept long enough.  We still needed to go grocery shopping and set up Natasha's new crib before dinner.   I had planned to clean the kitchen, but that's clearly not going to happen today ...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fluffy mail!

I have been going a little crazy buying new diapers in anticipation of #2's arrival.  Yesterday was mail day here at post, and we got three packages bearing these diapers.  For those who are into this sort of thing, the zebra one is an all-in-one Goodmama diaper (that means it is waterproof on the outside and doesn't need any covering up).  The aqua one is a Haute Pocket pocket diaper, and the three on the bottom are Grobabies, a "hybrid" diaper, which is a type I've never tried before.  The stack of white things are inserts to go in the Grobaby diapers and the Haute Pocket.

These days, cloth diapers actually excite me more than yarn does.  Who knew that was possible?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In the kitchen

So, I've been hit with the nesting bug big time, but as most of our stuff is still somewhere on the ocean, I can't sew, or knit anything other than lace (since that's the only yarn I brought on the plane).  Although what I would really like to be doing is sewing baby wipes and burp cloths, I have thrown my domestic energy into culinary endeavors.  Strawberries are really tasty and not too expensive this time of year, so Natasha and I have been riding the metro one stop to the Dorogomilovsky Rinok (rinok=market in Russian) and buying large quantities of them.  The fruit goes bad if you look at it funny, which means that after I've lugged four or five kilos of fruit home, I have to process it immediately.  I wish I had the know-how or equipment for canning (something to think about next summer).  Since I don't, I just freeze all the fruit that isn't bruised or rotting, and make something with the rest.  So far, we've had strawberry turnovers (which I think I've finally figured out) and this disastrous strawberry pie:

This was my entry in the Embassy bake-off yesterday.  I took a few liberties with the recipe - I didn't want to add gelatin, and I didn't have cornstarch, so I figured I'd just toss some flour in and call it good.  I was so excited to make it pretty - I even cut out little leaves from scrap dough and pasted them on the top crust.  I was devastated when it came out of the oven looking like this:

Little did I know that this was only the start of pie-related problems.

The bake-off was held on the green on the upper portion of the compound.  We live on the lower portion.  So I put Natasha into the stroller and loaded the pie into the stroller basket (yes, I should have known that this was a bad idea).  By the time we made it up the ramp and onto the green, strawberry juice had sloshed out of the pie and all over the stroller basket.  It was such a large spill that I had to hose the stroller down at the community garden.

And then it was time for the judging.  After they'd cut into the pies (I should note here that mine was one of only two entered in this category), I was dismayed to see that the cut-out where pie had formerly been, had filled up with strawberry juice.  Needless to say, I was awarded an "honorable mention," while my competitor's non-sloshy apple pie took the blue ribbon.  I guess the pie tasted ok, though, because there was only a tiny piece left when I went back later to retrieve the pie plate.

I've learned my lesson, though, and this morning when I went to the grocery store, I looked for corn starch.  They only had potato starch.  Which I'm going to use in today's cherry pie instead.  Hope it works ...

In other, more successful news, I've also been making pasta sauce out of fresh tomatoes for freezing.  I usually don't have an issue using canned tomatoes, but we go through a LOT, and I haven't been able to find reasonably priced canned tomatoes in the stores yet.   So every week or so, I turn this:

into this:

Friday, June 18, 2010


We went to Auchan (the hypermarket) again a couple weeks ago.  This time, Jeremy took a photo (unfortunately, he missed the roller blader whizzing down the aisles).  Immediately after he snapped it, he was accosted by a security guard (yes, a security guard in Russia's version of Super-Walmart) who told him photos weren't allowed.  A throwback to Soviet times when photos of just about anything were considered a security threat.  Anyway, Jeremy had already gotten the photo, so here you go:

Those are checkout aisles on the right, as far as the eye can see.  This was quite a light day - the first time I went, I spent 30 minutes in line. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


It's "pukh" season here in Russia. Also known as "Stalin's Pukh" and "Stalin's Revenge," pukh (literally "fluff" in Russian) is what Russians call the white pollen of the female poplar trees that the dictator ordered planted all over Moscow in the 1930s. It drifts off the trees in spring, making it appear on particularly windy days that the capital has been engulfed in a blizzard of cotton balls. I have tried to capture this phenomenon on film, but my pictures really don't do it justice. The photo to the left was taken on a particularly pukh-y day. If you look at the black car in the lower left and at the tree in the upper right, you can see some of the pukh.

Poplars are planted in many other cities in the world (I'm assuming), but not all of them have trouble with copious pukh. The problem is that, even in his infinite wisdom, Stalin planted exclusively female poplars. This means that there are no males to pollinate the female trees' seeds. Not knowing what else to do with their seeds, the female poplars release them into the air, raining allergenic white fluff down on the hapless population each year.

There is a metaphor here somewhere. Radical feminism, are you paying attention?

The pukh gets into everything. I have found it is a bit problematic for babies with sticky faces - Natasha has returned home from many outings with bits of pukh stuck to her cheeks. Apparently, it is also highly flammable. We've heard this from several people since we arrived, and I think it's only a matter of time before Jeremy takes a lit match to a pile of pukh just to see what happens. We'll be sure to take photos of that.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

We've had a great three-day weekend here.  Saturday Jeremy was invited to play for the Embassy's team in a local softball league.  Other teams include Russians and Cubans and other expats.  Jeremy returned home happy, if slightly sunburned and with welts up and down both legs.  Apparently the outfield is right next to a giant patch of stinging nettle.  He ran in there twice.  You can't say he's not a team player (although you could make a joke about Pavlov's dogs). 

On Sunday we went to church in the morning and then I took Jeremy to Perekryostok Zelyoniy, my current go-to grocery store.  He observed that we could spend a lot of money if we didn't pay attention to prices.  Certain exotic fruits that I didn't recognize cost up to $30 per kilo.  A 10-inch shaker of red pepper flakes was also about $30.  We bought some Hungarian bacon for about $6 a pound - not terrible, but certainly more than we'd spend on bacon in the U.S.  It was very, very salty.

In the evening, we joined some new friends and their children for a barbecue.  Jeremy reconvened with the men later on for some vodka and whiskey.  To get to the meeting site, he had only to walk out our back door, walk down the grass about 300 feet, and walk into someone else's back door.  Good stumbling home distance, although he behaved well.  Monday was his day to get up early with Natasha.  He's learning.

Today we went for a walk down the Stariy Arbat (Old Arbat Street).  It's a pedestrian road lined with pricey souvenir shops and outdoor cafes.  We had lunch at "Asia Cafe."  I opted for the "Business Lunch" bento box (which included, among other things, maki stuffed with chicken ...).  Jeremy went for raw fish, with tuna nigiri, a tuna roll and a tempura eel roll.  He pronounced it decent.  Prices were probably about 30% higher than our favorite place in Virginia, but the food wasn't as tasty.  To be expected.

And now the weekend is over.  We're about to commence our evening routine of heading to bed at least an hour before we intend to sleep.  It doesn't get dark here until after 10, and even at 11:30 the sky isn't totally black.  So we go up to our bedroom early and draw the curtains, then watch a DVD or something on the computer for an hour to convince ourselves that it is night time, before turning out the light.  It's worked pretty well, but I have to make sure not to look back at the curtains after turning out the lamp - there's always still some daylight peeking in.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

First grocery fail

Natasha and I explored a new grocery store today, Zelyonii Perekryostok.  It's a bit over a mile's walk from the Embassy, slightly downhill when you have no groceries to lug, and uphill when the stroller is a bit heavier.  Nice store.  Baby was sleeping when we got there, but woke up about 15 minutes in.  She has become quite whiny lately when she's not getting my full attention, so I couldn't spend the time really checking out my options.

I wanted to make pizza for dinner tonight.  I had in my head a vision of a very Italian style pizza.  Thin crust, not too much sauce, light on the toppings, fresh basil, salami instead of pepperoni, etc.  Natasha was in full whine mode by the time we got to the cheese section, so I grabbed the first thing I saw with "mozzarella" on the label.  The fact that each slice was individually wrapped should have been a warning ...

Because, yes, although it was billed as mozzarella, what I actually bought was basically American cheese.  I HATE American cheese.  And even if you like it, you could hardly argue that it belongs on pizza.  So my beautiful, thin-crust Italian pizza ended up looking like this:

It didn't taste as awful as it looks, but the cheese did leave that awful processed film on the roof of my mouth.  Better luck next time, I guess.

Excuse me while I talk about poop

I actually think it's kind of amazing that Natasha is eight months old and we have yet to discuss poop on this blog.  Well, today's the day.  We started using cloth diapers with her when she was three days old.  They worked great for us and we happily used them exclusively until she was about seven months old.  Then we switched to disposables temporarily for a couple reasons.  First, I had a pretty good case of morning sickness, and dealing with poopy diapers made me vomit.  You still have to deal with poop when you use disposables, but with cloth, once a baby gets more in her diet than breastmilk, you have to scrape the poop off the diaper into the toilet, so there is an extra poop-handling step.  I also didn't feel like handwashing diapers in hotel bathrooms while in transit, so we started using disposables.  We tried several different brands, and while I did find that one worked better for us than the others, I truly hated them all.  Up-the-back poop all the time, leaks and worst of all, the stink!  I don't know who thought that scenting disposable diapers was a good idea, but I have to say that it's not.  When Natasha pooped in her disposables, the smell was this putrid mix of poop and chemical perfume.  Kind of like when someone tries to cover up a bad case of BO by putting on perfume.  Not good.  Plus, we had several times more blowouts in a month of using disposables than in seven months of using cloth. 

Anyway, we've been in Moscow over a week, and I was still using disposables until yesterday, because it had been awhile since I'd done diaper laundry and I had built it up to be something more difficult than it is.  But yesterday was the last straw.  Natasha woke up soaking wet.  Then around 11 a.m., she pooped all over herself and me.  I couldn't stand to put another Pampers on her (not least because of their recent smear campaign against cloth diapers - sorry folks, but at least cloth doesn't give babies chemical burns!), so I pulled out one of my Bumgenius 3.0 pocket diapers.  No more blowouts.  No more leaks.  No more wretched poop-perfume stink.  I freaking love cloth diapers.  I really hope I can keep up with it when #2 arrives.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

As promised

A few photos of the weekends excursions to Gorky Park and Red Square.

Most people have to pay to get into Gorky Park, but among those who get in free are veterans, children under 7, orphan children and those serving in Afghanistan (but apparently serving on the American side doesn't count).  Also, apparently, Mount Rushmore is a ride at Gorky Park.  I haven't seen the actual Mount, but it seems to me that the presidents look a bit more pissed off in this version.

There's also a pretty serious log flume ride - tickets are only $8.30 per ride (and that's after the $2.70 charge to get into the park).

When you get sick of the rides, you can take in the view of the river.

Natasha liked it, too.

And then all these women in wedding dresses walked by.

And that was kind of weird, but we were ready to go home, so we walked to the Metro.

Then the next day, we went to the Kremlin.

And we checked out the eternal flame for the unknown soldier.

Apparently, there were military games going on in Red Square.  Complete with rock climbing races (apparently the world cup of climbing is going to be held in Moscow this year).

And mini-football.

And teenagers dancing suggestively in hot pants (doesn't that shimmy say "military games" to you?).

There was also a skate park.

But it was pretty warm and I was wearing a black shirt, so we took the obligatory Red Square photo and headed to find shade and ice cream.

And then Natasha discovered pigeons.  I don't think they liked her too much, though.

And Stalin and Lenin were there, escorted by what I can only guess was Gone With the Wind Barbie, Limited Gold Edition.

And then we went home.  Long day.