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.