Thursday, March 31, 2011

Best Disguised Foreign Service Couch Contest

One complaint you often hear from those new to Foreign Service life is how awful the furniture is.  To keep things simple (and, I imagine, cheaper, though I could be wrong; this is the government we're talking about), USG-provided furniture at posts worldwide is all exactly the same.  There are a few varieties to choose from, but it's not at all unlikely that the same blue-and-gold floral print couch you hated in Kyiv will be waiting to greet you in Nairobi.

Having grown up in the service, I can attest that a lot of the models are the same now as they were 20 years ago.  Our bedroom set is the exact same one I remember seeing in my parents' room in Tel Aviv in 1990.  Heck, it might even BE the very same set that was in use in their room when we lived here in Moscow in 1986.  I am so used to this furniture that it doesn't even bug me anymore, and it honestly had never occurred to me to try to make Embassy housing my own until I started to see how nice these apartments can look if you put a little effort into them.  Friends of ours here on the compound have even painted their walls.


Anyway, the folks over at Something Edited This Way Comes have announced a contest for the best disguised Foreign Service Couch.  Since, as I mentioned, I tend to just accept our housing pool furniture, our couch isn't really customized so much as covered in crap.  I also take lots of pictures of my sewing and knitting projects on it - and I shouldn't, because it's really a horrible mustardy olive-drabby pukey kind of a color.

Anyway, just because I like entering contests, here's a photo of the couch covered in most of our cloth diaper stash.  I call this style Fluffy Bum Couture.


For the record, I think another great contest would be something to do with the horrible drapes we seem to run into at every location around the world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Recently inspired by a few mommy blogs I read (check out Unschool Preschool, a new addition to the "Good Reading" sidebar, if you have a toddler and are looking for activity ideas), I have decided to try to be a more fun mom.  Monday's ice-cube game was just the beginning.

Yesterday, Natasha and I took advantage of Z's naptime to make some zucchini-carrot bread.  We invited Natasha's friend Matthew and his mommy over to help us.

I prepped by putting all the ingredients into small plastic containers to facilitate easy dumping.  I left the spices in their jars since most toddlers I know love to shake them. 

 Then I gave each kid a spoon and handed them things to dump.  Natasha soon realized that the batter was pretty tasty (though the joke's on her, since each yummy, sugary, floury, cinnamony mouthful also contained a fair amount of shredded raw carrot and zucchini, neither of which she would ever eat alone).  Don't worry, this bread is egg-free, so it's safe for babies to eat the batter.  It's also dairy-free, so it's a good one to have in your pocket if your kids, or their friends, are allergic to eggs or milk.  Scroll down for the recipe.

They had a blast.  We will be doing a lot more mommy-and-me baking around these parts, I think.

I'm not posting a picture of the bread since I way overbaked it, and actually, I think I'd recommend baking this recipe in a muffin tin, rather than a loaf pan.  Anyway, here it is.

Zucchini-Carrot Muffins

1.5c flour (I use half whole-wheat, half white)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 c vegetable oil
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c shredded carrot
1/2 c shredded peeled zucchini

Preheat oven to 400.  Oil and flour a muffin tin.  You can use muffin cups but they will stick rather annoyingly to the finished muffin.  It's worth the extra effort to oil and flour the tin.  Combine all ingredients.  (Note: If you are not making this with little kids, you can combine the dry ingredients sans sugar, then combine the wet ingredients plus sugar.  Make a well in the dry stuff, then mix in the wet stuff until combined - it will still be lumpy.  Pour into tins and bake).  If you are making this with kids, let them throw stuff in as they like - it doesn't really make much difference.

Check the muffins starting at 15 minutes.  I am infamous for overbaking muffins, so I start checking pretty early.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Not so lamblike ...

So, here at Where To Next, winter is still in full force. It snows for at least an hour every day, I didn't think that the "in like a lion, out like a lamb" stuff applied to Russia, but just in case it does, memo to Russia: there are only three days left in March. Lamb it up!

Yesterday we took a walk. We were going to go to the playground. But it was in the low 20s and quite windy, so we ended up just coming home. First, I took a picture of the underpass ramps I am always talking about. I have to navigate these to get most places. As you can see, it's only a very narrow range of strollers whose wheels will fit. And also, the ramps aren't standard. Some only have two "lanes," and some are made of the same stone as the stairs and built in (I like those better, as they are wider and easier to navigate). I've fallen on these ramps a couple times while pushing a stroller. It's a giant pain in the behind.

Looks like Burger King is opening a restaurant on our walking route. Hadn't seen one in Russia before. It's about half a mile from a McDonald's (which, I am proud to say, we have not even walked into yet).

Later in the afternoon, cowed by the cold but determined to make the best of it, I introduced Natasha to a new game. Here she is moving ice cubes from one bowl of water to another using a slotted spoon. This occupied her for 20 solid minutes while I made dinner! I can't take credit - got the idea from a mommy blog. I sewed the apron, too. Pattern is here (scroll down to Little Chef Patterns in the middle of the page) if you are interested.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sewing up a storm

I can't remember the last time I picked up my knitting needles. In the interim ...

This is the TAMI tee dress, again from Cute pattern but it's written as a boat neck, and when finished, it hung funny on Natasha. This project was saved by another seamstress' idea to elasticize the neckline.

This one is the same pattern I used to make the sundress I blogged about here. But it's fleece, and I sewed it in anger. Stupid winter. GO AWAY ALREADY.

Here's Zoia modeling a 6-9 month dress and hat I made for her cousin Tasya. Mental note - make Z's larger. Especially since she'll only be able to wear it for about a week in July before winter comes back ...

Here is the set with matching diaper cover.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Not bad for a first try

I got inspired to try my hand at sewing some baby clothes this week.  I found a free pattern online over at and pulled out some remnant fabric I had bought on a whim for $3.  One day later, voila:

I had to add the ruffle because the dress was way too short.  I didn't extend the lining, so it's about five inches shorter than the rest of the dress.  And though I zigzagged my seams, I'm not confident we won't fray in the wash.  (Finally, it was 28 degrees today and I didn't feel like stripping Natasha down to model the dress in its summer glory, thus the tights and shirt underneath).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Our intrepid toddler, and the Vice President

Vice President Biden is in Moscow and Natasha got to meet him today.

First she patiently waited around in the gym.

Then, when Biden invited all the children on stage, she wasted no time. That's Jill Biden helping her up.
Not content to hang out on that side of the stage, she ran to the other side, where the Ambassador's wife caught hold of her to stop her from going overboard.

She then put up her arms in a request to be held. The Ambassador's wife obliged. Mama, not wanting to disrupt the VP's speech, and not knowing what else to do, sat, rather mortified, on the floor in front of the podium and took photos.