Monday, May 30, 2011

Things you have to do when you travel with babies

Take breaks to chase pigeons.

Wash poop out of baby clothes with hand soap in your hotel room's bathroom sink.

Return to the room mid-day for nap time.

Skip a long day trip to accommodate said nap time.

Recognize that it's no longer about seeing as much as possible in the time you have.

Understand that, no matter how many new toys you pack in your bag for the train journey, your child will spend an hour playing peek-a-boo with the person sitting behind you. Or batting around an empty plastic water bottle.

Realize that, sometimes, a McDonald's in a foreign city really is a blessing (judge all you want).

Pictures when we get back to Moscow tomorrow evening.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Morning at Maiden's

Convent, that is.  We spent an hour walking around Novodevichy (New Maiden's) Convent this morning.  The walled convent is a UNESCO Heritage site, and it's just a 10-minute drive from us - or a 20-minute trolley commute - or a 45-minute walk.  When we leave Moscow, I will really miss both the city living and the proximity to so many beautiful places. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Homemade cloth diaper

Some of you are going to think I'm really nuts after reading this post.  Not only does this girl voluntarily reuse poopy diapers, but she actually makes them herself.

I sewed my first pocket diaper this week.  Z just wore it for two hours and it did the job.  My pattern does need some work.  For example, I realized after uploading these photos that I totally put the pocket on the wrong end.  That's why it fits a bit funny.  Oops.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tots Around Town Tuesdays: Dior Exhibit

Today we took the trolley to the Pushkin Museum to see an exhibit of Dior gowns.

We made quite a sight - three disheveled and sweaty mommas, two (myself included) with babies strapped to their chests, and three toddlers.  Also, it was so hot.  It even smelled like a sauna.  We guessed those conditions were necessary for the gown preservation, but it was pretty uncomfortable.

We also got special attention from the apron-clad babushki monitoring each room.  They followed close behind us to make sure our kids didn't smudge the glass or try to tug the dresses.  Pictures were not allowed, and, as we were already under close surveillance, I didn't try to sneak any.  It's really too bad because it was an absolutely gorgeous exhibit.  I found this one on the net - you can take a look at the rest here.

Natasha was completely transfixed.  Kid has good taste.

Afterwards, we got some cream puffs at Beard Papa's.

We worked them off by walking the 1.5-2 miles or so home.  I think this was my favorite Tots Around Town Tuesday outing so far.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I've recently become intrigued with duck, perhaps because it's readily available at the local grocery stores.  I don't remember seeing duck at DC-area Giants and Safeways. 

I made duck for the first time this past Christmas.  It was pretty tasty.  Today I made it again.  I bought two half-ducks and used a combination of recipes I found online (seriously, I don't know why I even own so many cookbooks).  I was interested in wasting as little of the duck as possible, so I decided to render my own duck fat.  (I learned how to do this on the Internet too).

So I started with the left over fat from the duck.  This is the skin and fat remaining after our dinner:

I also had this:

The recipe I used called for steaming the duck in a steamer basket set into a pot of several inches of water.  I put the steaming water into the fridge overnight, and the drippings solidified and became the solid white mass, about 1/4 of an inch thick, that you see above.

I put the skin and the white solid fat into a saute pan and filled it with about 3/4 an inch of water.  I set the stove to the lowest heat setting as I had read online.  That turned out not to be nearly hot enough, so I raised it to 3.

After 30 minutes, I had this:

I decided at that point that maybe I should have cut the fat up smaller, so I fished it out and did just that.  After a total of 55 minutes of cooking time, I had this:

And after 75 minutes, I had this:

I fished out the cracklings with a slotted spoon (had to loosen them from the bottom of the pan first) and then strained the remaining fat.  I ended up with this (sorry for the poorly focused photo - I get no natural light in my kitchen and also I don't really know what I'm doing):

and this:

The cracklings are delicious, but really, really rich.  I ate four of them (all about dime-to-nickel sized) and couldn't eat any more.  That's saying a LOT, because this girl can put away animal fat.

I used a bit of the duck fat to roast red cabbage and onions for tonight's dinner.  Pretty tasty.  I plan to experiment with frying eggs in it later in the week.  And tomorrow I will use the bones left from the duck to make duck stock.  Voila: no waste!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Take a walk with us

This morning Natasha and I took a short walk, more or less around the block.  It was about 40 minutes, door-to-door.

We left the Embassy compound and walked towards the large bridge crossing over to Kutuzovsky Prospekt, past the White House, a Russian government building. 

From there, we hung a left up Bolshoi Devyatinskiy Pereulok and made our way up the alley, past a piece of pukh tumbleweeding its way down the street ...

... and to our church, which has been under renovations since we arrived last year.

We are our way into the prefab building in front of the church, where they sell all manner of pirozhki.  Natasha particularly likes the cabbage ones.

We continued down the alley until we reached Noviy Arbat.  We paused to check out the tulips and take in the view of the Hotel Ukraina/Radisson across the bridge.

Then my pinky toes, clad in my brand-new sensible-mom walking shoes from Lands End, started to blister.  (Also, does the fact that I think these shoes are really cute make me officially unfashionable?)

We turned around and proceeded up the street, through the skeevy tunnel ...

... and then made a left onto the Garden Ring.  We passed the morning traffic ...

... and a line of many people waiting for their visa interviews at the Embassy (it wrapped around the building and is actually a lot longer than this picture makes it appear).  Some of them, no doubt, have done their homework and have learned through the local Internet forums that they might get a blond, bearded officer who is known as the nice one who asks the weird questions.  (Jeremy likes to test certain applicants - the ones who need to speak decent English in order to qualify for a student exchange visa - by asking them to do simple arithmetic problems).

We proceeded down the Ring, past the corner outside the consular section, where Muscovite fans of Michael Jackson began to leave pictures, flowers, trinkets, and apparently, balloons, following his death.

We passed the Kudrinskaya Ploschad' building (which, along with the Hotel Ukraina, is one of Moscow's Seven Sisters), and its fountain.

We had to walk in the street, because, as you can see, they like to park on the sidewalk here.

And then, because there is no other way to do it unless you want to carry a stroller up and down a sizable staircase, or walk signficantly out of your way, we crossed a busy street without aid of either a crosswalk or a perekhod.  We turned left on Barrikadnaya Street, past this fabulous scooter ...

... past the zoo ...

... and past this truck, advertising Burger King, and advising drivers the next lane over that their cars are under video surveillance.  No idea why.

When pressed to decide whether to brave the perekhod ramp, or subject my poor toes to further chafing ...

... we opted to walk an extra few hundred feet to use the over-road crosswalk.

We had precisely 24 seconds to cross.  We needed 21 of them.

We turned left and went back down Krasnaya Presnya, cutting behind the metro station to walk past our favorite produce stand ...

... past the concert billboards ...

... and the free public toilets that were disgusting, but nevertheless welcome when I was pregnant last summer.

We took the crosswalk immediately in front of the Embassy, which, as usual, was overrun with cars stuck in traffic.

And returned home.

The End.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We are Si-a-me-ese if you ple-ease

Sunday after church, as Jeremy was making brunch, he called to me from the kitchen "Honey, I think we're having a baby." 

Come again?

"Yeah, I think we're having twins."

Turns out he had just cracked six eggs into a bowl, and all of them were double-yolked. 

That evening, I used #7 to bind chicken burgers.  One egg.  Two yolks.

Monday morning, I ate #8 and #9 for breakfast.  Both double-yolked.

Tuesday morning, I scrambled up #10 for Natasha.  Kid got two yolks for the price of one.

That emptied the carton (eggs here are sold in tens, not dozens). 

This same phenomenon happened to my sister while she was pregnant with my niece last year.  We teased her the whole time that it was a sign she was having twins.  She didn't have twins, as it turned out.  Those eggs were from Trader Joe's.

My carton of freak eggs were bought here at the hypermarket.  They were a brand that professes to be extra-nutritious.  A brand I had switched to, because the previous, extra-nutritious brand that I was using (called "Extra"), had started to freak me out.  You see, the Extra eggs have extremely, freakishly, orange yolks.  They also taste a lot better than normal eggs.  I have tried in vain to determine what the producers of Extra eggs do to their eggs to make them so tasty.  As I have been unable to figure this out, I will assume it's something really bad and/or dangerous.  The best-tasting stuff is always bad for you.

And that's why we decided to try these other eggs.

Which were probably laid by chickens on steroids.

By the way, part of the reason I am blogging about this is in the hopes that someone out there knows what makes these Russian eggs so tasty.  If you are that someone, please comment and fill me in!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tots Around Town Tuesdays: Victory Park and Great Patriotic War museum

Today we hopped on the trolley with E and A and headed to Victory Park.  The forecast had promised no rain until the afternoon, but a few minutes after we disembarked, it started to drizzle.  This was an improvement over the last time we went to Victory Park (in early January, when the windchill was somewhere around 7 degrees F).  But even the fountains and tulips can't conceal that this park, dedicated to the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War (known to you and me as WWII), is really ugly.

We headed into the museum.  There was some kerfluffle over whether or not we could enter with strollers.  After a 15-minute wait in the lobby, during which one of the security guards went to discuss our dilemma with the museum administrator, they let us through.  We were given special access to the elevator and strict instructions to let the exhibit monitors (a cadre of fierce old women) know that our strollers were allowed at the permission of the museum administrator.

I hadn't even known that it was there, but I'm so glad we went, because it was an excellent museum, if jarringly and unapologetically Soviet.

 And, bonus, the girls were pretty well behaved, even despite getting a little wet because their mama forgot to pack the rain cover.