Sunday, July 31, 2011

An evening at the ballet

Last Friday, Jeremy and I and the inlaws went to see Swan Lake. I fully admit I was not expecting to enjoy it - not least because I was just really tired. But it was really lovely. I might even venture to say that, in general, I enjoyed it more than the opera. I feel kind of guilty saying that, since singing is my thing, but Jeremy agreed with me. Perhaps if there were more dancing in opera. Anyway, we saw it at the theater affectionately known as the Stan and Dan. The playhouse is painted a gorgeous cobalt blue color - my crappy photos do not do it justice. There were no photos allowed during the performance, but we took a few during the curtain calls.

I hesitated about putting this photo up since I look like such a cow. However, we don't often get dressed up, and I am wearing my treasured Cynthia Rowley suede leopard-print peep-toes. So here's the proof.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cruise along the Moskva-Reka

Jeremy's parents are visiting, so we decided this was a perfect time to take a boat ride down the Moscow River.  Yachts leave twice a day from the Radisson/Hotel Ukraine.  Jeremy checked an hour before we left, and the web site said that there were more than 100 seats remaining.  Predictably, however, when we arrived, the very polite (no sarcasm this time - they were actually really pleasant and professional) hotel workers told us that there were no seats left.  Jeremy stood in line along with an angry mob of people who had also checked the web site.  One by one, they all left, all but Jeremy - and they finally relented.  Perseverance pays!

Since we got our tickets at the last minute, we did not have an opportunity to take sultry photos in front of the yacht.

We sat up on the outside deck until it became clear that rain was inevitable.

Then we moved downstairs to drink extravagantly priced (and yet not very good) beverages and enjoy the ambient lighting.

Luckily, though, the gale let up once we hit the Kremlin, allowing for some photos.  While I took this one, a drunken Russian standing behind me waxed poetic about the beauty of the Moscow skyline and the city's place as the capital of not just this great nation, but indeed of the entire world.

My one goal for this cruise was to get this photo.  Wish it weren't so blurry, but the boat was moving at a pretty good clip.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top for me

I made this top last week.  I used a peasant blouse pattern I found online, but when finished, it was frumptastic.  So I added the band on the bottom, which I think makes it wearable.  It is a bit too baggy, and perhaps at some point I'll get the motivation to fix that problem.  Even so, I'm pretty proud of myself.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Here come the brides: Saturday at Victory Park

Being at loose ends this Saturday, we decided to people-watch at Victory Park.  Though I maintain that the monuments themselves are superlatively unattractive, it's really a pleasant place to spend a summer afternoon.  Bonus, on Saturdays the park fills with wedding parties come to take some commemorative photographs in front of the aforementioned ugly statues.  Hoop skirts and corsets are big this summer in Russian bridal fashion.

Check the shoes:

Back view:
 Front view with close-up:

After we'd had our fill of bride-gawking, we proceeded to the fountains, where Natasha had a dip.

A great afternoon that we plan to repeat before the summer is over.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In case you were wondering ...

... the ants are supposedly gone.  Three guys from maintenance showed up today with a vacuum, ripped out the floor boards under our window, and sucked a huge, creepy, crawly, disgusting ant colony clean out of our walls. 


I am assured that any ants I spy in the coming days are merely refugees from the massacre.  Hopefully the war is over.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Zoia and the cat

N is in the middle of a marathon nap at the moment, and Z and I have been spending some quality time for the last hour.  We were sitting on the floor playing with a puzzle when I heard mewing coming from outside our back door.  (Some might have characterized the mewing as "piteous," however, not having a soft spot for cats, it sounded more menacing to me).

As soon as Z caught sight of the cat, she made a beeline for the door.  They stared at each other, Z rather astonished and very curious, and the cat mewing tirelessly, for about 10 minutes.  Then the cat, likely realizing that she was mewing at the wrong door, went on her way.

People still ask whether I regret leaving the FS.  It's not a question I think about a lot.  But every once in awhile something like this happens and I am grateful, all over again, that I am around to see it.

(Also, I'd tell you to ignore the smudgy windows, but what with an army of ants setting up camp in my master bedroom and the occasional pee on the carpet, windows are frankly the least of my concern).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

All in a morning's walk - and a new blouse for N

One really amazing thing about this lifestyle is the opportunity to live amongst monuments that, even for those who manage to visit them, are of the once-in-a-lifetime variety.  In Yerevan, I never tired of the view of Mt. Ararat.  In Jerusalem, my family lived about a six-minute walk from the walled Old City.  And here in Moscow, the Kremlin and Red Square are only about a 30-minute walk from my front door.

So today, I loaded the babies into the Phil & Ted, and we joined some friends for a walk to Alexandrovsky Sad, the flowery park outside the Kremlin walls.  Natasha wore her new peasant blouse (yes, it's made of the same material I used for the ironing board cover, and since I have a yard left, you'll probably be seeing it again soon).  A good time was had by all, particularly N and her buddy A, who discovered a few puddles to jump in.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lenin and Kennedy

My brother- and sister-in-law are visiting from Germany, so we've been doing the tourist thing the last couple of days.  Yesterday we hit up the Kremlin and Red Square, and saw two famous people - one expected, and the other, not so much.

The expected celebrity was Lenin, or at least his waxy corpse.  I lived in Russia for two years in the 80s, was here for five days in 2006, and have been here a year now, and had not visited his mausoleum.  Since my family was driven out of Russia by the Bolsheviks, I guess I have a bone to pick with him.  But our guests wanted to go, so we left the girls with the nanny (I didn't particularly want them in the tomb), and were on our way.

The tomb is every bit as creepy as you might expect.  You are not permitted inside with cameras or cell phones at all.  It is dark and dank and silent.  You descend down stairs that turn 90 degrees twice, and at every corner stands a uniformed military guard.   They are also at every corner in the actual mausoleum.  If you are talking while walking down the stairs, they shush you.  If you lean on the banister to get a closer look at Lenin's body, as my husband did, they snap their fingers to get your attention and inform you that you are not behaving appropriately.

No pictures of the inside, of course, but here is the outside:

My brother-in-law asked why Lenin still lies, basically in state, on Red Square, seeing how the Soviet Union is dead.  The answer I have heard from Russians is that the generations who revered him have not yet finished cycling through.  I've been told that the elderly still revere him, the middle-aged are indifferent, and the younger generation regard him with distaste.  Maybe in 20 years he'll be gone.  I certainly won't be visiting him again.  I still get goosebumps (the unpleasant kind) just thinking about it.

But before we saw Lenin, we checked out the Kremlin Armoury and the crown jewels.  At the Armoury, as I was resting my legs and waiting for my group to return from the WC, a vaguely familiar-looking woman walked by me.  Within a minute, it occurred to me that she looked just like Caroline Kennedy.  Only she was just with a tour guide and a man, and I guess I figured she'd have a security detail.

Upon closer inspection, we determined that it really WAS Caroline Kennedy (and her husband, and a tour guide).

See for yourself:

How cool is that?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ant update

For those of you wondering: I Googled "how to kill winged ants," and came across an article that suggested a spray bottle of soapy water if you didn't want to use aerosol ant poison.  The same article also suggested that time was of the essence when dealing with winged ants (like, to the point that you shouldn't even leave the room after discovering them).  So I grabbed the nearest spray bottle, which happened to contain that Clorox Green glass-and-surface cleaner stuff.  And we spent the evening spraying the swarms.  After doing the initial spray, I tasked Jeremy with mopping up the massacre (times like this, it's particularly useful to be married).  He had to spray a few times; the last about 15 minutes before bed.  I

tossed and turned, thinking about the ants behind the drapes (J, of course, slept like a baby - how do you guys do that?).  This morning I pulled back the drapes, got down on hands and knees and peered under the radiator.  Nothing save a handful of ant carcasses.  I figured J had mopped them up one last time before bed, but apparently he had not.  Those ants had come in and carried off their dead like you always hear they will do!

Hopefully they will pass the word on to their buddies that our bedroom is a hostile environment.  We can hope, anyway.

Monday, July 11, 2011


If you are a Foreign Service mom, or perhaps the mother in some other brand of expatriate family, it's probably safe to say that you have seen your fair share of bugs.  I'd also like to think that these insects have at one point or another driven you to tears.  Otherwise, it's just me that's neurotic.

Here on the Embassy compound, there is a bit of an ant problem.  A couple months ago, they decided to lay claim to our living room (which is on the ground floor and opens out to a backyard).  I got some ant traps, ferreted out their nest and flooded it with gallons of boiling water, and dumped copious amounts of cinnamon along the door opening outside.  We still see an ant or two occasionally, but after about three weeks of warfare, most of the problem had disappeared.

I had heard from neighbors (those who, I though, had been slightly less vengeful) that the ants were crawling up the walls and coming into their bedrooms.  I shuddered and was secretly thankful that I'd boiled the little buggers alive before they'd thought to do this.

And then today, I shuddered again, when I saw them - swarms of them, many of which had sprouted disgusting little wings - crawling around under the radiator in the master bedroom (which is upstairs) and buzzing in and out of the draperies.  And then I cried. (It had been a long and trying day already, but something about swarms of little bugs that you can't seem to get rid of is particularly upsetting to me).

I know blog posts are better with photos but I simply cannot bring myself to take one.  I can barely bring myself to sleep there, let alone create proof of the problem.

I found this, though:

I know these are not termites, but somehow that doesn't make me feel any better.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ruminations (and some sewing, too)

I have had a few complaints (ok, one complaint) that this blog is getting too crafty.  So I figured I'd share some thoughts I've been having lately before I post the photos of my new project.

I recently started working part-time.  It's a dream situation, actually - good pay; very short and flexible hours; and a two-minute commute.  I figured that I wouldn't be spending any more time away from the girls than I already had been, what with running errands and going to the gym on the mornings our nanny comes.  No big deal, right?


You wouldn't believe the second-guessing that has gone on.  And hte guilt.  The guilt!  Why is it that I was fine leaving the girls home with Irina to go to the gym, and to the post office, and to the grocery store, but the minute I leave them at home and get paid for something, it's guilt city?  I cannot imagine what it's like to be a full-time working mother.

Guilt aside, there's this weird compartmentalization that goes on in my brain, too.  As I was walking to work my first day in a pair of painful high heels I'd just cleared of a thick coating of dust, it occurred to me that I was going to have to blow the dust off of my work brain, too.  You know (especially those of you in the FS) - that part of your brain that remembers the bajillions of passwords, safe combinations and security system codes that a State Department job entails?  Yeah, that part of my brain is really rusty.

I am finding that, maybe because I don't put in more than about 3.5 hours at the office at a stretch, my brain has to change gears dramatically during my walks to and from work.  I go from calculating the number of poops I've changed that morning to making a mental checklist of what needs to get done at work.  I go from logging my hours on my accounting forms to tabulating the food groups my girls have ingested so far and trying to plan a dinner that will balance it all out.  Somehow, my brain can't focus on both things at once.

It's getting easier, but still, working while mothering is a lot harder than I had thought it would be.

Switching gears now ...

I've been working on these little reversible drawstring bags the last few days (tutorial is here if you are interested).   N has some little toys that had been living in plastic baggies, and as I noted the other day, I am trying to de-plastic-baggie our living space as much as possible.  I love projects that use up scraps, since I can't bring myself to toss them!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Naptime project: crayon roll

I made N a crayon roll during nap time yesterday, using this tutorial.  She had long since decimated the cardboard box the crayons came in. They were living in a plastic baggie which she enjoyed playing with, but which I was tired of picking up off the floor to ensure Z didn't choke on it.  I made the roll to fit 4-inch fat crayons, so I cut my smaller piece 7" by 21" and ended up with 3" pockets after seam allowances.  I made my pockets 1.25 inches wide, which was just wide enough - any smaller and the crayons would not have fit.  N was suitably impressed, exclaiming "Wow!" while watching me insert the crayons.  I wonder how much longer my sewing will astonish her?

And if I make more of these (and I probably will; they seem to me to be great 2nd birthday gifts), I will cut the ribbon longer than the 20" recommended in the tutorial.  For fat crayons, I think you need a 23"-24" ribbon.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

From gross to great in one hour or less

I despise ironing with a passion, but I've had to learn to get over that, somewhat, since I've become serious about sewing.  As every tutorial you ever read on the Internet tells you, ironing fabric and seams makes the difference between lumpy, obviously homemade projects, and the stuff you are proud to show off. 

This is what my ironing board cover looked like at 7 p.m. last night.

And this is what it looked like at 8 p.m.

I used some fabric I had bought on sale at IKEA a few months ago, thread and elastic from my stash, and this free tutorial.  It was so easy that I can't believe I didn't do it sooner!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Step into my craft room - for real

We have a bunch of visitors on the way starting next week, and my craft room needs to morph into the spare room for the rest of July.  This was good motivation for me to get the piles and piles of fabric scraps off the floor and sorted.  I also needed to clean a couple of the drawers out of the dresser I had been keeping fabric and notions in.  So I took a look online at other people's craft rooms, realized that I must accept the limitations posed by Embassy housing and Drexel Heritage furniture, and resolved to do the best I could.

I made a cover for my sewing machine and a ribbon board, hung my thread rack on the wall, put up a quilt made for Natasha by a family friend, and moved my fabric from the dresser to the bookcase next to the desk.  Unfortunately, the sun would not cooperate, so I had to use the flash, but here you go.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

As most of the Embassy staff will be working the official 4th of July reception tomorrow, the compound community party took place yesterday.  Last year's was a pretty sad affair, so this year a few folks decided to take matters into their own hands and try to make things a bit more festive.  We had a children's parade, a chili cook-off, and a barbecue outside the Marine House.  I made cupcakes (egg-free on account of my daughter's allergy, but the frosting was legit and delicious).  Here's the photographic proof.