Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Anniversary to us

Last night Jeremy and I went out for a belated celebration of our fourth wedding anniversary.  We decided to hit Cafe Pushkin.  We sat in the library.

Let me tell ya - that place is fancy.  You can tell by the service.  We don't eat out that much on account of, you know, kids. Also everything here is a bit spendy.  But we've eaten out enough to know that expressions of boredom and vague disgust are the norm, and that, sometimes, you have to practically beg serving staff to take your order.  Not so at Pushkin.  The waiters also speak English.  I'm really curious how much they are paid.

We started off our meal with pirozhki - Russian savory filled pastries.  We got the salmon and the lamb.  They were tasty, but it was odd to me to spend $5 on something that my mom used to make using Pillsbury crescent dough.  (My mom's pirozhki are very tasty - these were also good, but not $5-a-pop good).

For the appetizer course, Jeremy ordered a cold foie gras served cranberry and apple jellies, and green salad on the side.  We were both keen to try foie gras, since everyone's always using it on Top Chef and neither of us had ever tasted it.  In this dish, it didn't have a lot of flavor, and we were wondering what all the fuss was about.  But the presentation was pretty cool. The leaf and stem are made of sugar, and the core bit in the bottom is a clove.

I ordered the borscht, as recommended by a friend.  I had been pretty set on NOT getting borscht, since I grew up on it and it seemed like an odd thing to me to order in a fancy restaurant.  But I'm glad I did.  The borscht I grew up on was vegetarian, and kind of tasted like beet-and-cabbage water (blech), and this was definitely not.  It had bits of fried goose breast in it, and apples and honey and was just awesome.  Note to self: Learn to make non-vegetarian borscht.

For my main course, I got a fried duck breast with cherry sauce, cherry risotto, pears and foie gras ravioli.  Finally we understood the hype about foie gras.  The ravioli was delicious - my favorite part of the entire meal.  The duck was good too, as was the cherry risotto (I was skeptical).  The cherries themselves had been soaked in liquor and were like little alcohol bombs.  No thanks.

Jeremy got pan-seared tuna with crab ravioli and black noodles.  There was a weird tomato-dill salsa under the noodles that didn't seem to go with the dish at all, other than aesthetically.  We don't know what the red boat thing was.  We assumed it was edible, but it was very hard - like an incredibly stale tortilla. Still, the tuna was fantastic, as were the crab raviolis (if very hard to photograph).

For dessert, Jeremy got a pistachio cake that also had strawberries, strawberry jam, and a meringue on top.  Then they doused the whole thing with flaming liquor.  That was cool, but hard to photograph, too.

I got a "candle of chocolate."  There was cake, cream, more drunken cherries and some fudgy chocolate in there.  Good - except for the drunken cherries.

I'm glad we went, but we probably won't be going back.  We can't afford it!  Happy Anniversary to us, though!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ferris wheel

Yesterday we went to the All-Russia Exhibition Center.  It is known more popularly here as VDNKh, its Soviet-era name, which stands for the "Exhibition of National Economic Achievements."  The center houses exhibits year-round.  This weekend, among other things, you could check out an aquarium filled with poisonous Red Sea dwellers, or an exhibit of cats, or live butterflies (I assume the cats were living too, but the sign didn't specify).  The last time we were here was last winter, when we checked out a pre-Easter bazaar of Orthodox gifts.  Our purposes, though, was to ride the Moscow-850, a Ferris wheel built in 1997 in honor of the city's 850th birthday.  It's 73 meters high and can seat 320 people.  Most of the cars are enclosed, which meant that we were able to take the kids on with us.

That's the Central Pavilion, as viewed from the 850.

N had her first candy apple. 

And Z was a fan of the "Friendship of Nations" fountain.

And a good time was had running down hills.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Painting the town

Last night was girls' night out.  A bunch of moms from the playgroup donned their least mom-like clothes (some to greater effect than others; my style was for sure on the low end), grabbed purses instead of diaper bags and hit the town.  I felt old.  When a few of us ventured out onto the dance floor (where the DJ was spinning a mix that would be aptly titled, "Greatest Hits of WBAIS Junior High School Dances, 1991-1992"), it was to work off the cake we'd just eaten, not to impress guys under the influence of too many martinis.  Kris Kross (remember them?) made us jump, jump; we heard some vintage Michael Jackson; and Snow made a cameo.  And, 20 years later, other than "a lecky boom boom down," I still have no idea what he is saying.

Sorry, no pictures.  The cake was pretty good, though.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

That would suck

Seriously.  I'm glad I'm not that guy.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Food poisoning is a fact of life when you live overseas.  Bodily functions become an accepted topic of conversation.  In that way, moving overseas is kind of like having a baby.

Thing is, though, that the food poisoning is supposed to happen outside your home.  Not in your own kitchen.  And certainly not in conjunction with a meal that you slaved over.

We bought a turkey last year during the commissary's pre-holiday order.  I got the smallest one they had - about a 12-pounder.  Overwhelmed at the idea of so many leftovers (and not being a huge fan of turkey, myself), I never cooked it.  We had duck instead.  My plan was to have a "Thanksgiving in February" party, since I believe February is really the crappiest month here in Moscow (and in lots of places, come to think of it).  That never happened, either.  So the turkey sat in the freezer, month after month, while I worried about the fact that it was likely going to go bad by the time we could use it.  I hate wasting food.

But last week, I asked Chef Google what he thought about cooking a turkey that had been frozen for a year.  Surprisingly, he told me it would be just fine.  Apparently you could roast a turkey that has spent double or triple that time in the deep freeze, too.  Just letting you know in case you've got one taking up room in your freezer, too.

So today we roasted it.  I've only roasted a turkey twice in my life.  The first time was when my Juneau roommates and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house.  Wishing to take full advantage of our double oven, Korry and I decided that we would each fix a turkey.  Mine somehow turned out simultaneously raw and burned.  Korry's saved the day.

The second time was when I hosted Thanksgiving for the singles in Yerevan in 2006.  My friend rubbed the turkey with some kind of magic spice blend, stuck a meat thermometer in it and put it in my oven.  All I did was take it out and carve it.  So, though it was a success, I don't think it was my success.

Anyway, I was a bit nervous about this turkey, not least of all because the "packaged on" date was from about the time of last year's forest fires.

I found this recipe online.  It brilliantly suggests roasting the bird breast-side down.  That way, all the fat flows into the breast, making it pretty much impossible to end up with dry white meat.  The downside is that the skin over the breast doesn't become brown, but you can fix that problem by flipping the turkey over after the meat is done and browning the breast for a few minutes.  I was too lazy to do that, though.  I did cook the bird to the recommended temperature using a meat thermometer that was inserted into the fattest part of the breast and thigh - not touching the bone. 

And yet ... J woke up at 4 a.m. puking.  I followed suit a few hours later.  And poor little Z has been clutching her belly a bit while playing.  Only N is unscathed.  I was so frustrated that she refused to eat last night, but I guess she was smarter than the rest of us.

I can't be 100 percent positive that it was the turkey that did it, but this sure feels like food poisoning. I had taken a photo of the roasted bird in all its glory last night with intentions of posting it online.  But now that you know what it did to us, I feel like the photo would be misplaced, somehow.

At least now I don't have to worry about what to do with the rest of the leftovers.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Swings and sparkle

There was a yard sale here at the Embassy yesterday. These sales tend to be well attended by Russian staff in search of high-quality American goods for a bargain. Baby gear tends to go over particularly well, since stroller and swings and the like are insanely expensive here. Insanely.

We don't know whether we are done having children, but the plan is to cool it with the babies for the next couple years at least. And honestly, we didn't make the best choices when we picked up a lot of our baby stuff, so I wouldn't be sad to replace it, if and when the stork comes calling again. So yesterday we sold our jumper (which wasn't jumpy enough), our high chair (a pain-in-the-rear-to-clean behemoth eyesore), our infant carrier carseat (way too heavy) and the stroller frame it snaps into (not very useful without the carseat).

I could not, however, bring myself to part with our travel swing. It was handed down to us by a friend from my knitting group in Virginia. At one point, it was one of three swings we owned. But it was the only one that could put Natasha to sleep for any length of time. From about three months to nine months, it was the magic sleeping swing. Z didn't need a magic swing to sleep, but she liked it, too. I have great memories of the kids swinging away, sound asleep, while I knit or interneted or folded laundry or cooked nearby.

(For anyone who is interested in getting their own magic sleeping swing, this is the Fisher Price Precious Planet Open Top Take-Along Swing. It looks like they have come out with a new model, and it is possible that, as usually happens when manufacturers try to improve a good thing, it now sucks. If you can find the version I linked to, pay as much as they are asking. Even if you don't have kids. Seriously. It's magic. It could probably do your taxes and get you a killer refund.)

So the bottom line is, after a wildly successful yard sale in which we also offloaded a Wii and a bunch of random junk I had lying around, I still have a baby swing, but no babies to put in it.

Also, I picked up these awesome sparkly shoes for $10.

I plan to wear them to work sometime next week. Because every day could use a little glitter.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

And now I have no babies

Little Z is one year old today, and I am sad.  No longer my little baby, she is saying "Mama," fighting with her sister, and becoming more toddler-like every day.  But she still finds time in her busy schedule of playing, defending her toys (or trying to; N still wins every time) and getting into the cabinets to crawl into my arms for a brief cuddle before scooting off again to explore.  These days are too fleeting.

Happy Birthday, little one!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A lovely fall day

We haven't been getting a lot of sleep around here lately, and had plan to spend Saturday relaxing at home.   But the day dawned sunny and warm - about 65 degrees.  In the morning we took a walk to a part of town we hadn't visited before, and after naptime, we played outside, enjoying a beautiful golden afternoon.  Today was cold and rainy, so I'm now doubly glad we took advantage of the weather while it lasted.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Guess we won't be trying that again ...

Today was a beautiful day.  Sunny, temperature in the mid-to-high 60s.  Everyone was outside. 

The girls woke early from their nap, around 2 p.m.  I decided we were going to go check out a yarn store I had just discovered.  It was about a 45-minute walk from the compound, so I decided we'd save some time by driving, then hit the playground before dinner.

You may recall my last attempt at driving alone with the girls.  It didn't end well.  I had a sense of foreboding as we walked to the parking spot.  But surely Natasha wouldn't throw up all over herself again.  Right?


We had been in the car about 10 minutes when she spewed banana down the front of her sweater.  Obviously, the trip to the yarn store wasn't going to happen, but I was stuck pretty darn near the center of a 12-lane thoroughfare with no hope of pulling over any time soon and helping my daughter out of her puke.

An hour later, we were finally home.  Natasha was a trooper in the car, and although she threw up three more times, she barely complained.  After she was bathed and sipping contentedly on a little bit of Sprite to settle her stomach, she was good as new.

What I want to know is, why does she only throw up when I'm alone in the car with her?  Jeremy will probably say it's something to do with my driving.  Whatever it is, I don't see us taking a drive without him again anytime soon.

(And it serves me right - we should have just walked to the stupid yarn store).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Birthday bash

Yesterday was the girls' joint birthday party and although I am glad we did it, I have to say that the experience confirmed my conviction that birthday parties for babies and toddlers are entirely for the benefit of the parents.  (Also, yes, we threw them a joint party.  Their birthdays are 2.5 weeks apart and we plan to double up as long as we can get away with it - I think we have several years yet before they demand separate parties). 

Saturday morning, both girls woke so cranky that, were it not for the fact that we had a party to host, I would have put them both down for mid-morning naps.  As it was, we had to power through.  And crank + lots of people (22 adults and 22 children) + sugar = a hell of an afternoon.  Jeremy and I passed out on the couch during nap time as well.  We are still recovering today.

I didn't get as many photos as I would like.  No cute shots of the more than 100 red velvet cake balls and Oreo truffles I made.  No cute shots of the favor boxes stacked nicely in a row.  And not a single family photo in which I do not look like a manatee (that last one may not be the camera's fault).

So here's what we got.