Sunday, January 29, 2012


Life continues to kick our butts.  Jeremy and I signed up for an Embassy triathlon challenge.  Basically we have two weeks to finish an Ironman Triathlon - a 26.2-mile run, 2.4-mile swim (127 laps in the Embassy pool) and 112-mile bike ride.  We signed up to do it as a team, but then Jeremy got injured in broomball and hasn't been able to exercise as much as he had planned.  Today is day 8 of the triathlon and I've run 14 miles and biked 52 miles.  Jeremy has swum 60 laps and run 4 miles.   I am spending a lot of time in the gym and it feels good, but doesn't leave time for much else.  Plus N barely naps these days and she is not the sort of child who will just play quietly while I blog. 

Thankfully, though, our kids have been remarkably healthy this winter.  Last winter we didn't have a single day between mid-December and mid-April where all four of us were healthy.  But this winter has been much better, and that has made things easier.  Also, the Feingold diet is really helping N's skin, which is gratifying.

The weather has finally gotten cold - we've been in the single digits for the last week or so.  I am being way wimpier about going out in it, though, than I was last winter.  So much so that, yesterday, despite it being a beautifully sunny day, we decided to go walk around a nearby mall.  We were rewarded by the discovery of a free bouncy play area in the atrium that also houses a display of giant matryoshka dolls.  This mall is also always deserted, so the kids the houses nearly to themselves.  And since the roof is glass, the sunlight comes in and you don't feel so bad for being indoors.  (Also, Jeremy did take N sledding while Z napped, so don't feel too bad for us).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Doing it myself

I think about blogging most days - I was doing so well - but lately I have no time for anything.  Part of this is because my oldest seems to be on her way to dropping her only nap.  Lately we get 20-40 minutes out of her per day.  I'm trying to transition her to quiet reading time in her room, but so far, she will only do it if I am sitting in plain sight in the hallway, reading myself.

The other reason I have no time is that I am cooking a lot more than I used to.  We've been on the Feingold diet for about three weeks now, and I can cautiously say that it seems to be helping N's eczema.  It seems, however, to have doubled the time I spend in the kitchen.  We can't eat anything with artificial colors or flavors, or most preservatives.

Example: We don't eat storebought bread anymore.  I don't have a bread machine.  And the recipes I use - a soaked grain bread recipe that is linked in pdf form on the bottom left of this page - and this sourdough bread recipe are pretty time consuming.  You do the math.

But there's more.  Jeremy and I spent several hours this weekend making graham crackers from scratch since Natasha's beloved Honeymaids have artificial vanilla flavor in them (seriously, just charge us the extra buck and use the real stuff!).  And when I made "Oreo" truffles for Christmas (using the Trader Joe's knock off which doesn't have as much garbage in it), I had to find an alternative to chock-full-of-crap candy melts for the coating.  Having used regular chocolate chips before, I knew that untempered chocolate doesn't set up as nicely as the melts do.  And I wanted the coating to be crisp.  And I am a glutton for punishment.  So I decided to temper the chocolate first.  It wasn't hard, but added 40 minutes or so to the process.

Below, some of my homemade sauerkraut (really tasty) and a slice of my homemade sandwich bread.  Below that, a really bad picture of a few of the truffles scattered around Jeremy's beloved fudge mint cookies.

When I get some time maybe I will figure out how to take good photos at night without natural light. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rainbow Jello Snow

 I've been getting lots of ideas for kid activities off Pinterest lately.  The latest is coloring snow with "paint" made of water and food coloring.  I feel like this is an idea I should have come up with on my own - maybe I watched too much TV as a kid.  Anyway, thank goodness for Pinterest and creative mommy bloggers. 

I had bought these squeeze bottles at AC Moore during our last trip to the States, with the idea of making my own puffy paint (also found on Pinterest).  They were perfect for snow paint.  I had stupidly thrown away our food coloring during December's great kitchen purge.  Yesterday I borrowed from our neighbor, but today I had the bright idea to use a bit of Jello powder that was still lurking in the kitchen (it was in a bag of similar bad food that I hadn't yet gotten around to giving away).  The girls had a great time making colorful snow soup, and I was more or less successful at keeping it out of their mouths.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Holiday's end

Yesterday was the last day of the Russian administrative holiday that lasts from New Year's Day through January 9.  We didn't make it out as much this year, mostly because the weather was slushy and rainy.  But we got a pretty snow fall on Sunday night, and decided to check out Sokolniki park.  

Right as we pulled up to the park, Natasha vomited cheese all over herself.  We thought about going home, but it had taken us 45 minutes to get out the door and another 30 to drive to the park, thanks to a wrong turn or two.  And it looked like she was just car sick, so we wiped her down and went on our way.  I wrapped my scarf around her head because her hat was too pukey to wear.

We arrived just in time for a children's New Year's program.  Ded Moroz and Snegurachka were up on stage calling out instructions to a group of children dancing in a circle.  Natasha and I joined in.

Zoia enjoyed the ice sculptures, including some neat slides and a chess set.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter at the Park

The sign in front of Gorky Park this winter says "Winter at the Park," and so far, we've been taking advantage of it.  We have been there three times this winter, mostly because Moscow hasn't had much snow and some of the places we had planned to visit, like the snow village at Luzhniki, were closed due to clement weather.

I crack myself up.

Anyway, Jeremy and I left the girls with the nanny last week so we could go ice skating on the really cool rink at Gorky.  We saw a lot of neat things, including speed-skating, bobbing and weaving grandpa pushing a baby in a pram (our own skating prowess didn't permit us to get photos of this), and this congo line.

We went back a couple days later with the girls.  Natasha was delighted to see Santa, and not scared at all.  Where was that bravery during our Ded Moroz photo op, I'd like to know?

We walked through a field of snowmen.

We watched a performance by these Yakut people.

And played their spear-fishing game.

And checked out the sad reindeer who were herded in and out of a tiny little trailer.

And played with the ice sculptures of the Smeshariki, the title characters from a popular Russian cartoon.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Христос рождается!

So the children are tucked into bed after a long Christmas Day.  Last night we tried to attend the early evening services at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, just like last year.  Right as we were walking up the stairs to enter the church, the policemen shut the door and told people trying to get in that the church museum was closed.  I pointed out that we were there for religious services.  I was told that the service was over.  People coming out confirmed that was not the case, and that the church was not packed.  The policemen clearly knew nothing about what was going on inside, but nonetheless, for reasons that remain unclear to me, and that I would bet are completely arbitrary, they would not allow us in.  This is the church that Vladimir Putin attends, however, he was supposed to be at the midnight service, and we were there at 5:45 p.m.  I know this probably isn't that interesting for you, but I'm still angry thinking about it.  The Soviet Union is not dead.

Anyway.  We ended up attending the service (late, of course) at our usual church.  It was very nice.  Several people oo-ed and aaahed over Zoia's outfit.  One woman came back three times to tell me how cute she was, adding, "But I have to ask - why do you shave her head?"

My poor bald baby.

The girls got a kitchen and a number of other gifts, mostly accessories and foods for the kitchen.  I think Natasha baked several tens of dozens of cookies with her new Melissa and Doug cookie set.  We had a very tasty ham, green beans and sweet potatoes with coconut streusel topping.  Pear crisp and ice cream for dessert.  My tummy hurts.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ded Moroz lives under the power lines

We recently visited Ded Moroz' Moscow estate.  Ded Moroz, whose name means "Grandfather Frost," is the Russian (actually, Soviet) counterpart to Santa Claus.  He lives in Veliky Ustiug, a town about 1000 km from Moscow, but has an estate on the outskirts of the city.  This is the view of the gate to the estate.  Upon seeing it, my heart sank and I wondered whether we'd just squandered a day's outing.

It was nicer inside.

This is the home of Snegurochka, Ded Moroz' granddaughter.  She has long blonde hair and wears a blue robe and accompanies him to all his appearances.  We would have gone inside, but tickets required $25 plus a long wait in line.

So we watched the live show instead.  N was completely mesmerized by the dancing animals and would have been happy to stand out in the cold for hours.

She got back at us by being very uncooperative when we attempted to get a cute photo of our kids with the carved bear.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Day

Obviously we didn't do anything crazy on New Year's Eve.  We have a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old.  Why would you even ask?

We watched Captain America and drank some wine.  I realized that this was a pretty rare New Year's Eve, as it was the first since Dec. 31, 2006, that I was not pregnant or nursing.  So yay for that. 

After the movie was over (a very lame 10:30 p.m.), we went to bed.  Except then the fireworks started.  And continued.  And continued.  I think I finally dozed off around 2 a.m., only to be awakened several more times by fireworks.  I looked out the window a couple times, and saw them.  Once was exactly at midnight.  I woke Jeremy up and wished him a Happy New Year.  He mumbled and rolled over.  I heard my last firework at 5:13 a.m.  Russians really like fireworks.  They also really like New Year's Eve.

We went to church on New Year's Day.  Predictably, it was very empty.  I would say the congregation was about one-third the size it usually is. 

After naps, we drove out to a winter festival where they had advertised a 9-meter-high replica of the Kremlin.  Except it was 35 degrees and the guard told us nothing was going on because it was too warm.  So we decided to go play in the park by Novodevichy Convent.  We had a great time.  I pulled Z around on the sled while Natasha slid down the hill with Jeremy.  We ran into a gaggle of Japanese tourists who crowded around Z and took pictures of "the Russian baby."  Joke's on them.  I saw a dog wearing a Louis Vuitton coat, and a woman sculpting the most beautiful snow-girl I've ever seen.  Later, a very drunk Ded Moroz gave Natasha a keychain.  Unfortunately, Jeremy had the camera so I have no photographic evidence.

We left as dusk set in, and I got the camera back in time to take this photo of the convent:

We weren't ready to go home, and decided to take advantage of the traffic-free roads to drive to Red Square. It was hopping.