Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mmm... Du chocolat... (Part 2)

More chocolate adventures, this time on a "date" with Katya to her favorite café--an artisan chocolate boutique/restaurant.

During school vacation two weeks ago, Katya and I had a sunny morning to ourselves. Talia was working with the child psychologist at our home, so it was best that we leave the apartment. We decided to take the trolleybus to Katya's favorite café. When we first moved here in 2004, we relied on the trolleybus to take us most places. If it didn't go near a certain area, we pretty much didn't go there. I couldn't easily handle the double stroller up and down the subway escalators and we didn't have a car. While Katya was almost four, she couldn't handle walking long distances in the summer heat--and I couldn't handle her whining once tired.

One day, we happened upon a gem of a café: Konfael. Little did we know what wonders awaited! The first week in Moscow had been quite difficult for all of us; Katya clung to our discovery, calling the café her "secret," asking to go there from time to time when the going got tough. While Natalia has been there a few times, I've tried to respect Katya's desire to have a special spot that's "just hers" when she has one-on-one time with me and Chris (or her visiting grandparents--more on that later).

Katya and I had planned to take the trolley to the café, but then we got stuck in a bad traffic jam. When car accidents occur in Moscow, the vehicles are required to stay put until the police finish their reports. This idiotic practice often leads to miles and miles of backed up traffic and is maddening!

We chose to ditch the trolley, walked a ways, and then took the subway. Katya was most impatient to move quickly, so I wasn't able to take more carefully composed photos. I managed to get these as we quickly moved through the Arbatskaya station. The tall cream ceilings and chandeliers are absolutely beautiful! As I've written before, each station of the Moscow subway system is unique; the elegance of this particular station always makes me imagine ladies in their gowns returning from the ballet long before I was born...

Once we arrived at the café, Katya quickly ordered her "usual": crêpes with a cherry and raspberry coulis and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

When my dad visited us in 2005, Katya ventured to the cafe on her own with him. She was quite proud of herself... While my dad tried to figure out the menu, she went to the bathroom. A little while later, their food magically appeared.

My dad was a bit confused--and Katya informed him that she had "taken care of it" all when she saw the waitress in the bathroom, even ordering his coffee. She then charmed him into letting her buy all kinds of chocolate...

When my dad visited the next time, he was quite brave about exploring the city on his own. One day he realized that he was near the café--and went in to fetch a surprise for the girls. We all chuckled later on--he had a bought a lovely chocolate postcard that wished the girls well on their wedding day! Here are some other examples of the unique creations one can find at this shop:

Katya loves the soccer ball since the dads of a few of her classmates are famous "futbolisti." She also thinks the thermometer would be a great "pick-me-up" whenever she or Natalia are ill--cool idea, no? The dachshund's for you, Mom--but only visually! We're not about to spend $100 on chocolate... The colored pencils are a favorite of ours that we've given as gifts to friends in the USA; they're delicious! You can learn much more about this shop by reading the post I wrote after the Moscow "Salon du Chocolat" Chocolate Festival in December (check it out... there's even a model wearing nothing but a painted on chocolate dress...).

Both Katya and I bought white chocolate "ice cream" pops to enjoy as we walked from the café to the nearby bookstore.

Katya then begged for some encyclopedias. We're waiting for Chris's next trip to London so he can bring back an excellent child's edition in English; in the meantime, she's thrilled to have these:

It's wonderful to see how she devours them, telling me all kinds of interesting facts about famous artists (Leonardo da Vinci is her favorite) and places on earth. The Magic Tree House books truly set her "on fire," she has wanted to learn more about all of the important historical places and people that the author expertly weaves into her stories. Katya finished all 36 of those books in three weeks! It was a sad, sad day when she read the last page of book #36... (Last week we received the latest book--#37--but we're not giving it to her until her behavior significantly improves in certain areas...) If anyone has series to recommend for Katya, I'd greatly appreciate it! She has now also finished all of the Nancy Drew Notebook series, but didn't like it nearly as much as the Magic Tree House. She wants books with historical or non-fiction information woven into them, stories that entertain while also teaching her something.

The little black and white book designed to look like a bag is mine: the Russian version of Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. The other little book is more poetry for Katya by Grigorii Oster, the author for whom I translated in college and whose writing is delightfully funny.


Rachael said...

Wow, I can't believe she is reading so well now, that's great!

What about the Junie B. series? They certainly are not historical, so maybe they're not her style, but Kristen loved them and they are certainly good for a chuckle or two. And, has she read the Anne of Green Gables series? I'm not sure if it would be too hard for her yet, but it's a great series, and has the historical aspect a bit.

Those crepes look great. My Katya has requested that I learn how to make blini, so my friend Olga is going to give me a lesson.

Anonymous said...

I children should become Magic Tree House pen hearing your stories...Debi

Anonymous said...

How about the Box car children? I would also suggest Anne of Green Gables, I read them in about 6th grade so my be a little too old, but very very good!

Nataliya said...

Wow, I'm REALLY impressed with the level of Katya's reading. You must be so proud of her!

The crepes look delicious!

Tina in CT said...

About the Boxcar Children Series:

Gertrude Warner is the author and she was my father's elementary school teacher at Putnam, CT, and the first book was one of my childhood favorites. So, she was Katya and Natalia's great grandfather's teacher. I think that is pretty neat. I was not aware of the series until a few years ago and have bought MANY of the books whenever I see them in the consignment shop or at tag sales for Katya and Natalia. Just last week I mentioned to my daughter that she'll have to bring them back with her this summer for Katya to read.

Grandma Streusel

Tina in CT said...

I also loved a series of historical novels as a little girl and I remember that my school library had them. They came in a light blue cover.

Tina in CT said...

I loved going to Katya's special cafe for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed the crepes.

The video will not download so I can't view it.

garnet said...

Nothing could make me want to visit Moscow if this post couldn't. The cafe sounds amazing -- and how wonderful to have it be Katya's special place. I wish we could have something like that here but it's such a pain getting around town (no public transportation that I'd ever take) -- and Larissa hates going into town anyway.

But if we had trolleys! I love riding on the trolleys and trams. I don't even mind the subway -- and would love to have subway stations as gorgeous as those.

I think you were very polite to describe the "don't move the accident vehicles" rule as merely "idiotic". That is much too mild of a word! As you can guess, we have the same rule here and sometimes I think they just want to cause more accidents the way two large vehicles that show barely the smallest scratch (if anything) left out in awkward angles in the middle of the road for others to hit. And the hour long traffic jams. We got stuck in one on Christmas Eve that was so ridiculous that it didn't last long because people got some sense and demanded that the vehicles be moved (it was right next to a shopping mall so no one could get in or out). When we returned to the U.S. the first time since moving to Kenya I immediately spotted the "Fender Bender? Please move your vehicles to the side of the road" signs and wanted to steal a few to bring them back here.

That's so great about Katya's reading. I'm still waiting for Larissa to take off. I think so far she's only read two of the Magic Tree House books. She did read the "Lions at Lunchtime" since it takes place in the Mara which is in Kenya and our absolutely favorite game park (which we'll be going back to again soon, yeah!) and she really liked it. She actually seems to prefer non-fiction, information books to look at so maybe I can get her hooked on something historical. I'd be thrilled if she had my love of history.

Tina, that is so cool that Gertrude Warner was your father's teachers. I have such great memories of reading the Boxcar Children books as a child. We've read the first one here -- I just need to get going on the following ones. Problem is there are so many great books to read and so little time to read to my kids. I really wish I didn't have to work.

Now this post has got me thinking about others of my favorite kids books. I'm not coming up with anything historical at the moment but I loved the "Shoes" series by Noel Streatfield (I think) and always anything by E. Nesbitt.

Sorry for all the typos I know are here. We had a twelve hour trip back from the beach yesterday and I'm in a fog today.