Monday, May 23, 2011

Purple and Yellow and Pukh... Achoo!

Gorgeous blue sky this morning... And bright purple lilacs... And bright yellow dandelions...

Too bad everything is covered in tufts of pukh, dogwood pollen...

If only I weren't allergic to spring!

Khamovniki Windows

At Novodyevichy Convent

Khamovniki is the southwestern neighborhood in central Moscow that includes landmarks such as Novodyevichy Convent, the Luzhniki Olympic Sports Complex, St. Nicholas the Weaver Church, and Tolstoy's home. When our friends were visiting two weeks ago, we spent a morning walking around this area. Across from Tolstoy's home are two great and relatively inexpensive places to eat and/or get a drink: Jean-Jacques Bistro and John Bull Pub. Really yummy. We had fish 'n chips and I ordered a cherry ale—DELISH.

At Lev Tolstoy's home.

On Tolstoy's street.

On Tolstoy's street.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

AAAARGH! Russian Medicine...

OK. So I stayed up until 11 p.m. so I could give the stray kitten a rabies shot.

A shot he was supposed to have last night, but, well... That didn't go so swimmingly.

The vaccine, you see, comes in a glass ampule. A GLASS AMPULE WITH NO OPENING. As in, Chris and I last night at 11 p.m. going "WTF???!!! How do we get this stuff out and into the needle???!!!"

Chris ended up cracking it somehow, and I picked up the glass shards on the counter and floor. At this point you're really hoping they didn't get into the vaccine. And you're really ticked off to have spilled a good bit of it.

Fast forward to tonight, after I wasted another hour today going to get the $15 ampule YET AGAIN, since we'd wasted more than half when we had tried. Knowing how much success we had in the endeavor last night, I sprung for two ampules. Good call.

Turns out that the only way to open these containers is with a metal nail file. Thought we had one. Well... We, um, don't. We had cat claw trimmers. They did the job. Cleaned up the shards. Filled the syringe, which I had gone to buy today as well.

Felt pretty darn smug, and I hadn't even jabbed the cat yet.

Until I noticed the syringe had NO NEEDLE! I speak Russian, people... I had CLEARLY explained what I needed... Even told what it was for...

ARGH, ARGH, ARGH! Now I'll have to repeat the whole bloody process (yeah, I've been hanging with Brits all year...!) tomorrow night.


At least this isn't as disconcerting as it is when you've just moved here, and you have a screaming toddler who needs medicine, and a four-year-old demanding your attention, no car, and you manage to get the doctor, and to get the medicine, and you get home... And when you open the antibiotic, you see the bottle ONLY HAS POWDER IN IT and you have to MIX IT YOURSELF!

It's not so easy to figure out how much water to add... And you mistakenly go to the wrong mark... And then have to go out ALL OVER AGAIN with two docile (!!!) pleasant (!!!) children... AND I SPEAK RUSSIAN! That has to just knock non-Russian speaking expat moms flat cold on their tooshes...

Socks—The Classic

In light of this weekend's developments, I just had to order this Beverly Cleary classic from amazon... Natalia can't wait to read it :-)

It's that Wedding Time of Year...

Limos everywhere on weekends... This one pretty much takes the cake. It even had a "veil" on the back of the car.

Looking for a Home...

As any teacher knows, the last two weeks of the school year are always chaotic. Double, or triple, the events and things "to do"... Add in all the things I have to attend as a parent, too—and, well, it's utterly exhausting.

I was REALLY looking forward to just "crashing" on the couch with the girls Friday night and watching a movie after we got home... And then, around eight, the doorbell rang. The sweet German girl who lives on the top floor had found this little guy wedged between the stairs and the elevator shaft on the first floor. He was meowing and meowing for help...

Her family couldn't take him and didn't know what to do, so, well, you know the rest of the story.

Wary of what taking in a stray cat can mean, I knew we'd have to immediately take him to the vet and keep him separated from our cats. Two years ago we tried to rescue an injured kitten, and it was a fiasco... Chris got all scratched up, fleas were everywhere, and I went on a wild veterinarian goose chase from nine p.m. to 3 a.m. all over Moscow that ended at a rabies quarantine testing center—from which the poor kitty never emerged because of neglect.

This time things went much more smoothly. Surprise, surprise—when we got to our vet's, they were happy to see us! They've earned enough for lavish vacations off of us when Lyalya was still in his toy-swallowing days...

In a nutshell, this little guy is a sweetheart. Clean bill of health except for ear parasites that we're treating. (No longer gross, not dangerous, will be "gone" after ten days). He's quarantined in the girls' room until the treatment is over/until he goes to a home. In the meantime, he has been christened "Socks" for obvious reasons. Little white "peds" on his front paws, longer sport socks on his back paws—one all the way up, one falling down...

He is thrilled to have a home. Um, temporary shelter. We're giving him so much love... Even though the weather was gorgeous yesterday, we just stayed home with him... Natalia read almost all day on the couch in their room with him nestled on her chest.

He's getting tons of exercise playing and he promptly claimed the American Girl colonial doll bed as his favorite place to rest—and then LEAP out of when he wants to play, popping out from behind the curtains. He's also very, very happy to have food and is already litter box trained.

Here he is on my chest while I read...

Anyone in Moscow interested??? My mission is to get this guy a loving home. Natalia's mission? As she just declared it? "To ruin your mission." Hah!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Russian Recycling

A bird feeder made out of a dairy container... These trees are so beautiful and fragrant. Anyone know what kind of blossoms they are?

We walked under boughs of these trees on our way home after Katya's play.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Wizard of Oz/Волшебник изумрудного города

This past Tuesday was Katya's big school play, The Wizard of Oz. The kids read the book and then wrote their own script. As you can see, Katya was the Tin Man (with quite a dash of fashion panache... Any excuse to buy sequined clothing, of course...). Her friend Ailis was the lion, quite a feat considering that she only moved here from the UK last August! Katya's big scene is "Part 3," below. Two of the other main parts (the Scarecrow and first Wicked Witch/flying monkey/Oz) were played by girls we've known for years, when they were all in the same preschool/kindergarten.

I'm glad they did this play; I was Dorothy when our class put it on in 9th grade...

Katya had so many lines to learn that I asked one of my students, a wonderful tenth grader who lives nearby and who has hung out with us before, to help her with them. She then came to see the play, and Katya was so happy to see her.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3 (This is Katya's big scene):

Part 4 (This is the big scene for Katya's friend from the UK):

Part 5:

Part 6:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tsaritsyno with Friends

Even though it was raining, I'm glad we took our friends to Tsaritsyno, Catherine the Great's Moscow palace. It's almost like a gingerbread castle that's life-sized.

And to think she didn't like it—never completed it—and never even lived there...

Even though the renovations were poorly done and they're not holding up well at all, it's still beautiful.

Katya thinks this photo below would be a cool picture for her first album cover...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Looking for Luck at Tsaritsyno, Catherine the Great's Moscow Palace

Tossing coins onto the model of the palace.

Newlyweds leaving a lock on the bridge on their wedding day to "lock in their love" forever.

Tossing coins into the main fountain.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bulgakov and Patriarch Ponds

Today's Google logo honors Mikhail Bulgakov, author The Master and Margarita and A Dog's Heart, among many other works. I remember reading those novels back in college, the second one without any translation. That was hard. Since moving here, I've seen a few theatre performances of The Master and Margarita—but I still prefer the book.

One of our favorite areas in Moscow figures prominently in The Master and Margarita: Patriarch Ponds. These pictures were taken in October 2008.

Just off of the Garden Ring Road, tucked between Malaya Bronnaya and Spiridonovka Streets, it's a a pretty area with a little park and pond that people like to skate on in the winter. The Café Margarita is a nice place to go for live music and authentic Russian food in the evening without going broke. It's very small and intimate!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Busted. When I was her age, I snuck a flashlight under the covers...

We got mail today from the US and I just caught Katya devouring the latest American Girl magazine... We get mail about twice a month after my mom collects it and puts it in a bigger envelope to mail through Chris's office. (Thanks, Mom!) She was also pretty excited to get a card from her godmother, a card from her grandmother, an invite to an event celebrating girls' sports (that happened over two weeks ago) for girls her age at the high school I went to (and where she'd love to go), and a Nintendo DS cartridge to learn French...

Me? Well, it's always such important and welcome news to be notified that our credit card is offering new promos... And now I have more insurance statements to file for FSA reimbursement... But I did love getting the alumni magazine from the wonderful school I went to through 9th grade...

Oh, and in other mail? Well, the State of New York seems to think **I** owe over $30,000 in back taxes. Um, WE MOVED AWAY SEVEN YEARS AGO! And while in NY, my only job was as a Creative Memories consultant, not exactly earning big bucks! Unfortunately our mailing address for the first four years there was through his office's New York office... And we have filed all the paperwork we were supposed to... In multiple ways, on multiple occasions, and now there are supposedly only three days until they nail us for something we don't even owe... New York maintains that even when you move away to another continent, it's ASSUMED to be temporary and you'll OF COURSE be coming back.

WHAT A PAIN! We now have to dig up all the lease agreements and cable bills (the only bill with our last name on it) for the past seven years... And that's probably only the beginning...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thinking of Tomorrow...

There are so many photos I could post from the past few days as we tour the city with friends, but here's one from a billboard in our neighborhood in anticipation of tomorrow's May 9th Victory Day celebrations...

It reads: "Make it from Moscow to Berlin on foot? You try!... Our grandfathers did it... 1941-1945."

I really like this one. It sure catches your eye...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Morning at Novodevichy Convent

We have friends from the US visiting... So we had to take them to Novodevichy!

Church services were just getting out when we arrived.

These ladies had missed church, but seemed in no hurry, happily enjoying their stroll towards one of the cathedrals...

There are tulips EVERYWHERE in Moscow now. This city spends a FORTUNE on flowers imported from Holland... One minute it's still winter, and BOOM, the next patches of sod with flowers in bloom are literally dropped into flowerbeds...

We then walked a little in the park... And our friends even tried out the girls' funky "shake your hips from side to side in order to make it go forward" scooter... Hmm... I have video...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Let's Go Fly A Kite...

The springtime theme for the decorations at GUM (the famous massive department store lining Red Square) is kites and Japanese cherry blossoms. It's so beautiful! Mom—do you remember eating blini and drinking THICK hot chocolate on that balcony?

For you family friends back in the USA, here are Jack and Jill (our guests from home here right now) in front of the Mac Store...

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Here's a little something for you...

It was taken four years ago... While you might not have chosen a Hannah Montana song for a birthday serenade, be (perhaps) glad that I couldn't locate the clip I was really looking for—you and the girls rocking out to Mamma Mia in the kitchen a few summers ago!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Flowers and Soldiers

Today I saw lots of people walking around with carnations to place at memorials... I look forward to Monday, when children (including my own) will give their flowers to proud elderly veterans who will be decked out in all their medals...

Getting Ready for Victory

The banners are now up pretty much everywhere... Moscow is in full "Victory Day" mode. (Victory Day is May 9th, the end of World War II). I've written about this before, but basically May 9th is A MAJOR RUSSIAN HOLIDAY. Many Russians would be surprised to find out that Americans think they won the war, oh, yeah, with the Allies. For Russians? IT'S PERSONAL, and it was fought, fiercely, on their own land. Over 20,ooo,ooo citizens of USSR died during World War II. It's almost impossible to find someone who didn't lose a direct relative during the war.

This a fantastic time of the year to visit Moscow and we have company again this year; close family friends are here until Tuesday. It's fun to have guests; it makes you step out of "daily routine" mode and just enjoy the city. For example, I actually got out and took photos today! Yes, there is work I could have been doing instead... But I can get that stuff done in the next few days...

Russians do decorative metal structures and flag-like decorations better than anybody...

This picture is deceptive; it makes you think that traffic doesn't exist here. Hah! Tonight I felt so sorry for the parents who were only just then realizing that many of the main roads were closed down tonight at 6 p.m. for a rehearsal for the big parade on Monday... I have no idea how some of those friends made it home; traffic must have been at a complete standstill in some areas...

Outside of Red Square, General Zhukov's statue (he lead the forces into Berlin) is flanked by flags representing all of the various fronts.

Lifting the number nine... Big grandstands have been put up to accommodate guests at the parade, and there is a huge stage for the gala concert that night.

Flanking the National Museum of History are these replicas of war medals... The one below is particularly striking. The background even looks like ribbon.

It was even hot today... I was too warm in my jeans and short-sleeved shirt... It's almost impossible to believe that a little over two weeks ago there was still snow and I hadn't taken off our winter tires!